By Christopher Heide
PNB’s production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" once again proved why the Seattle based company is one of the most elite in the country. Amongst lavish sets and decadent costumes, the dancers breathed a new life into Shakespeare’s classic tale of mischief, manipulation and magic. The entire ballet was an aesthetically astute marriage of technical talent and intuitive acting abilities.
“A garden of delight for the eyes and ears”, George Balanchine’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" recounts William Shakespeare’s great comedy about the misadventures, quarrels, and reconciliations of two pairs of mortal lovers and the King and Queen of the fairies.
Illusion, deception, and jealousy each play parts in the romantic confusion between Titania and Oberon, rulers of the Fairy Kingdom, and the bemused mortals that have wandered into their realm, set deep in Tony Award-winning designer Martin Pakledinaz’s lush, enchanted forest. All is eventually—and humorously—resolved by Act II, which opens with Mendelssohn’s familiar Wedding March. Devoted to ideal love, the marriage festivities are crowned by the magnificent Divertissement pas de deux, which endures as one of Balanchine’s most beautiful creations,” says the PNB press core.
Interestingly enough, Balanchine is partially famous for his rejection of the evening-long story that at one time dominated the world of ballet.
Supposedly, Balanchine was not opposed to that type of storytelling per se; rather, he was simply opposed to their excesses. Ironically enough, PNB’s current rendition of “Midsummer” is stuffed with lavish design and intricate storytelling. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most complex narratives that the company has done all season, and quite possibly, one of the greatest ballets of all time.
The PNB rendition is a beautiful mixture of classical choreography and whimsical movement. The level of performance and acting beyond technical skill far surpasses any other ballet the company has done this season. The result was an engrossing and enthralling narrative that captured the magic, enchantment and beauty of the Shakespeare tale.
As per usual, the performances by all the dancers were spectacular. In particular, Jonathan Porretta gave one of the greatest performances of his career as Puck. Also giving standout performances were veterans Lucien Postlewaite, Carla Körbes and Lesley Rausch. The April 9th performance also featured one of the final performances of veteran dancer Olivier Wevers, who after 14 years with PNB is retiring to focus on his own dance company, Whim W’Him. While Wevers part in this rendition was small and somewhat disjointed from the narrative of the rest of the story, his performance garnered a standing ovation. His melding of grace, classical technique and intense precision was beyond breathtaking.
Overall, the Pacific Northwest Ballet continues to deliver consistently strong reps this season, thanks to a diverse group of talented and passionate dancers.