Here's What Happens When You Watch the Tonys and Carla Körbes' Goodbye at the Same Time

June 7, 2015


I had a dilemma last night: Watch the Tony Awards or the live stream of Carla Körbes’ last performance with Pacific Northwest Ballet?

Both, I decided. And so, my friend and I plopped on the couch with the Tonys on the TV and a laptop open to the live stream.


Since the Tonys started at 

8 pm EST
 and the live stream at 9:30, there was zero decision making for the first hour and a half. Some highlights: Hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming started with a tongue-in-cheek number that poked fun at this year’s musicals, and themselves. On the Town‘s performance medley began with Tony Yazbeck charming Anna Wintour. Sam Gold won Best Direction of a Musical for Fun Home, though many thought An American In Paris was a big contender. (This early evening award was a good indication that Fun Home would make a good Tonys sweep.) But never fear: Wheeldon was a shoe-in for Best Choreography. And it was proven with a performance by Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope.


At this point the PNB live stream was supposed to begin. But of course, dance rarely starts on time. So I waited patiently while watching Chenoweth in a number from 
On The Twentieth Century
. For such a tiny person, she’s truly larger than life!



PNB began with Andrew Bartee’s Dirty Goods. The dancers, clad in white, shifted, swiped and bopped across the stage, with a film of them dancing in the stunning Olympic National Park in the background. Though I wouldn’t call the dancing in it accomplished, I was pleasantly surprised that the company would try something so modern dance driven, without feeling like it had to justify the piece with a lot of flash. To me, that was pretty brave.


That’s about when I got distracted by the fabulous Chita Rivera singing a number from 
The Visit
at the Tonys. My attention returned to PNB when
Körbes danced Jessica Lang’s The Calling. Much of this solo had Körbes facing upstage. All you had to look at were her port de bras, shoulders and spine. And from that view she was totally commanding.


William Forysthe’s 
The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
was next, a piece I’ve seen too many times to count. That, combined with the fact the Körbes wasn’t dancing in it, made me switch back to the Tonys, which had the cast of Finding Neverland performing. The mediocre musical wasn’t nominated for a single award, but has been a big box office seller. Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement was next on the PNB live stream. But at this point I was kind of flipping back and forth, feeling a little lost. Award shows can get long, and live streams are rarely entirely engaging. 


That is until the excerpts from Jewels began. Körbes’ performance, as the lead in “Diamonds,” was the first of my split-attention evening to totally capture my interest. She had a dramatic quality that the ballet requires, but displayed it with utter finesse and restraint. Her transitions were seamless. And she articulated her spine with a sophistication that puts her light years ahead of other PNB dancers.


While PNB took an intermission, Michael Cerveris won the Best Leading Actor award. (And gave a shout out to Robbie Fitzgerald, aka Robert Fairchild, who was also nominated.) Kelli O’Hara 
 and deservedly won Best Actress after being nominated six times. And unsurprisingly, Fun Home took best musical.


Jersey Boys
 closed the show, which didn’t really make sense because it’s been on Broadway for years now. But I don’t really know what the alternative would have been because the performances at the Tony Awards were, in all, underwhelming. That’s not because there weren’t plenty of good shows to see this year, but because very few of them could be boiled down into two minutes of telecast time. Wheeldon’s An American In Paris staging is too sophisticated, On the Town‘s witty charm too wonderfully divvied up among its six fantastic leads and Fun Home‘s themes too important. And though these didn’t work for the Tonys, that might say something about where musicals are headed. We’re moving back to intricate storytelling, and away from flash-in-the-pan song and dance.



On my laptop, the music to Balanchine’s Serenade began to play. This was Körbes’ last dance. But technical glitches and my over exerted eyes made me impatient. I turned in for the night. It’s okay though. Her “Diamonds” performance was the true closer of my evening, too perfect to top.

For a complete list of Tony winners, click here.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Karel Cruz and Carla Körbes in Balanchine’s Diamonds. Photo © Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB.