Crush of the Month: Laura Gilbreath

by Tucker C.

Photo by Angela Sterling for Class Act Tutu

Laura Gilbreath, apart from being an amazing and accomplished dancer, is a lot of things. She is an avid country music fan, a savvy traveler through Europe, a Seattle University student, and all in all a very, very cool person. Officially, she’s a member of the corps de ballet at Pacific Northwest Ballet, and is performing in the upcoming 3 by Dove, opening this Thursday, March 18th, at McCaw Hall.

Laura, as the Peacock, watches the performance behind the curtain at a partial dress rehearsal of the Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker. Photo by Erika Schultz

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Fall Into Another World

Review of The Sleeping Beauty at Pacific Northwest Ballet by Tucker C

If the grey skies have got you down this winter, there’s a show in town for you. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty is the ultimate picker-upper; filled with fanciful and intricate sets and costumes, excitement, and breathtaking dance, Sleeping Beauty takes a hold of you and won’t let go until the curtain comes down.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.

The first thing that strikes you about Sleeping Beauty is the sets. The pages of a fairy tale seem truly to have come to life on McCaw Hall’s stage. The austere majesty of the castle, with soaring columns and enormous thrones, is enough to arrest your attention in itself. And when Aurora falls into her slumber, ivy and forests take over the castle, crawling magically from all corners. Sleeping Beauty’s scenery is made only the more beautiful by the costumes. The gowns are detailed beyond belief, flowing, and elegant. Inside of the dreamlike world that all of this creates, the dancers bring amazing new life and vivacity to an old story. At first, the dances of the fairies are whimsical, and happy. With carefree dances, the dancers bring you into the idyllic happiness of the story. And the choreography develops characters through dance—each of the fairies with their own temperament, Aurora’s majestic and graceful dances just before being cursed, and the dances of the many fairy tale characters at the end. Unfortunately, at some points along the way the choreography seems passionless, lacking the energy that the music evokes and that the dancers clearly wish to show. Often, you find yourself frustrated, waiting for the zeal and life that never fully comes. But all of this takes a complete back seat to the indisputable high point of the show, the pas de deux between Prince Florimund and Aurora. Their dance is tender and slow at first, but then the two then began a series of acrobatic lifts and twists that will have you literally on the edge of your seat and holding your breath. They defy gravity and description, with lifts and pirouettes. But most amazing about the dance is their sense of controlled power and strength, the very grace that ballet at its core is all about. Sleeping Beauty is a fairy tale brought to life, complete with all of the fancy, magic, and splendor it needs. And from start to end, you find yourself completely fallen into another world, far from the grey skies and drizzle outside the door. - Tucker C. February 4th, 2010 The Sleeping Beauty Pacific Northwest Ballet Through February 14th

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The Nutcracker Makes My World

A Review of The Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet by (former Nutcracker dancer) Tucker C.

Returning for its 26th season in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker ushered in the holiday season last weekend to an enthusiastic audience. Created by Kent Stowell and Maurice Sendak (author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are) TheNutcracker has been a holiday tradition for Seattle families for many years. And this year, it can be counted on again to be the fun, whimsical, but also powerful experience that has charmed Washington for decades. The crown jewel of the show is the world that Sendak creates with his costumes and sets. Each piece is intricate and detailed—upon close examination, mice line the frescoes of Clara’s house, Where the Wild Things Are-like monsters can be found in the backdrops at the start of Act Two, and his sets vary in style from European to Oriental to the bizarre. It is this intricacy and detail, combined with his vibrant but simple style that makes Nutcracker come alive in a world formed of the same imagination that whisks Clara away. Combined with Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, Stowell’s choreography, and a small army of excited PNB School students, the production takes off. Building off of boundless energy and passion, you cannot help but be drawn into the spirit and cheer of it all. I had the chance to dance for three years in the PNB’s Nutcracker several years back, and the experience defines Nutcracker for me every time I have seen it since. From the first time I saw it, dancing in the Nutcracker was my childhood dream, and I entered the PNB school just to be in Nutcracker. Now, when I return to Nutcracker, I am captivated just as I was when I was four. In the end, Nutcracker continues to be a tradition for just this reason. Not just any show can make you remember how to dream and feel like a kid again, year after year after year. Uniquely heartfelt and touching, words do not describe what it is like to experience it, and cannot even come close to the joy of coming back again. Nutcracker creates a world that for a few hours you will be blessed to fall into; and when the curtain closes, you will be just as sad to go as Clara. Pacific Northwest Ballet'sThe Nutcracker plays at McCaw Hall now through December 30th. Please note that this production is NOT Teen Tix eligible.

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Artful Dodge: Director’s Choice Defies Categorization

Review of Director's Choice at Pacific Northwest Ballet by Tucker C.

Thursday night, the Pacific Northwest Ballet unveiled Director’s Choice, a collection of four smaller ballets and works. PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal has striven recently to encourage modern and new ballets, and he remains true to this goal in Director’s Choice. All of the four works presented premiered after 1990—one, The Seasons, enjoys its world premiere here. Each ballet is its own creation, and are powerful statements in their own right. Presented together, they reveal the PNB’s commitment to presenting a variety of fascinating new works. Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort Photo © Angela Sterling The first, Petite Mort, is a visually striking dance that quickly grabs your attention. When the curtain opens, six men with swords raised slowly back towards the front of the stage; figures swirl in and out of the darkness at the back of the stage. Dreamlike and surreal, the dancers occasionally run an enormous sheet across the stage. When it falls, you discover that the scene behind it has changed entirely. It is the dancing, though, that is truly fascinating, shifting from graceful steps and duets to stilted, broken movements. At other times, the female dancers come on stage behind enormous wheeled black gowns. They play behind and then leap out from them—the imagery is starkly entrancing. Remarkable and rich in meaning, it truly has to be seen to be appreciated. James Moore in Marco Goecke’s Mopey Photo © Angela Sterling Mopey, presented next, is sure to be a favorite with Teen Tix patrons. James Moore is spectacular in this one-man ballet, a perfectly done exploration of a teenage mind. Beginning with Moore whipping around the stage in anxious, frenzied steps, his angst is palpable. The dance is inward; Moore dances around the stage like a train of thought, moving between feelings in a smooth flow. Next becoming whimsical and vivacious, Moore marvels in his strength and energy with a crazed enthusiasm, leaping about the stage. Mopey changes again; the music stops and Moore begins a writhing dance filled with anger and violence, descending further into chaos as he goes. Mopey perfectly captures the changeability and volatility of the teenage mind, and is one of the show’s best moments. Peter Boal makes a pitch toward the more traditional in The Seasons—here, tutus and more formal hallmarks of ballet return, and the choreography becomes less experimental. Though not as intellectually rich as the previous two, The Seasons is an interesting revision of an older ballet. The Seasons flows through each and explores its different moods, weaving a narrative of love blossoming from the cold of winter and into the craze of summer. The dance shines through autumn’s revelry, capturing the season’s austerity and frenzy. While The Seasons is a well-done work by itself, young viewers may find that it pales in comparison with the first two. The dancers seemed determined to have some plain fun at the show’s close with West Side Story Suite. Perfectly suited for the grace and power of ballet, the dancers dominate the dance and feeling of West Side Story. While some numbers don’t shine as brightly as others, the show ends on a high note with the dancers on stage, singing “Somewhere” with all the passion and power it deserves. Director’s Choice refuses to be pinned down into any category. An innovative, provocative, and breathtaking show, it brings together the classical and the modern. Worthwhile, fascinating, and imaginative, the imagery and energy of it will remain with you long after you have left the theatre. - Tucker C November 5th, 2009 Director's Choice Pacific Northwest Ballet Through November 15th

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