Saturday, February 3, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dance Review

"Swan Lake" | Bevy of ballerinas step into limelight

Seattle Times arts critic


Thursday night, McCaw Hall

Now playing

"Swan Lake" 1 and 7:30 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8-10, 1 p.m. Feb. 10-11, 7 p.m. Feb. 11, Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $18-$145 (206-441-2424 or

Before the curtain went up on opening night of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Swan Lake" Thursday, you could sense an elegant shadow in the theater — that of a dancer who wasn't there. Prima ballerina Patricia Barker retires at the end of the season, after 26 years with the company, and it's hard to imagine PNB without its icon: It's Barker's regal image that floats serenely on the cover of the current program. While she did not appear in Thursday's cast (she'll dance tonight and Feb. 9), the evening provided a happy opportunity to consider the company's ballerina talent pool in a post-Barker era.

Louise Nadeau, who's been with PNB since 1990, danced the lead roles of Odette/Odile Thursday with the dramatic flair and lyrical beauty that's become her trademark. Nadeau knows, perhaps better than any other PNB dancer, how to create a character onstage, and her Odette — a swan/woman bewitched by an evil sorcerer — moved as if wrapped in a cloak of tragedy. Her perfectly placed arabesques and whispery bourrees had an almost eerie precision; her arms, at times held high as if to ward off some fearful presence, bent at unexpected angles, like broken wings.

By contrast, her Odile — the evil sorcerer's daughter, posing as Odette to trick Prince Siegfried into marrying her (yes, this is the ballet equivalent of grand opera) — sparkled like ebony; all sureness and malicious glee, her pointed toes extended like weapons. The difference between the two characters was striking — if you sat in the back, you might have thought it was two different dancers — making the role a marvelous showcase for Nadeau's charisma and skill. A mature artist (she's in her early 40s), Nadeau is one of the company's treasures, and she'll clearly step to the forefront in the coming season.

Among the up-and-coming female dancers making an impression Thursday night were Jodie Thomas (whose dancing always seems infused with infectious joy) in the Neapolitan Dance; Lesley Rausch and Stacy Lowenberg as a pair of elegantly long-limbed swans; and Mara Vinson, charming and light in Act 1's pas de trois. All seem ready for their spotlights; keep an eye on them in coming programs. Principals Ariana Lallone and Carrie Imler (a marvelous technician kept from dancing Odette/Odile this time due to injury) were striking but underused in small roles. The entire corps of 24 swans deserves accolades; their unison and trembly grace creates the melancholy beauty of this classic ballet.

The men are almost afterthoughts in "Swan Lake." Jeffrey Stanton as the prince is a fine, attentive partner but an uneven soloist, with a tendency to lose his line in his turns. Jonathan Porretta, who attacks every step with a thrilling energy, was a scene-stealer as the Jester. Ming Cho Lee's sets, Paul Tazewell's costumes, Randall G. Chiarelli's lighting and the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's delicious score (under Stewart Kershaw's baton) all played their roles splendidly.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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