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Pacific Northwest Ballet in London - Programme Preview

By Stuart Sweeney

Pacific Northwest Ballet returns for a second visit to Sadler's Wells in early July and CriticalDance will be covering the short season in depth with a series of interviews, reviews and much more. Our three representatives in Seattle, Francis Timlin, Dean Speer and Dina McDermott have already been busy preparing preview material for your delectation and the UK staff will pick up the baton soon after PNB arrive in the UK.

Following the pattern of their previous London season, the Company is bringing a full-length work, Silver Lining, and a Mixed Bill. Silver Lining, choreographed by Kent Stowell, is an exuberant look at America's theatrical heritage. When premiered in 1998, Mary Murfin Bayley, dance critic of The Seattle Times wrote,

'Pacific Northwest Ballet pulled out the stops for its season finale: singing dancers, lavish sets, a professional magician and dancing that, although pure ballet, had the swing, glamour and fun of social dancing. The audience responded with a standing ovation.

The dances in Kent Stowell's Silver Lining, a full-length ballet set to the music of Jerome Kern, represent some of Stowell's best choreography to date. His use of Charleston, tango and jitterbug - incorporated seamlessly into the ballet idiom - gives this work variety, freedom and an infectious sense of fun.'

The show was revived in 2000 and R.M. Campbell, writing in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, also enjoyed the show,

'Most people love to see ballet dancers get loose, to see all that hard-earned technique used in something less rigorous and more fun-loving. There is a good deal of that in Silver Lining. The whole company danced with such effortless grace, confidence and Úlan on occasion it took one's breath away. Indeed, that is one of the most appealing aspects of the performance.'

The 2002 London dance season is turning into a celebration of US show biz. We have already seen ENB in Balanchine's Who Cares, Rambert's The Parade's Gone By and Northern Ballet Theatre's new I Got Rhythm will no doubt come to London in the next year. I'm looking forward to Stowell's Silver Lining and I'm pleased that we will see this recent work rather than one of the classical standards.

Here are the links to:

Mary Murfin Bayley's review of original production in The Seattle Times

R.M. Campbell's preview interview with Kent Stowell on the occasion of the performances in 2000

R.M. Campbell's review of the 2000 production.

The Mixed Bill is a showcase for the wide repertory of the Company. Artistic Directors, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell were both New York City Ballet dancers under Balanchine's direction and they have included the Master's Divertimento No. 15 to Mozart's Divertimento in B-flat major (K.287). The work dates from 1956 and is a one act ballet for 5 ballerinas, three male soloists and eight corps de ballet. Craine and Mackrell's Dictionary of Dance write, 'Although it has no plot its dance imagery can partly be viewed as a celebration of love.'

PNB took the piece to New York in 1996 and Anne Kisselgoff in the NY Times, wrote that it, '....took one's breath away and defined how far the company has come." She also wrote of a "freshness and beauty that are revealing."

JardÝ Tancat will be the third Nacho Duato work seen in London this year. It was the first piece that Spanish choreographer Duato created in 1983 when he was with Nederlands Dans Theatre and it is has since entered the rep of a string of ballet companies around the world. As far as I am aware it hasn't been staged in London since an NDT2 visit a decade ago and thus it's a good opportunity for us to re-evaluate this ballet.

Jack Andrews in the NY Times wrote of PNB's production,

'A row of sticks confined the cast of JardÝ Tancat, the best-known creation of the Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato. The title is Catalan for enclosed garden, and the dancers seem to be struggling in a wilderness that may be emotional or even political as well as geographical. Recorded Catalan songs by Maria del Mar Bonet serve as a fervent accompaniment. The dancers matched the musical and choreographic intensity.'

Peter Martins, Balanchine's successor at New York City Ballet, choreographed Fearful Symmetries to John Adams' eponymous composition in 1990. This is one of the scores most frequently used by choreographers in recent years. Many UK dance fans are familiar with Ashley Page's award winning ballet and American modern dance choreographer, Doug Varone, has also brought his version to London. Martins' production is a large one-act ballet for 23 dancers and the press release tells us that, ' is bathed in dramatic and ever-changing hues of red and blue and matches the music's racing pulse in striking combinations.'

Anna Kisselgoff wrote about the New York City Ballet production:

'The opener was Fearful Symmetries, in which Peter Martins's textured, plotless design dynamically meets the exciting rhythmic pulse of John Adams's score of the same title. Choreographed in 1990, the ballet has lost none of its energy.....

....the ballet avoids the minimalist repetition of steps that the score's minimalist undertones could encourage. Mr. Martins picks up on its rhythms. The pace is relentless, tempered by lyrical passages for two main couples who briefly swap partners and then join in the quiet ritualistic coda that is always a surprise.'

Also included in the Mixed Bill is the pas de trois from Le Corsaire. I have to say that speaking personally I would prefer to see another short work new to London, but if we are going to have a Gala faithful then Le Corsaire with a trio of dynamic performers will do very nicely.

Pacific Northwest Ballet has pulled out all the stops to return to London and with their fine dancers and the varied programme, it promises to be one of highlights of the dance year in London. Here's wishing PNB full houses and appreciative audiences and remember that the best English beer is warm and flat....honest.

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