Pacific Northwest Ballet
Vail International Dance Festival
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater
July 29, 2008
Reviewed by Kyle MacMillan
Susan Stroman built her reputation on Broadway, but a recent commission for the Pacific Northwest Ballet demonstrates (as did her Double Feature at New York City Ballet) that she can stretch her talents to other facets of dance as well. TAKE FIVE . . . More or Less, which debuted in April as part of the ballet’s Laugh Out Loud! Festival, fittingly culminated the first of the company’s three performances in Vail.
The 15-minute piece for 11 dancers proved to be an ideal bookend to the all-American program’s opener, Jerome Robbins’1944 masterpiece, Fancy Free. The proximity of the two pieces amplified the resonances between them, including their Broadway flavor and breezy, witty feel. If Stroman does not (and probably did not intend to) match the once-startling originality of the earlier work, she has nonetheless created an entertaining crowd pleaser.
With the six women on point, TAKE FIVE was easily the most overtly balletic of the evening’s five selections, even as it drew heavily on soft shoe and show dancing. Set to a trio of favorites by Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, the movement is infused with a jazzy flavor, from the feet and finger tapping in Kaori Nakamura’s comedic opening solo to a catchy combination that consists of dancers clasping their hands behind their backs while touching the soles of their feet together during short leaps.
The most inventive choreography came in the “nighttime” section, in which the elegant Miranda Weese glides over and darts around five contiguous, supine dancers. They provide her support as needed: an upstretched arm for balance or a pair of knees folded upward for a place to sit. At one point, while still on the floor, the five criss-cross their bent legs in a synchronized bit reminiscent of an MGM musical.
If the women dominated the work, Jeffrey Stanton made his presence felt as well. As the lead dancer in the company’s exuberant, well-honed take on Fancy Free, he possesses keen technique and a flair for this style of movement. Jonathan Porretta’s nimble acrobatics in the Robbins work also deserve note.
Batkhurel Bold delivered the necessary athletic razzle-dazzle in Caught, David Parsons’ strobic showpiece, drawing the evening’s biggest cheers. Rounding out the program were excerpts from Sara Pearson’s and Patrick Widrig’s Ordinary Festivals and Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs.
Photo: Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch with corps de ballet dancers Kiyon Gaines, Jordan Pacitti and Seth Orza in Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE . . . More or Less. ©Angela Sterling