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New York City Center Presents Pacific Northwest Ballet in Balanchine Masterpieces
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New York City Center Presents Pacific Northwest Ballet in Balanchine Masterpieces

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New York City Center
Pacific Northwest Ballet

Balanchine Masterpieces
Square Dance
Prodigal Son
Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Artistic Director: Peter Boal
Kent Stowell and Francis Russell, Founding Artistic Directors
Music Director/Principal Conductor: Emil de Cou
Company Pianist/Conductor: Allan Dameron
Ballet Masters: Otto Neubert, Anne Dabrowski, Paul Gibson
Technical Director: Norbert Herriges
Resident Lighting Designer: Randall G. Chiarelli
Costume Shop Manager: Larae Thiege Hascall
Company Pianist: Christina Siemens

Press: Joe Guttridge, Director of Communications

At New York City Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
February 24, 2016

Square Dance (1957): Music by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli, Choreography by George Balanchine, Staging by Peter Boal, Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli, Conductor: Allan Dameron, Violinists: Jinsoo Lim, Brittany Boulding, Ingrid Fredrickson, Adrianna Hulscher, Performed by Leda Biasucci, Benjamin Griffiths, and the Company.

It was lovely to see Pacific Northwest Ballet back in New York, opening with Balanchine’s Square Dance, staged by Peter Boal. I’ll never forget Mr. Boal’s performance of this work, when he was a Principal with City Ballet. Thankfully he has staged this ballet for his Company. Tonight’s duo, Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffiths, were ebullient, buoyant, and brilliantly spotlighted, on the intimate City Center stage. With Allan Dameron in the pit, the four lead violinists and PNB Orchestra brought forth the resonant rhythms of the combined Bach and Corelli score. Mr. Griffiths’ compact muscularity enabled him to achieve en air elevation and generous partnering of the very talented Ms. Biasucci. Balanchine has meshed square dance combinations into the ballet, although tonight’s 1976 version did not include the “caller”, which I’ve always found to be superfluous and distracting from the visual purity of the gestalt. So, it was enthralling to see this opening night’s work in such elegant form. Additionally, a male solo for Mr. Griffiths was stunning and pulsating. The Corps dancers were impressive and engaging.

Prodigal Son (1950): Music by Sergei Prokofiev, Libretto by Boris Kochno, Choreography be George Balanchine, Staging by Peter Boal, Scenic and Costume Design by Georges Rouault, Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli, Conductor: Emil de Cou, Performed by Jonathan Porretta as The Prodigal Son, Lesley Rausch as The Siren, Otto Neubert as Father, Kyle Davis and Ezra Thomson as Friends, Chelsea Adomaitis and Cecilia Iliesiu as The Sisters, and the Company as Drinking Companions.

For Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, Emil de Cou was in the pit, leading the percussive Prokofiev score, and the PNB Orchestra made its magnetic urgency come to life. Tonight’s Prodigal Son, Jonathan Porretta, was charged, theatrical, daring, outstanding. This lead could not have been better cast. Unfortunately, Lesley Rausch, as The Siren, lacked the over-the-top eroticism and muscularity of dancers we’ve seen in this role on other New York stages. Ms. Rausch did not glare at the audience, her eye makeup was thin, she was slightly wobbly in the torso-climbing choreography with Mr. Porretta, and she was generally disappointing in such a pivotal role. A different dancer, who may have been sidelined, was listed to open the role.

Moreover, Otto Neubert, as The Father, lacked the height and drama of the City Ballet staging, which may include stilts. The two Sisters, Chelsea Adomaitis and Cecilia Iliesiu, when finding their returning, wounded and exhausted brother on the ground at the gate, were a bit offhand, compared to more poignant performances elsewhere. In his staging, Mr. Boal may have forgotten the company dynamics during his rave turn as the Prodigal Son in 2004, partnering Darci Kistler, as The Siren. Kyle Davis and Ezra Thomson, as the Friends, equaled the theatricality of Mr. Porretta’s energy and pathos. The Drinking Companions were tightly timed in gesture and fascinating to watch. Kudos to Mr. Porretta for his fine rendering of this important Balanchine role.

Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972): Music by Igor Stravinsky (Concerto in D for violin and orchestra), Choreography by George Balanchine, Staging by Paul Boos and Colleen Neary, Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli, Conductor: Emil de Cou, Violinist: Michael Jinsoo Lim, Performed by Lesley Rausch, Jerome Tisserand, Noelani Pantastico, Seth Orza, and the Company

This 1929 Balanchine ballet was first danced by Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1984, and tonight’s performance was thrilling. It was a perfect finale on its New York opening night. Mr. Boal and Colleen Neary staged the ballet, conducted by Emil de Cou. The solo Violinist, Michael Jinsoo Lim, made the solos sing. In the “Toccata”, the tightly synchronized imagery, to stark and searing strings, brought out the requisite, rhythmic arm and leg lifts. Ms. Rausch, with Jerome Tisserand, and Noelani Pantastico, with Seth Orza, were mesmerizing. In fact, Mr. Orza, a former dancer with City Ballet, has always been a joy to experience, and I only wish he’d had more solos on this two-program run. The Corps was crisp and charged, enthused and electric, amidst the dynamic propulsion. “Aria I” featured Ms. Rausch and Mr. Tisserand, with sophistication and surrealness. “Aria II” featured Ms. Pantastico and Mr. Orza, with expressiveness and lovely, combined shapes. The “Capriccio”, with the entire cast, was effusively expressive, bubbling with joy and jubilance. Kudos to all.

Pacific Northwest Ballet
Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffiths
in George Balanchine's "Square Dance".
Courtesy of Lindsay Thomas

Pacific Northwest Ballet
Lesley Rausch, Jonathan Porretta, and Cast
in George Balanchine's "Prodigal Son".
Courtesy of Lindsay Thomas

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at