Pennsylvania Ballet – A Midsummer Night’s DreamMar 17th, 2013 | By Whittington | Category: Lew's Danceland
by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal
The corps de ballet at the Pennsylvania Ballet isn’t saving themselves for next year’s demanding 50th anniversary season, they have been performing with dazzling and muscled technique in the 49th. They are just finishing up a glitteringly run in George Balanchine’s ballet A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It almost seems like an artistic statement of continuity, since PB was originally formed by Balanchine as one of the regional classical standard-bearers outside of New York. Midsummer is one of Balanchine’s most durable ballets and a potent barometer of any company’s strengths and weaknesses.
At PB, the principle roles and myriad character parts, spread out and rotated over two weeks, tapped the whole company- key roles also filled out by PBII, the apprentice company, under the direction of William DeGregory and the company has just reinstated it’s in house school, and 24 from those student corps, had wonderful polish as those whirling fairies and firefires.
Even with all of these things in place, in the first weekend’s 2nd cast matinee performance, the front scenes played a little airless, and really, part of it is Balanchine’s fault with, for modern eyes, those exhaustive processionals and literalness of the gestural acting. But enter Puck, with his mix-up the lovers mischief and Shakespearean enchantment and the lights start, literally clicking on. The other principals caught the wings. Gabriella Yudenich regal and earthy as Titania, queen of the fairies, her pacing completely inside the music. Her partner, Jong Suk Park, in his biggest role at the company, made the most of it with commanding stage presence and tossing off steely turn grand pirouettes and muscled jumps. Later, Yudenich has wonderful comic scenes Andrew Daly, articulating everything below the neck as Bottom, that laborer turned into an ass by Puck.
Ian Hussey‘s Demetrius, shows again that he is an unfussy character actor who can communicate so much theatrical intent, but never at the expense of clean classical line. His partnering was with Amy Aldridge as the jilted Helena, just are a pair that untangled Balanchine’s knotty patterns. Aldridge technique is both silky and diamond hard. The other couple filing out this confused quartet and digging in with technique and personality are Evelyn Kochak’s Hermia well matched with Daniel Cooper’s Lysander.
The orchestra sound was less lopsided in the Act II divertissements and that played very well to some of Balanchine’s most dynamic ensemble choreography. Again, the women’s corps worked perfect unison, the men’s jumps may have been a little scrambled, but their attack was completely engaged. The mixed pairs for the court ball scene just unfolds into a showpiece of ensemble classicism and here the whole corps just sparkled. . The central pas de deux by Francis Veyette and Brooke Moore, has very tricky adagio work that his couple handled beautifully. Moore struggled on some of the turn sequences, but only momentarily, their pacing otherwise is wonderful.
The stealer often is Puck and so it was on this performance, Jonathan Stiles, gave the character, charm, humor, taller than many a Puck, Stiles played to his lithe body line. His crouched air positions, with that lower leg battlement looked like an art deco painting in motion. This is a magical, wily Shakespearean spectral and Stiles released him on stage flawlessly.
Photo by Alexander Iziliaev