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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 22, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 8
PNB makes triumphant return to New York
Arts & Entertainment
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PNB makes triumphant return to New York

Audiences cheer Balanchine trio, Romeo et Juliette

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

Pacific Northwest Ballet took the City that Never Sleeps by storm last week, with two full-length evenings of outstanding dance. To say that PNB's New York performances were a sensational hit would be an understatement. The return to the Big Apple was part of the year-long celebration of PNB's 40th anniversary.

An all-Balanchine three-part program opened the week-long residency the night before Valentine's Day at City Center. While there seemed to be major drama off-stage earlier in the week - a blizzard, canceled flights, possible postponement, you-name-it - the dancers, the musicians, the costumes, the props, the whole shebang came together February 13 with the glorious staging of three major Balanchine works. Taking Balanchine to New York is like ... well, like taking coal to Newcastle.

BRAVOS FOR BALANCHINE
Concerto Barocco, Apollo, and Agon, the three Balanchine works, were superbly - nay, gloriously - danced. Curtain calls totaled at least 22 - yes, it was one of those nights. The New York Times ran a short, praiseworthy preview of the two programs and followed up with a half-page rave about the all-Balanchine evening.

One New York City Ballet aficionado raved about the company's technical skill in the drinks line at first intermission: 'PNB is better than the Paris Ballet, better than that company in Hamburg. Better even than New York City Ballet on the Saturday matinee with the young dancers. So much talent, so much perfection.'

Two women seated next to this scribe had just seen 'the closed dress rehearsal' for Sleeping Beauty at Lincoln Center. 'Classic ballet one night and now this - modern dance, an all-Balanchine program from Seattle. Glorious.' They then confessed sotto voce that they had been 'in love with Peter [that's Peter Boal, PNB's artistic director, who is well-known to New York audiences from his years of dancing for Balanchine] since he was 18 or 19.' At the champagne reception following the opening program, Boal, who had famously danced Apollo often in his NY career, delighted the cheering crowd with his memories of dancing the classic Balanchine work and now restaging it 'from the other side.'

In a serendipitous moment, the first champagne glass he clicked at the reception was with the SGN reviewer. To quote the opening number from Jersey Boys, just down the street, 'Oh, what a night.'

RAVES FOR ROMEO
PNB continued its New York return, its first in a zillion years, with the sleek 'new' Romeo et Juliette, which played three performances - with two sets of leads - through Valentine's Day weekend. (See SGN's February 8 issue for this writer's review.) These 'star-crossed lovers' of Shakespeare's immortal tragedy have never looked or danced better.

Again, the Times raved - as in raved. The New York Post joined the clamor with a glowing review that's worth Googling. Other reviews, from influential dance magazines to mass-market entertainment publications, will trickle in over the next few weeks. PNB, hopefully, will gather the raves (it's impossible to imagine an outright pan) and share them online or in a PNB publication.

One indication of Romeo et Juliette's success was a thundering standing ovation which seemed to go on forever. One member of the press corps dashed out as the curtain came down at the end of the superb performance. He returned a full five minutes later to find the audience still cheering.

When the applause finally subsided, a dancer stepped forward to tell the sold-out audience that this Friday evening was the opening of Dancers Fight AIDS Month, the time of year when dancers, technicians, musicians, and others connected with the dance world ask for audience donations to help dancers and other company members living with HIV/AIDS to support AIDS research in general. Like the similar Broadway Fights AIDS fund drive, dance groups compete to see which one can raise the most money. It was a thrill for this SGN scribe to see Seattle's PNB kick off the 2013 national campaign.

ABOUT CITY CENTER
New York City Center has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city for nearly 70 years. It was Manhattan's first performing arts center, dedicated by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943 with a mission to make the best in music, theater, and dance accessible to all audiences. Today, City Center is home to many distinguished companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York City Opera, and Manhattan Theatre Club, as well as a roster of renowned national and international visiting artists, and its own critically acclaimed and popular programs. Dance has been integral to the theater's mission from the start, and dance programs, including the annual Fall for Dance Festival, remain central to City Center's identity.

The highly anticipated Sardi's celebratory lunch to honor and toast PNB's New York triumph was another highlight of the Big Apple visit. Details will have to wait, but just let it be said a good time was had by all. SGN was the major sponsor of this gala outing, and this silly old scribe was host of a fun-fun-fun time. As usual, 'buy me a drink, sailor, and I will tell you everything.'

PNB returned home after the final R&J performance to start serious rehearsals for the upcoming Swan Lake in April. Modern Masterpieces debuts March 15 and features Concerto Barocco, one of the works from the all-Balanchine evening at City Center and always an audience favorite. Tickets are on sale now at www.pnb.org.

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