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Colour sexuality and comedy combine as All Wheeldon heralds an exciting PNB 2011

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Karel Cruz and Maria Chapman in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux, presented as part of ALL WHEELDON
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Karel Cruz and Maria Chapman in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux, presented as part of ALL WHEELDON
© Angela Sterling

"After the Rain is worth the night out alone. Luckily for Seattle, it isn't alone"

The Pacific Northwest Ballet opened their 2011 season with an assortment of pieces by Christopher Wheeldon.

The program comprised an all-dance synopsis of the famous musical, Carousel (A Dance), the sensual After the Rain pas de deux, Polyphonia and the Balanchine influenced comedy themed Variations Sérieuses.

Arvo Pärt wrote the music for After the Rain, György Ligeti for Polyphonia, Richard Rodgers of course for Carousel and Variations Sérieuses was based on the works of Felix Mendelssohn.

That's the background but words cannot fully explain the understated magic of the evening's dance. Without hyperbole or pomposity, the Pacific Northwest Ballet continues to produce dance that is accessible and enjoyable to classical dance purists as much as to the general arts enthusiast of Seattle.

Another very promising sign was the audience was notably more youthful than I can recall. This is a sure sign that the PNB has created and attracted a new customer base for years to come which will keep them viable.

Of the four pieces, it was not unexpectedly the 'After the Rain pas de deux' that wooed the audience. They performed this piece in May 2009.

After that performance I wrote, or should I say, gushed:

"If “Dances At A Gathering” used color to portray a childlike innocence and simplicism. “After The Rain Pas de Deux" was anything but innocent. This has to have been one of the most sensual and sexual PNB performances since the heady and still talked about days of Rubies. Batkhurel Bold danced topless and his finely chiselled physique exuded masculinity.

Maria Chapman wore a peach-flesh leotard clearly and proudly designed to simulate nudity. It was wonderfully done and PNB most be congratulated on bucking the increasing trend to pander to the most prudish elements of society. Maria comes from Georgia, Batkhurel from Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Yet despite the distance between their origins came together in perfect harmony to enthral a mesmerized crowd."

Would that I could still write like that!

Maria reprised her role and if anything was even better than I recalled from 2009.

She seemed weightless and if her grace was an attenpt to simulate a feeling of devotion in which a woman feels safe in the arns of the archetypal protective male, she portrayed that emotion with every limb and every turn of her svelte frame.

No smile was wasted and no toss of her mid-length hair rendered meaningless as she proved that great dancers can portray feelings, thoughts and emotions just as well as actors do with words, and singers can with music.

Karel Cruz perfomed with her. It is hard to recall a night when Cruz has not been inch perfect but this occasion was perhaps his best yet. His chemistry, perhaps I should say biology, with Ms Chapman drew breath from the crowd. The piece is safely erotic. Those of us who occasionally indulge in sinful thoughts will be induced to have some more, but innocent children will not be prompted to ask premature questions.

After the Rain followed Carousel, the opening number. Richard Rodgers music is sufficiently catchy that you will find yourself still humming 'The Carousel Waltz' in your head as you return from the interval.

It is a superb contrast to After the Rain. Whereas Chapman and Cruz's duet suggested nudity with him bare chested and the female clad in a 'close to skin' leotard, Carousel is a panoply of colour.

Carla Körbes and Seth Orza provided the centrepiece as the supporting cast simulated the fairground attraction after which the piece is named.

It was a beautiful piece with which to open a new season. It was also a solid choice. Whereas some pieces provoke the audience into thinking and a deep entrancement, Carousel was pure entertainment.

It allowed the audience the comfort and time to become reacquainted with their surroundings if returning, or take in the newness if this was their first visit. The timing was a little bit off with some of the supporting movements but that will surely be fixed in the course of the run.

During the intermisson, there was a mystery to be solved of 'how do they follow that?'

Inevitably Polyphonia struggled to do that. With its uni-coloured purple costumes, it lacked the splash of Carousel and inevitably any piece which follows the mercurial 'After the Rain' will always pale.

Nonetheless, there was an outstanding moment in it when Sarah Ricard Orza enchanted the audience with a solo, performed after Jerome Tisserand leaves the stage in No. 3 Allegro con spiriot from Musica Ricercata.

The show finished with Variations Sérieuses which was anything but serious.

Several comical moments entertained the audience with Laura Gilbreath as the primadonna ballerina showing some solid and comedic acting skills. Jonathan Poretta donned a bald wig to play the prissy Ballet Master. You would bet they all know people like those they were parodying.

PNB orchestra Conductor Emil de Cou did not escape the parody either with William Lin-Yees' over exaggerated gesturing.

After the Rain though is worth the night out alone. Luckily for Seattle, it isn't alone.

Lastly, let me add my congratulations to Rachel Foster and Lesley Rausch, both soloists, who were promoted to principal dancers.

Rachel danced but Lesley was nursing an injury. She'll hopefully be back soon, perhaps for the Nutcracker, according to the pre show announcement.

ALL WHEELDON runs September 23 through October 2 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.

Tickets start at $28 and may be purchased by calling 206.441.2424, online at, or in person at the

PNB Box Office, 301 Mercer St.

Tickets are available here.

Opening Night Cast:

Carousel (A Dance)©

Carla Körbes
Seth Orza

After the Rain pas de deux©

Maria Chapman
Karel Cruz


Carla Körbes
Rachel Foster
Kaori Nakamura
Sarah Ricard Orza*

Batkhurel Bold
Lucien Postlewaite
Benjamin Griffiths
Jerome Tisserand*

Variations Sérieuses©

Ballerina - Laura Gilbreath*
Premier Danseur - Seth Orza
Young Girl - Sarah Ricard Orza*
Ballet Master - Jonathan Porretta
Conductor - William Lin-Yee*
Pianist -Jessica Choe**
Stage Manager -Lindsi Dec*
Dresser - Jenna Nelson*


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