Pacific Northwest Ballet
13 June 2010
by Helene Kaplan
copyright 2010 by Helene Kaplan
In October Pacific Northwest Ballet's Music Director Stewart Kershaw, who had just celebrated his silver anniversary with the Company, resigned unexpectedly after conducting a string of brilliant performances for "Romeo et Juliette". Kershaw said, "In planning my departure from the ballet world I wanted to make my own personal farewell on a high note with music that has always been so very dear to my heart - what better then than Prokoviev's Romeo & Juliet as my swan song?” Peter Boal was not going to let Kershaw slip away, and Kershaw returned to the podium for the "Season Encore Performance" which honored him.
The second half of the program was a bookend to Kershaw's career, if in reverse: the orchestra played a piece that is not in Pacific Northwest Ballet's active repertoire, but which was on the first program Kershaw played for the Royal Ballet, the Act II Entr'acte from "Raymonda".
Usually the last program of the season serves either as a retirement tribute or as a survey of the year gone by. Here it was both, and, in addition to Kershaw, included the departure of two major dancers who were featured in the last two works in the the printed program. It was bittersweet that the other performances were lost a bit in anticipation. Lesley Rausch gave a detailed performance in the "Rose Adagio", turning her head to the audience for a moment after each balance as if to acknowledge the court and dancing in context of the full ballet, not a gala fireworks piece. Lindsi Dec was a fiery Choleric, leading over half of the company in a disciplined and driven performance of "The Four Temperaments" finale. The "Fall" excerpt from "The Seasons" showcased senior ballerina Ariana Lallone, who was partnered by a splendid Karel Cruz, and reminded us of the range of opportunities that Boal has given her to show her expansive best. ("Mopey" was canceled at the curtain due to a last-minute severe cramp, and we missed Benjamin Griffiths.)
It was the final two pieces -- "Red Angels" and the "Peace Pas de Deux" and "Finale" from "Coppelia" -- that were the most anticipated works of the night. In a video interview before the All-Dove program earlier in the season, Jordan Pacitti told how when still a student at School of American Ballet, he learned his teacher's, Peter Boal's, solo from "Red Angels" from a videotape. When the ballet was first performed by PNB in the 05-06 season-opening gala and later that season, Pacitti was cast in Boal's role, and he reprised it again in this spring's Dove program. When Boal added it to the Encores program as Pacitti's last scheduled performance, it was a gift to him and to us. Dancing with Carla Korbes and Batkhurel Bold and partnering Carrie Imler, Pacitti showed all of the qualities that made it clear he belonged on that stage with three PNB Principals: lush movement, musicality, quick dynamic changes, and responsiveness to his fellow dancers.
From the beginning of his career, Pacitti showed commitment to detail and style, and my eye was always drawn to him, whether in principal, soloist, or demi-soloist roles or in the back row of the corps. He was featured in many roles in addition to "Red Angels": the solo in "Lamberena", in which his boneless undulations were a wonder, Theme soloist in "Divertimento No. 15" which displayed his polish, "Boy in Blue" in "Dances at a Gathering", a fully realized characterization with some of the most beautiful port de bras of that season, and a series of key character roles that he made his own. His tutor in "Swan Lake" was one of the glories of the production, a perfectly carved cameo through mime and the Act I dance in which he was featured. If his Gallison in "The Sleeping Beauty" wasn't as detailed, his skittishnesh and the anxiety in his furrowed brow reminded us that the Countess' riding crop was as much a tool as a prop, and that the Prince would search for more than physical beauty. He also portrayed Dr. Coppelius in performances I was sad to miss.
The regular program ended with the "Peace Pas de Deux" and Finale from "Coppelia", which had finished its run that afternoon. Mara Vinson, whose departure from the company was announced at the very end of the season, danced Swanhilda, partnered by James Moore as Franz. I'll remember her especially for her first, luminous Aurora in 2006, her maturity and quiet passion in roles like the first couples in "Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet", "In the Night", and "The Bridge", her dusky Waltz Girl, her softly romantic "Emeralds" in the Verdy role, and her abandoned passion as "Girl in Mauve". Just this season between her spectacular "Square Dance" in the All-Balanchine program and her womanly, generous Swanhilda, she went out with back-to-back grand slams in her last two at bats.
Vinson is expected to guest with local companies, and we won't have lost her completely. A few years ago while recovering from an injury, Jordan Pacitti began his business, Jordan Samuel Fragrances, with the support of PNB's Second Stage program -- he was the pre-curtain spokesman for the program this season -- and with his retirement, it will be his full-time profession. Stewart Kershaw continues to lead the Auburn Symphony, which he founded in 1996 with musicians from the PNB Orchestra.
After Maestro Kershaw took the final bow in front of the curtain after "Coppelia", Peter Boal made a surprise announcement that there would be one more work. When the curtain rose, it was for "The Rug Dance" from Sara Pearson's and Patrik Widrig's "Ordinary Festivals" from the 2008 Laugh Out Loud Festival, a group work of zany energy, somersaults, and non-stop movement on a rug, until Pacitti was left holding it at the end. In the last weeks of the season, every last ambulatory dancer and members of the Professional Division had been rehearsing and/or performing in "Coppelia" (with its extra weekend matinee performance), the big group pieces in the "Encore" program, and "3 Movements", which was being prepared for Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center four days after the season ended. That a large group revived "The Rug Dance" for and with Pacitti was a true labor of love. That he gave a last solo stage bow to Leanne Duge, a corps member who is leaving the company, was only his last act of graciousness.
Photos, all by Angela Sterling:
Stewart Kershaw in rehearsal.
Jordan Pacitti in "Red Angels."
Mara Vinson in the "Waltz of the Hours" from "Coppelia."