If you’re new to ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s June 10 Season Encore Performance (6:30 p.m.; tickets: $30-$175) is a good introduction. It’s a sort of Cliff Notes for the season. You won’t see PNB’s cutting-edge side, since they packed 2011–12 full of safe, crowd-pleasing pieces, but you will see some wonderful dancers. Usually this one-night-only show is extra fun because fans fill the house, so there’s energy on both sides of the footlights.
If you happen to be one of those PNB fans, you probably already know that this season recap also serves as a goodbye to dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Abby Relic. You probably already have your $30 ticket, too. So, what’s the news here? The casting. Here’s what PNB has on the initial roster, as of May 31.
Leta Biasucci performs an excerpt from Le Baiser de la fée. This tidy, matter-of-fact dancer just joined PNB’s corps de ballet last summer, but if you’re a regular PNB-goer, you’ve likely noticed. Artistic Director Peter Boal has given her plum roles from the get-go and she has handled them capably. She dances the lead in Coppélia, which opens today, and she traveled to New York a few weeks ago for PNB’s demonstration at the Guggenheim Museum. PNB featured her in a video as well, with another excellent new corps member, Elizabeth Murphy. For the Encore, Biasucci will also dance the Coppélia finale with the stalwart James Moore.
Carrie Imler and Karel Cruz dance the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. What is not to love here? Imler’s technique, wit, energy, and attack will knock our socks off. Cruz’s long-legged leaps will amaze us.
And at the other end of the excitement axis: Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux. It takes a bit of concentration to get into it, but it’s worth the effort. Rachel Foster takes on this sad reverie with Batkhurel Bold. These two powerhouse dancers give the constrained, calm, molasses-like piece a thrilling intensity. I love Foster in this pas de deux; her debut in it was the first time I saw this fierce dynamo open up, and that’s a moment I’ll never forget.
PNB takes Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance) for another spin on June 10. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I think I’m in the minority, as I never can actually find anyone to agree with me that it’s hokey and dull. Even I have to admit, though, that it is fun to see the large cast swirling around the stage. This time, Sarah Ricard Orza and Jerome Tisserand will be at the center of the merry-go-round. Boal has featured Orza with her neat steps and sparkly smile quite a bit this season. Although Boal just promoted Tisserand to soloist in January, this French jumper has been dancing big roles with swaggering charm and grace for a few years now.
I’m looking forward to seeing David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to my Skin explode across the stage again. There’s so much going on in this piece at every minute; if I could, I’d press REPLAY just to see what I missed the first time around. We’ll see just the first movement, danced by Elizabeth Murphy and Joshua Grant; Lindsi Dec and Andrew Bartee; Maria Chapman and Jonathan Porretta; and Brittany Reid, Emma Love, and Margaret Mullin. I wish the lighting helped the choreography and the costumes a bit more. And I wish Kisses didn’t remind me how much I long to see William Forsythe’s similarly fast-paced In the middle, somewhat elevated—a piece we haven’t seen in Seattle for so very long. In Kisses, watch especially for Brittany Reid. She shone in this piece in March; it’s a good style for her.
How, exactly, PNB will say goodbye to Abby Relic, one of the two dancers departing this year, I haven’t heard. It would be fun if we got to see her do a bit of that hip-hop that she is moving on to when she leaves PNB. Relic has been a solid dancer in PNB’s corps since 2008—reliable, agile, and consistently pleasant to watch. It’s not just that her knock-out dimples make you smile; she is one of those dancers who seems comfortable enjoying her time onstage, and so the audience can relax and enjoy things too. Standout performances include her hilarious, crisp craziness in Jiri Kylian’s Sechs Tänze. I’m sad Relic won’t be with PNB next year for Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, because I think she would make a likeable and funny Nurse. Too bad for us.
Lucien Postlewaite, the other dancer leaving PNB this year, takes on three roles in this show. It’s not too many for a dancer who joined the company in 2003 as an apprentice and who has given so many exceptional, moving performances as he climbed steadily up the ranks. (See Philippa Kiraly’s recent SunBreak article on Postlewaite’s departure.)
We’ll see him in Apollo, growing into noble godhood with muses Carla Körbes, Kylee Kitchens, and Lesley Rausch. That should be absolutely beautiful.
He dances the balcony pas de deux from Roméo et Juliette, too, with Kaori Nakamura. Like everyone else in the audience, I will love watching this stellar duo in this piece by Jean-Christophe Maillot, but I will not clap (much) because it’s this same Maillot who is taking Postlewaite away from PNB and into his Ballets de Monte Carlo. Merde!
Postlewaite also dances an excerpt from a ballet we haven’t seen for a few years at PNB: Prodigal Son. It isn’t really a signature role for him, because Postlewaite doesn’t have one. He is sometimes dubbed “The Prince,” but he can dance (it seems) anything and everything. It’ll be a treat to see him as the Prodigal Son, though. His temptress in this pas de deux? The leggy Laura Gilbreath.
Usually, PNB’s season-enders feel like the best of encores, where the performers are relaxed, basking in the adoration of their fans, and the fans get to feel like they’re hanging out with the performers, jamming until the joint closes. See you there!