Pittsburgh Ballet

August 16, 1998

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Hartwood Acres
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

August 16, 1998

Reviewed by Karen Dacko

Mother Nature’s unnerving pre-show–including one grandiose lightning bolt–threatened to upstage Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s seventeenth annual performance at Hartwood, an open-field venue that boasts an acoustically excellent covered stage shell.

PBT has previously offered Ivanov’s Swan Lake, Act II here. However, this year’s staging, which added six Hunters and a variation for Benno, was customized by artistic director Terrence Orr. Always well-crafted with detailed nuances, Laura Desiree’s Odette evoked greater poignancy via an enhanced use of gestures–upper body, head, and especially arms. The improvement is astounding. Her performance was majestic. As Siegfried, Steven Annegarn demonstrated increased emotional depth and a few new adagio tricks. For example, he pushed Odette pronouncedly forward at the crest of the split-lifts, achieving a soaring effect. The female ensemble is improving stylistically, as some swans–notably Sara DiMaio–are positively avian.

Newly hired soloist Douglas Gawriljuk, whose full potential is yet to be tapped, and recently promoted principals Mabel and Maribel Modrono (who are identical twins) offered an even-keeled presentation of Petipa’s pas de trois from the first act of Swan Lake. It offered the welcome reinstatement of a series of air turns for the male and inexplicably modified the coda’s pirouette sequence to utilize just one danseuse. Gawriljuk demonstrated a high jump accompanying well-stretched feet and clean, countable entrechats. Both women have lovely carriage and are free of affectation.

The exotic Unknown Territory (1986), choreographed by the late Choo-San Goh to a percussive score, requires a charismatic lead couple to carry the thirty-minute work. Newly promoted soloist Erin Halloran, though not yet riveting, has both the grace and malleability for the sensuous undulations and contortions required. Sometimes stoic, sometimes fierce, the athletic Alexander Nagiba was most successful when pouncing, crouching, and flinging his compact body floorward. The corps performed admirably, but the absence of design elements that couldn’t be accommodated at Hartwood undercut the work’s full visual impact.

In Petipa’s Le Corsaire Pas de Deux, pale and fragile Ying Li provided a sharp physical contrast to Stanko Milov, who, suntanned and muscular, seemed to tower and overpower. Their adagio was fraught with boisterous partnering and blatantly manipulated multiple pirouettes that concluded with imprecise waist-level holds. Faring better individually, Li skillfully graduated her extensions in the variation’s five successive développés à la seconde and later offered secure single and double fouettés. Milov’s pas de ciseaux–forceful, picture-perfect midair thrusts–highlighted his solo and punctuated the finale, eliciting bravos from the audience.