Pacific Northwest Ballet
June 1, 2019
Theme & Variations Program: Signature, Tarantella pas de deux, The Moor’s Pavane, Theme and Variations
My continuing search for greatness needed to go no further than PNB’s recent Theme and Variations program. Each piece was strong and made for quite a good mixed program, but to me, the masterpiece was Jose Limon’s The Moor’s Pavane. This is real choreography of great depth and pathos depicted through a relatively short dance based on Shakespeare’s Othello. Conducted by a personal friend, Alastair Willis — and great to have this passionate music person do it, the tragic Moor was superbly danced by Jonathan Porretta, “His Friend” (Iago) — and with friends like this, who needs enemies — danced with menacing gravitas by Lucien Postlewaite, Cecilia Iliesiu was His Friend’s Wife (an unwitting pawn), and finally Rachel Foster as The Moor’s Wife, whose character doesn’t live to see another day. All are sorry and shocked at the conclusion. This piece has been in PNB’s repertory since 1986, and it was a treat to see and enjoy this work yet again!
A showcase bon-bon, George Balanchine’s Tarantella Pas de deux, had been out of PNB’s repertoire for quite a number of years, and it was so wonderful to welcome it back to the McCaw Hall stage. Leta Biasucci and Price Suddarth were superb as they fed off of each other’s bright energy and fun.
Suddarth also made the opening ballet, Signature, in 2015, and it was good to see it again. It’s a solid ballet. My only fuss would be the lighting design — an “industrial” look with the lighting instruments going up and down. (This is a “gimmick” that’s been used around in others’ dances, and my fuss is that the dancers were hard to see sometimes. I appreciate and enjoy atmosphere but it’s too dark, in this case.)
Nicely featured were Elizabeth Murphy, Lindsi Dec, Steven Loch, and William Lin-Yee backed by a strong chorus of 11 soloist-level company dancers, including the now retired and missed Rachel Foster.
Balanchine’s Theme and Variations was first made for Alicia Alonso (still around on the planet!) and Igor Youskevitch in 1947 for American Ballet Theatre (then known as Ballet Theatre). This jaw dropping large ensemble cast ballet is not merely a showcase for its principal couple but for each and every cast member who frames and presents the action. I loved seeing Angelica Generosa and Kyle Davis in the lead roles. Their superb classical technique was on show the entire time. Both are powerhouses with no assignment beyond their considerable prowess.
Emil de Cou led the mighty PNB Orchestra.