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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 12, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 46
Pacific Northwest Ballet stages Twyla Tharp program
Arts & Entertainment
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Pacific Northwest Ballet stages Twyla Tharp program

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

All Tharp
Pacific Northwest
Ballet
Through
November 14


Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its 2010-11 season with its second program of all modern works. Twyla Tharp is one of the most popular - and busiest of modern choreographers. PNB salutes her with its current All Tharp repertory program of three contemporary works. The repertoire bill continues performances through this Sunday's matinee, November 14.

Since graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Tharp has choreographed 135 dances for dance companies - including her own - throughout the world. Two of the current PNB revivals were commissioned by PNB and premiered here in 2008. In addition to her original work for numerous dance troupes, she has choreographed numerous Broadway shows and other major dance works. Her basic trademark is that she has no basic trademark - while her works are decidedly modern and readily mix modern dance and classical ballet styles, Tharp prides herself in having no distinct style.

Opus 111, one of Tharp's 2008 works for PNB, opens the program. Danced to music by Johannes Brahms, six couples tackle a mixture of classical styles, folk dance, and a mishmash of styles, including fleeting flickers of aerobics. The 'Brahms String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111' (which gives the short work its name) is beautifully played in the orchestra pit while the six couples alternate center stage, often in pairs or quartets. It's an abstract work with a decided folk flavor. (Ignore the program notes that indicate that five couples dance the work - it's a misprint and six couples do indeed take the stage.)

Afternoon Ball, the second 2008 work receiving its first revival, is danced to music by Vladimir Martynov from his 1994 'Autumn Ball Of the Elves.' PNB conductor Allan Dameron led the PNB orchestra in a fine performance of this decidedly modern work. Five dancers - a group of three in contemporary street gear and an elegant pair of waltzing dancers - handle Tharp's challenging choreography. Ariana Lallone danced the 'waltzing lady' on opening night and was, as usual, a sensation. A quick costume change in the work's final moments deserves special praise for Lallone and to PNB's talented costume dressers who make the impossible possible.

Waterbaby Bagatelles is a 1994 work that premiered at the Boston Ballet. Seattle saw it first at PNB in 2006 where it made a fondly remembered debut. The large company work - the most challenging of the evening - is danced to recorded music from a variety of sources. The setting, an aquarium-styled set, uses floating neon lighting bars to add to the underwater feeling. In classical music, a 'bagatelle' is a short, unpretentious musical composition. Tharp uses a wide assortment of compositions as inspirations for her balletic bagatelles - a musical range that includes 12-tone innovations and Tango classics from Astor Piazzolla. Many of the men are bare-chested and the women often wear bathing caps, making the water motif the reoccurring image. It's a challenging work and much more demanding than the campy Busby Berkeley-like romp poster photos would indicate.

The All Tharp mixed rep program continues through Sunday. Ticket information is available at (206) 441-2424. Various discounts are offered - ask and ye shall receive.

PNB returns to a classical mode for four upcoming works. Nutcracker for the holidays, Cinderella running February 4-13, A Midsummer Night's Dream April 8-17, and a new world-premiere version of Giselle June 3-12. For PNB fans who favor the modern dance influence, a Contemporary 4 program March 18-27 returns the company to a contemporary feeling.

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