Saturday, June 3, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dance Review

Dancers sparkle in Balanchine work

Seattle Times arts critic

Now playing

Pacific Northwest Ballet "Jewels," 7:30 p.m. today and June 8-10, 2 p.m. today and June 10, 1 p.m. June 11, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle.; $20-$134, 206-441-2424 or

An audible "aaahhh" came from the opening-night audience at McCaw Hall, as the curtain rose Thursday on a small group of dancers in shamrock-green costumes, prettily arranged against a soft green backdrop framed by cream-colored draperies. It was the simple, lovely opening of George Balanchine's glorious full-length ballet "Jewels" — and the beginning of an evening of pure dance, elegantly performed.

"Emeralds," the opening segment, was all lightness and softness; a plotless romance, with music so gentle it seems to be floating in the air. Louise Nadeau and Christophe Maraval performed a lyrical pas de deux, holding hands like young lovers as they lightly raced across the floor. Two solos made a quiet contrast: Nadeau's was light and charming (at one point, she picked up her tutu and smiled down at her precise feet); Noelani Pantastico's, full of lovely, reaching arabesques, was more melancholy.


Thursday night, McCaw Hall, Seattle

"Rubies," set to Stravinsky, seems in a different world: spiky-edge crimson costumes, shimmying hips, twisting wrists, lightning-quick kicks. Jonathan Porretta was a marvel of controlled wildness; watching him fling himself around the stage, you sensed what a joy it must be to perform Balanchine. Kaori Nakamura was his deft partner, pursing her lips at the end of their playful pas de deux like a perfect Jazz Age ingenue. Ariana Lallone led the ensemble, with her supreme, queenly confidence. Her movements seemed to put an emphatic stamp on the music, punctuating it with her long arms and legs.

The showpiece of the evening, "Diamonds," is regal and Russian, and Patricia Barker and Stanko Milov danced the dramatic pas de deux with reverence. Barker demonstrated the perfect lines of her technique: arabesques as straight as a ruler, pirouettes impeccably turned. Milov, though he seemed to struggle a bit with a few of his airborne moves, was an elegant partner, down to the quiet kiss of her hand at the end. The ballet concludes with a vast cast on stage, performing the grand-ballet equivalent of a kickline, and it will take anyone's breath away.

Though PNB's stars glittered brightly, special recognition should be given to the unsung heroes of the evening: corps de ballet members Jessika Anspach, Kari Brunson, Rebecca Johnston, Stacy Lowenberg, Lesley Rausch and Kara Zimmerman, who danced in all three "Jewels" segments Thursday night — a ballet marathon, with effortless grace.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725


Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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