It was quite thrilling to attend a full dress rehearsal of Pacific Northwest Ballet performing Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake (https://www.pnb.org/repertorylist/swan-lake/), on Thursday, Feb 1. The venue was the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall (https://www.mccawhall.com/home) in Seattle, the company was Pacific Northwest Ballet (www.pnb.org).
The astute, unshakable Gary Tucker, media relations, warned that the dress rehearsal might not be of performance quality. But – the performance was indeed stunning. “Smooth” is the general descriptor for the performances that comes to mind. Seth Orza as Prince Siegfried was in great form, Noelani Pantastico’s Odette/Odile was breathtakingly transcendent, and Kyle Davis, as the jester was the embodiment of energy unleashed, unbridled youthful energy. Indeed every principal character, from Margaret Mullin’s Queen Mother to Lindsi Dec in her Persian variation seemed to be listening intently to the music, and none more than Noelani Pantastico.
Especially in a story/storied ballet such as Swan Lake, one thinks of the virtuosic turns. This production did not disappoint. Davis’s moves cut through the air, his legs extending like sharp scissors. He delivered wickedly fast (and precise) turns à le seconde, morphing them into passé, at will.
In the Act I pas de trois, Benjamin Griffiths (with his spotless turns and marvelous pirouettes ever so slowly opening to extensions à le seconde), Leta Biasucci (with lovely timing on her cabrioles and fast foot work), and Angelica Generosa (kudos for her clean tour jeté) looked like they were truly enjoying themselves. Griffiths’ grand jeté en ménage were beautifully executed, the epitome of control. In Act III, Orza brought a showy display, with big moves and gorgeous double tours, handsome beats, beautifully filling in the music.
It was Noelani Pantastico, however, who stole the show. Swan Lake goes to the ballerina, it rises and falls on who and what the ballerina is and does. Pantastico delivered a lush white swan pas de deux in Act II. She literally threw herself into prince’s Orza’s arms.
The ballet is a brutal trial by fire on many counts – brutal for the stamina, footwork, and emotion it demands – love lost, identity crises, poignant decisions. It requires a huge range of skill and finesse. A case in point was Pantastico, fighting her way away from Orza at the end, knowing she must. The beautiful choreography has her echoing in her body, the gestures of the corps of swans. Her last move, the bourée carrying her across the stage, floating, as it were in the fog of dry ice, is ever memorable.
Sitting in the upper tiers, I could easily see the elegant patterns of the swan corps, the unison movement of their arms, the subtle gestural changes, the ease of their waltz. The music commanded the attention of the dancers. Concertmaster Michael Jinsoo Sim sailed through the challenging violin sections.
This week, the performances have been praised for their production qualities – from the thicket of trees scenery that encase the opening scenes to the glorious music. Yet the star of the show is the dancers themselves. Dynamics is the key here, from the almost leisurely waltz of Orza with his potential princesses to the dazzling antics of the evil Odile. An extra bonus was seeing Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, choreographer and stager, back in the Opera House, undoubtedly pleased with a beautifully rehearsed and rendered production – art and entertainments at its smoothest, and most elegant.