Tag Archives: Lucas Threefoot

OBT’s Petrouchka and Carmen revisited

petrouchka_5_500pxJames McGrew

By Martha Ullman West


Last night I returned to Keller Auditorium because I wanted to see again Nicolo Fonte’s highly detailed urban rendering of Petrouchka, and to see Haiyan Wu dance Micaela in Carmen. I’m very glad I did.

Apparently, for some readers, I failed to convey in my original review for The Oregonian that I loved Fonte’s re-imagining of Fokine’s ballet when I saw it the first time on opening night.  I’m pleased to report that after a second viewing, I’m even more impressed by the way it reflects 21st century concerns, in the same way that the original imparts the zeitgeist of early 20th century Russia.

One hundred years ago, when the ballet premiered, Russia was between revolutions, culturally part European and part Asian, and Stravinsky and his collaborators were searching for a national identity. That Petrouchka was all about engagement and its dangers. Fonte’s, with its faceless corps de ballet and the title character’s search for an identity, seems to me to be about the perils of disengagement.

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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.

Lithe Talented Dancers wow Large Smelly Boy


“Did you notice how the first lady soloist started dancing just with her hands?”

Intermission had just begun Saturday night at Oregon Ballet Theatre‘s season-opening performance, which had so far consisted of the company premiere of George Balanchine’s green dream of a dance, Emeralds. Mrs. Scatter had scarpered to the coast for one of her intermittent weekends of popping corks and doing crafty stuff with her girlfriends, and Mr. Scatter was in the company of the Small Large Smelly Boy, two weeks shy of his twelfth birthday and taking in his first non-Nutcracker ballet.

“No, Dad,” the SLSB replied patiently. “It was her whole arms.”

So it was.

Those arms belonged to the highly talented Yuka Iino, the fleet princess in this picture-book of a ballet to Alison Roper’s imperial queen.

Premiered in 1967 and seeming older than that (this is definitely a pre-Beatles universe onstage) Balanchine’s ballet is a visual stunner: Karinska’s glittering emerald costumes; the spare vivid set with its falling sweep of white drapery and its lone elegant chandelier high above the stage; the astonishing lighting (originally by Ronald Bates, executed here by OBT’s masterful designer Michael Mazzola) that reminds me somehow of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, with its conceit that there are old worlds and new worlds, and that in the new ones everything is brighter, more vivid, more cleanly outlined, and the air seems alive.

But the SLSB, freshly showered for the occasion, isn’t looking at the set. He’s looking at feet. This boy is an observer (and, I think, more a classicist than a postmodernist), and he’s captivated by something that’s captivated millions of people for almost two hundred years: toe work.

obt_speak“How do they dance up on their toes like that?” he asked. “Do they have to work a lot to do it? That must be hard!”

“Yes,” I replied. “That’s called dancing en pointe. It’s very hard. You have to practice for years and years. Even professional dancers keep practicing it, all the time. Dancers are athletes, did you know that? They have to be as athletic as anybody in a sport, plus they have to be artists.”

“How do they know what to do?”

“Well, the dancemaker, the choreographer, decides on how they’ll move to the music. There are five basic positions that your feet and legs can take, and then there’s lots of variations and different ways you can combine them. But it all starts with those five positions you need to learn. And you work on those all the time.”

I was afraid the SLSB might be bored by Emeralds. It’s hardly the cutting edge of contemporary ballet, after all, and although I love Gabriel Faure’s music, it can be deep and reserved. Perkiness is not its game.

I shouldn’t have worried. My son’s attention was perfectly focused through this long dance, absorbing it, homing in on particulars. He caught the importance of the shoes in absorbing the impact of the weight and pressure on those elevated feet. (Later, watching Dennis Spaight’s fluid and sassy Ellington Suite, he was also impressed that the dancers can dance in high heels.)

The second act of this expansive evening of dance consisted of 10 shorter pieces, in whole or in excerpt, from the company’s history — including one, a scene from The Sleeping Beauty, performed by the young dancers of the company school. This is OBT’s twentieth anniversary season, and it kicked off with a celebration of the company’s past, although with a gaping hole: For reasons that I don’t understand (I know he was asked) the program includes no dances by James Canfield, artistic director for the company’s first fourteen years.
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