BWW Perspective: Video of PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET'S Dress Rehearsal of Kent Stowell's SWAN LAKE Recorded at McCaw Hall
During the 2020 global pandemic, PNB is offering audiences the opportunity to enjoy at no cost a series of limited-time-only videos in lieu of this season's cancelled live performances. Reviewing videos rather than productions on stage is a new venture for me, and I approached my first attempt at this task with some trepidation. However, as I discovered when I watched Kent Stowell's "Swan Lake" on the evening of May 22nd courtesy of YouTube, the experience is surprisingly satisfying overall. Not only that, but video viewing has an unexpected advantage in that even the best seats in the house during a live performance can't allow dancegoers to see both close-ups and full stage views. The skilled videography and judicious editing of PNB's "Swan Lake" gave me the chance at some points to see the entire impeccably rehearsed corps de ballet and at other junctures the facial expressions of the dancers during dramatic sequences.
Unfortunately, those up-close facial expressions revealed that while Noelani Pantastico in the demanding dual role of Odette/Odile is a superb technician, she lacks the artistic depth necessary to portray both the White Swan and the Black Swan. Her White Swan's emotionally pained visage felt overdone and had no nuances even as she fell in love with Seth Orza in the role of Prince Siegfried. Then, as the Black Swan, she came off as girlishly triumphant with a grin that was anything but evil or seductive. This video was recorded at the final dress rehearsal on February 1st 2018. I wonder if Pantastico's portrayal has matured during the years since then.
Even so, her dancing was flawless as was Orza's. The scene stealer, though, was Kyle Davis in the role of the high-flying, turn-like-a-top Jester. Back in February of 2020, before shelter-at-home became the norm, I reviewed him at McCaw Hall when he was a newly promoted Principal Dancer in his role debut as Cinderella's Prince. I called him "very accomplished" and referred to his partnering skills, so I'm delighted to see that he is also capable of portraying a more jocular persona with aplomb.
As for the production itself, applause to Stowell for tweaking the poignant story line so that it ends with the White Swan visibly jerking and twitching as she turns back into a bird under Rothbart's spell before leaving the heartbroken Siegfried crumpling to the floor in grief. This scenario, for me, is infinitely preferable to the double suicide ending of some iterations.
I also applaud Stowell's take on Rothbart, a character who seems eerily larger than life thanks in part to the huge wings by Costume Designer Paul Tazewell.
I was less enthralled by Stowell's Act !, which has an odd country festival vibe. The ethnic dances in Act II are acceptable but unremarkable. I do want to offer kudos to Francia Russell for her faithful staging of the portions of the ballet that are after Petipa and Ivanov. Dance history buffs will love these sequences, especially Cygnets.
In sum, this is a "Swan Lake" well worth seeing. The free video will be available through May 27th. Next up, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with music by Felix Mendelssohn and choreography by George Balanchine © courtesy of the The George Balanchine Trust. The video release date will be Wednesday, June 24th at 7 p.m. PDT, and the video will be viewable through Monday, June 29th. Catch it if you can!