Preview of City Opera Ballet/Ballet Bellevue’s Firebird
March 10, 2017
YAW Theatre in Georgetown, Seattle, WA

Dean Speer

Allowing plenty of time to find a rehearsal space that was new to me, located in Seattle’s industrial area known as Georgetown (near the King County Airport), who knew that there were two parallel 5th Avenues? One was marked Place and the other was where I actually needed to go. When my colleague and friend, Kim Dinsmoor, director of Dance! West Seattle, found the building, we wandered up and down staircases and halls until we eventually found our way to the new YAW rehearsal hall.

In a former warehouse building, it houses not only a studio designed to very nicely accommodate dance, but also other visual and decorative arts.

City Opera Ballet dancers in Jennifer Porter's "Firebird" Photo courtesy of City Opera Ballet

City Opera Ballet dancers
in Jennifer Porter’s “Firebird”
Photo courtesy of City Opera Ballet

We were there to see the press preview of Jennifer Porter’s revised production of Firebird and there was much to enjoy. First the retooled concept — setting the ballet in Seattle’s urban, historic, and sometimes gritty Pioneer Square neighborhood and having the dancers be characters that you might actually encounter. Slick chicks, a pusher, a young man new to this environment, and of course, the iconic Firebird, whom he really needs, saving him from some unhappy interactions.

Second are the dancers themselves. Porter has assembled a team of amazing dancers whose diversity, technical abilities and artistic prowess could get them into dance companies anywhere. Their camaraderie, work ethic and professionalism permeated the press preview, creating a fun, lively, and profound artistic experience.

Third would be the music. Porter has these dancers dance. I’ve seen a lot of different productions of Firebird over the years, including Fokine’s original with ABT, Balanchine’s, PNB’s, Dance Theatre of Harlem’s version, and a few others. Firebird is a hard ballet to make successful, as the music is programmatic, the story itself is problematic, and then there is the glorious and rousing music of the finale, usually a wedding scene. During this scene, mostly what the Fokine choreography calls for is processional, walking pageantry and not much else. It cries for movement and here Porter delivers.

City Opera Ballet dancers in Jennifer Porter's "Firebird" Photo courtesy of City Opera Ballet

City Opera Ballet dancers
in Jennifer Porter’s “Firebird”
Photo courtesy of City Opera Ballet

When asked why this ballet now, Porter responded that the timing seemed right to revisit and revise it from when it was first done for Ballet Bellevue a few years ago. From what I saw, I would agree.

As a bonus, we were treated to a work-in-progress, Porter’s new It’s Just An Orange Vest, set to music by Seattle composer Bern Herbolsheimer. Taking movement motifs that you might see observing construction and construction workers, it’s a very kinetic and creative work, and I cannot wait to see the whole ballet.

City Opera Ballet dancer in Jennifer Porter's "Firebird" Photo courtesy of City Opera Ballet

City Opera Ballet dancer
in Jennifer Porter’s “Firebird”
Photo courtesy of City Opera Ballet

By the conclusion, we felt honored to have been included in peeking at the creative process and witnessing the gestation of what promises to be two super good and exciting ballets. So energized in fact, that Kim and I spent the next hour gabbing about it.

These two ballets are being presented by City Opera Ballet, along with a new work by Laura Rodriguez (music by Felix Mendelssohn), all to live music. Showing March 24-26, with a Sunday matinée.

Here is a link to the promo video: https://youtu.be/ehlNGZZMd3A

For more information and tickets, click here: http://www.cityoperaballet.org/2016-17season