Pacific Northwest Ballet’s springfestival has its last laugh

R.M. Campbell, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
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The short, happy life of PacificNorthwest Ballet’s Laugh Out Loud Festival came to a close Sunday at McCawHall.


PROGRAM: Laugh Out Loud Festival

WHEN: Sunday afternoon, April 27, 2008

WHERE: McCaw Hall

Three programs, plus a backstageparty, held court for six performances over four days. Only a couple of workswere repeated on different programs, but they were wise choices: an adaptationof Michael Fokine’s “A Dying Swan” twice and Susan Stroman’s”Take Five … More or Less,” on every program.

Not surprisingly “A DyingSwan” got the biggest laughs Sunday afternoon. Refashioned for Les BalletsTrockadero de Monte Carlo, the piece — a parody of the real thingchoreographed for Anna Pavlova in 1905 — was intended to be risible. What elsecould a three-minute solo work that exemplifies fragile feminine virtues, setto the high romanticism of Saint-Saens’ music, and danced by a man be? KatarinaBychkova (aka Joshua Grant) took the honors. As all members of Les BalletsTrockadero are highly skilled, including pointe work, so was Bychkova/Grant andas such was a captivating swan — farcical, ludicrous, hilarious. A quick note:Before Les Ballets Trockadero, Grant was a member of PNB from 2001 to 2004.

Olivier Wevers, one of PNB’s mostengaging dancers, is in the early stages of a second career as a choreographer.He contributed the world premiere, “Shindig,” a potpourri or suite,if you like, set to bits of music from famous composers: Leroy Anderson to IgorStravinsky, with stops at Rimsky-Korsakov, Schubert and Mozart, along the way.Wevers can be very playful as a dancer, and that attribute carries over in thispiece. And as his sense of timing rarely fails him as a dancer, it rarely failshim as a choreographer.

“Shindig” is all over themap. It has flair, satire and moments of beauty and is a showcase for PNBdancers. They do not fail him. Chalnessa Eames and Jonathan Porretta open witha dandy little duet, followed by the many splendors of Louise Nadeau. KaoriNakamura and Lucien Postlewaite get the big duet to which they brought goodhumor, bold technique and flowing lyricism. Carrie Imler has the final word,which she delivered with bravura feet and a radiant style.

I liked the Stroman as much on secondviewing as the first — opening night — and Doug Besterman’s orchestration ofDave Brubeck and Paul Desmond’s tunes better. Randall G. Chiarelli’s lightingis not only apt; it is dramatically indispensable. The cast was the same:Noelani Pantastico oozed charm, and Kari Brunson danced thesex-kitten/bombshell with tongue in cheek. Miranda Weese, the girl in blue, wasboth limpid and fresh.

Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig’s”Ordinary Festivals,” with a lot of running around and falling to thefloor, was a silly bore. So, too, the loud Italian folk music, to which theballet is set.