Oregon Ballet Theatre: Dance United
June 9, 2012
The third annual Dance United concert, a fundraiser for Oregon Ballet Theatre, was a night of first-time visits and last-time appearances. (And in the case of injured OBT principal Chauncey Parsons, temporary absences.)
Since its inception, Dance United has booked international guest artists who waive their fees and dance mostly pas de deux on a bill they share with OBT’s dancers, and this year several performers made their Portland debuts. The show was also a swan song for OBT principal Artur Sultanov, who joined OBT in 2003 after stints with the Kirov, Eifman, and Alonzo King LINES ballet companies. (Post-retirement, he’ll focus on running the Sultanov Russian Ballet Academy, a school in Portland that he founded within the last couple of years. He plans to open a second branch this summer.)
Sultanov and his OBT colleagues danced on a program that in various ways reflected OBT artistic director Christopher Stowell’s history and connections. Highlights included Garen Scribner and Dana Genshaft, of San Francisco Ballet (Stowell’s former employer) performing Christopher Wheeldon’s intricate Ghosts. Genshaft, in a long, white, lacy skirt, tussled with Scribner in an emotionally charged duet packed with movement interest, including head-holding dips and knee-over-the shoulder lifts. Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili, of the Joffrey, danced Bells, by Stowell’s former SFB colleague Yuri Possokhov. From its dramatic opening overhead lift, it was a sculptural display of lean muscle and elegant line. Less memorable, although pleasant enough, was Dutch National Ballet’s Maia Makhateli and Tamás Zoltan Nagy dancing Krzysztof Pastor’s In Light and Shadow, set to Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
Artur Sultanov and Alison Roper in Wheeldon’s
There Where She Loved
Balanchine also got his due here (and then some, thanks to a recurring program note from the Balanchine Trust that was loaded with trademark symbols). Miami City Ballet’s Jeanette Delgado and Renato Penteado danced the Stars and Stripes pas deux, which got a boost from her substantial charisma. Much-anticipated New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan, meanwhile, made a disappointingly brief appearance in the grand pas from Chaconne, partnered by Adrian Danchig-Waring.
The home company closed the show with a bright and jazzy rendition of Balanchine’s Who Cares? Prior to that, they did the local audience proud with sneak previews of the white and black swan pas de deux from OBT’s next-season performance of Swan Lake. Former Miami City Ballet dancer Haiyan Wu was a vulnerable Odette with beautiful, fluttery port de bras; Yuka Iino was sparkling and self-assured as Odile.
Then there was a trio of Kurt Weill–inspired pieces set to the evening’s only live music, by pianist David Saffert. Kent Stowell (father of Christopher) offered the comedic Jenny (its spangled green-and-purple costumes were, unfortunately, better suited to a school recital). Christopher Stowell turned in the tango-inflected Youkali with Brian Simcoe in for Parsons; and Wheeldon’s There Where She Loved was a bittersweet romantic duo that ended with Alison Roper slipping away from Sultanov’s embrace, leaving him—in his last OBT performance—empty-handed and alone. Thankfully, his night didn’t end there: He returned to receive a bottle of champagne, a shower of red roses, and a standing ovation. The night ended well for his compatriots, too: at press time, OBT representatives said the benefit appears to have raised almost $100,000.
Pictured at top: Dana Genshaft and Garen Scribner in Wheeldon’s
Photos by Blaine Truitt Covert, Courtesy OBT