Friday, October 19, 2007

OBT Starts with a Bang.

The first program of Oregon Ballet Theatre's 2007-08 season has its last performance tomorrow, and having just been I strongly encourage you to beg, borrow or steal tickets and go see it. Christopher Stowell seems to have that great Director's knack of finding the right roles for the right people, and this program positively brims with promise of things to come. At one point I thought to myself that these dancers both understand and honor the burden of being the company for an entire state.

(That's not to say there's not other dance out there, but let's face it - you look to ballet as the harbinger of quality. These folks get that, and they mean business).

The program started with William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," new to OBT this year. The piece was something of a standby at SF Ballet, and so it's no surprise that Stowell would want to bring it here. Forsythe wasn't kidding when he said "exactitude" - this is a hard dance for all five dancers, and only Stephen Houser performed flawlessly - but the energy was there and the missteps were minor. It's a great dance and I hope Stowell keeps it close. With such a small season (four programs + Nutcracker) it's unlikely to see an immediate repeat, but every other year this is a great chance to give young dancers some serious work.

The juxtaposition of the big, spacious, shape-centric "Thrill" with "Mostly Mozart," a return performance from its 2006 premiere at OBT, was fascinating. The dancers, for the most part, remain within a hand's grasp of each other, and although there is a great deal of movement one can't help but think that you're watching a much smaller stage. That combined with the call-and-response, introductory motif and then silence during the dance, made for a haunting and physical performance. With breath cues and sliding feet clearly discernible, particularly during the trio dances, this was a heck of a spectacle. The pas de deux was absolutely amazing, and the re-introduction of music took the narrative force up a notch - or two, or three. Dazzlingly sensual, great fun, and an entirely different kind of thrill (but no less exact).

At that point I would have been fine even if Stowell had concocted some maudlin nonsense out of "Midsummer Night's Dream." He did not; he chose instead to bottle the wit and wisdom of the bard and pour it into dance. See, I'm the one concocting maudlin nonsense, but seriously, this was a delight. Stowell has created a place for the whole company, plus kids, to roll around in the leaves and enjoy. It's not worth recounting the story (you know it already), or dissecting the choreography (it's a comedy). Just go and see it, either tomorrow (today by the time you read this) or whenever it's on again. It's a flagship ballet for OBT, a stake in the ground, a triumph.

End dance geek moment. We now return to our regularly scheduled ephemera.

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