Oregon Ballet Theatre
Newmark Theatre, Portland, OR; April 25, 2015

Dean Speer

Michael Linsmeier in Darrell Grand Moultrie's Instinctual Confidence.  Photo James McGrew

Michael Linsmeier in Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Instinctual Confidence.
Photo James McGrew

It was exciting to see Oregon Ballet Theatre’s spring IMPACT program in the intimacy of Portland’s Newmark Theatre, part of a tri-theatre complex completed in the late ‘80s.

Instinctual Confidence received its world premiere during this run. A strong piece by Darrell Grand Moultrie, with music by Portland-based composer Kenji Bunch, it is a group work for six women and six men that practically bursts at the seams of the stage – in fact it does in one of the movements — with its ideas and energy.

One section features three men – Jordan Kindell, Michael Linsmeier and Chauncey Parsons in simple tutus as their only costume — Moultrie expressing interest in seeing how this affects their movement possibilities. Burst through the seams they do, coming onto the lip of the stage – the cover over the orchestra pit — perhaps breaking the “fourth” wall and maybe coming a bit too close to us and the real world.

The dance is physically impressive and demanding, and the dancers’ capabilities and possibilities positively impressing.

I have long heard about Dennis Spaight’s Crayola. In recent memory, I recall a tour made by OBT to Olympia’s Washington Center for the Performing Arts with his exotic Scheherazade. I was charmed by Crayola’s creative concept, the performance by OBT School students, and its innocence. Danced entirely in silence – except for the amplified sounds of pointe shoes plinking the floor, the dancers begin upside down with their legs together creating a tower of pointing, flexing, and wiggling feet. It is also what I call a “chair piece.” Every choreographer on the planet seems to need to do one. Spaight uses chairs alternately for sitting, as a ballet barre – reaching a long leg out into spacious arabesques – and for defining the space and setting the tone or mood; they are apparently, as the program book tells, “…girls going to tea.”

Nicolo Fonte’s Presto is as lively as its name suggests and was first created for Salt Lake City’s Ballet West on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2013 and which was premiered here on April 16. Under 10 minutes in length, the two couples – Xuan Cheng, Chauncey Parsons, Eva Burton, and Colby Parsons work through some amazing and impressive material.

(l-r) Kimberley Nobriga, Samantha Allen, Jessica Lind, Emily Parker, Shea McAdoo and Paige Wilkey in Dennis Spaight's Crayola.  Photo Yi Yin

(l-r) Kimberley Nobriga, Samantha Allen, Jessica Lind, Emily Parker, Shea McAdoo and Paige Wilkey in Dennis Spaight’s Crayola.
Photo Yi Yin

Rassemblement burns into the memory and is like walking through a sepia photograph of hard scrabble times in Haiti. With choreography and staging by Spaniard Nacho Duato with whom OBT Artistic Director Kevin Irving worked closely for several years, the movement motifs tug at the heartstrings and you can tell that both sides of the footlights found the piece to be deeply moving.

Outstanding, with beautiful expression and great technical control and fluidity were Sarah Griffin, Xuan Cheng, Candace Bouchard, Ansa Deguchi and the ever-amazing OBT men, led by one of its own OBT School graduates, the very talented Jordan Kindell.

As an exciting conclusion to OBT’s 25th year, Kevin Irving announced from the stage the excerpts and dancers cast for a special, one-time only show on May 28 at the Left Bank Annex. From their reactions, this program and casting were a welcome surprise to the dancers. Full details can be found here.

It was a really good year for Oregon Ballet Theatre and we look forward to 2015-16 ballets, old and new.