Pacific Northwest Ballet presented its 101st performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Friday night at McCaw Hall, the most of any of its productions except for “Nutcracker,” but the quality of Balanchine’s choreography and the imagination and colors of Martin Pakledinaz’ sets and costumes as well as the caliber of the dancers keep “Dream” as fresh and enchanting as ever.
Friday, everything seemed to come together to make this a memorable performance, with the acting vivid (so essential in bringing this story to life) and almost every dancer at the top of his or her form.
A graceful, dignified Titania, Lesley Rausch and her Cavalier Joshua Grant danced their long slow duet with beautiful flow and balance, while Benjamin Griffiths made Oberon’s demanding choreography look easy, garnering bravos from the audience. Kiyon Gaines’ mischievous, exuberant Puck exploded with energy, and his expressive face brought many laughs as he leapt around the stage trying his best to do his master’s wishes and recoup his errors.
The pairs of lovers, danced by Lindsi Dec, Sarah Ricard Orza, Jerome Tisserand and William Lin-Yee, spend much time rushing across the stage fleeing toward or from each other, being embraced or rejected, sometimes quite violently. It was all well done.
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The 14 solo roles give the company a chance to show off dancers coming up in the ranks. Among them this time was corps member Liora Neuville, who shone as an airy Butterfly, her movements always musical and finished, while Brittany Reid as the hunting Queen Hyppolyta achieved some notable pirouettes.
The entire story plays out in the first act of the ballet. The second has the weddings and accompanying festivities, the kind of grand spectacle so familiar at the end of story ballets, at least the happy-ever-after kind. It began with a divertissement, danced by Kaori Nakamura in one of her few remaining appearances before retirement (she appears once more in “Dream”), with Seth Orza. As always, Nakamura’s dancing was exquisite, smooth and balanced, strong and apparently effortless, ably partnered by Orza.
Apart from all the solos, the ballet is filled with other delights: the dozens of little bugs danced by children from the PNB school, Hippolyta’s hounds leaping across the stage, more butterflies and fairies, and bumbling peasants led by Bottom the weaver (Ezra Thomson), used by Oberon to trick Titania with a donkey’s head.
It’s a great production, and it goes on for another week.