Tag Archives: Candace Bouchard

OBT dancers stage a little ‘Uprising’: Catch it if you can

Martha Ullman West, Art Scatter’s esteemed global correspondent for the terpsichorean arts, files this report from last night’s action in the balletic trenches of Mississippi — that is, North Mississippi Street in Portland. Sounds like a good place to move your feet tonight or tomorrow:

Candace BouchardLast night at Mississippi Studios, where six of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dancers were performing the first of three nights of a sweet little show that company soloist Candace Bouchard whipped up in a couple of weeks, I couldn’t help thinking about George Balanchine.

Not as choreographer, although Bouchard, who was choreographing for the first time, produced some more than adquate steps to be performed on an extremely small platform.

Lucas ThreefootRather, because history is to some degree repeating itself.

After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution Balanchine and his mates, including his first wife, Tamara Geva, danced in after-hours nightclubs in Petrograd in exchange for a pound of sugar or a loaf of bread.

Food shortages were rampant, the currency was in flux, and there was nothing to buy if you had any money in the first place.

Ansa DeguchiOBT’s dancers are not starving, and they’re not coping with food shortages caused by a revolution, although they are calling a projected series of performances in nontraditional spaces Uprising. This program, which repeats tonight and tomorrow, is the first. But Bouchard, soloists Stephen Houser and Ansa Deguchi, and company artists Leta Biasucci, Olga Krochik and Lucas Threefoot have been off-contract at OBT since the Emeralds season-opener, and they are definitely dancing to put food on their tables.

Leta BiasucciAnd dancing very well, to a large degree because they were dancing to live music, the often infectious beat produced by the indie folk band Horse Feathers.

In the show’s first half they were clearly having a very good time, whipping off some pirouettes, rising to the occasion of a very small stage (platform, really, but at least it was wood and they weren’t dancing on cement) with, in Threefoot’s case, some jetes that came close to being grand.

Steven HouserBouchard, whose goal was to make classical ballet user-friendly, did not patronize her audience. Incorporated into the choreography were difficult fifth positions and some complicated lifts.

The second half dragged a bit, in part because of the level tone of the music, although Bouchard managed to get all six dancers onto the stage at once in a perfectly viable pattern of movement to end a show that was charming and thoughtfully conceived, and that got a well-deserved rousing ovation from an audience in which I recognized very few faces.

Olga KrochikIt’s a generous performance, danced with the same heart these dancers put into their OBT work, and the close quarters of Mississippi Studios give even seasoned ballet-goers a fresh perspective on the dancers’ talent.  Company dancer Grace Shibley was represented by some simple costumes, incidentally, in which the dancers could move well, although I could have done without the spangles on Houser’s vest.

Uprising (no connection to Hofesh Schechter’s piece of the same name) will be repeated tonight and tomorrow night (Wednesday and Thursday) at 8 p.m. at Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi St. Catch it if you can.

PHOTOS, from top: Candace Bouchard, Lucas Threefoot, Ansa Deguchi, Leta Biasucci, Stephen Houser, Olga Krochik. Courtesy OBT.

Martha Ullman West on the Ghost of Nutcrackers Past

Nobody knows her Marzipans from her Sugarplum Fairies as well as Martha Ullman West, the distinguished dance writer and charter member of Friends of Art Scatter. We here at Scatter Central are pleased as holiday punch — and with the right additives, that’s pretty darned pleased — to turn our space over to her for some insights into Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” and the long line of Nutcrackers leading up to it. Read on!

When George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker premiered at New York City Center in 1954, critic Edwin Denby reported that a “troubled New York poet sighed, “I could see it every day, it’s so deliciously boring.” I thought of that remark while viewing the same choreography, excellently danced, when Oregon Ballet Theatre opened its current run on Friday. I think the poet, not named by Denby, but possibly W.H. Auden, must have made his backhanded comment at intermission, following the first act party scene. I don’t know if he ever went back, but I have, again and again, in many versions, including a Nutcracker God-help-me on ice, and the boredom becomes less delicious each time.

So on Friday, my mind wandered a bit — well, more than a bit — during that family party, notwithstanding adorable children in their party clothes, naughty Fritz and dancing dolls, all of whom performed just as they should have, harking back to the ghosts of Nutcrackers past — specifically James Canfield’s at OBT and Todd Bolender’s, which is still being performed by Kansas City Ballet. Both Canfield and Bolender (who danced in Balanchine’s 1954 production) have enlivened the party considerably, the former with mechanical dolls that are somewhat reminiscent of Dorothy’s companions in the Wizard of Oz (and they accompany Marie on her journey, in Canfield’s case to the palace of the Czar) and the latter with hordes of small boys galloping around the staid gathering tooting toy trumpets, and less formal social dances than Balanchine’s.

Nevertheless, there are elements of Balanchine’s party that I love and look for, particularly the Grandfather dance, which begins in stately decorum and concludes with a lively little pas de deux by the Grandmother and Uncle Drosselmeier, here performed by apprentice Ashley Smith and principal dancer Artur Sultanov, who will be seen in later performances as the Sugar Plum Fairy’s Cavalier. Moreover, his Marie is performed by a little girl and not an adult dancer pretending to be one. Julia Rose Winett, who danced the role on Friday night, has a jump that makes you think she has springs in her slippers. She can act, too. You know she’s scared to death during the battle of the mice and toy soldiers, even though the Mouse King really doesn’t look very frightening.
Continue reading Martha Ullman West on the Ghost of Nutcrackers Past