February 11, 2002
PNB's 'Carmen' is dynamic integration of choreography and technology
by Deborah Stone
Arts and Entertainment
The highly anticipated world premiere of "Carmen" by Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Kent Stowell is a deeply satisfying and fascinating production, full of passion and human drama.
The ballet is a compilation of 22 scenes done in one act, performed without an intermission.
Set to a dynamic score by Georges Bizet and Rodion Shchedrin, "Carmen" is actually two stories that eventually merge into one.
The action alternates between company studio rehearsals and performances on stage, as the dancers move effortlessly between the roles in the ballet of "Carmen" and the offstage drama of their personal relationships.
In some scenes, the two situations occur at the same time, while in others, the rehearsal sequences are separate from those of the performance.
Based loosely on Bizet's opera, the basic plot focuses on a beautiful, Spanish, gypsy girl named Carmen (danced with fiery abandon by the lovely Ariana Lallone) who leads men astray, in particular the young soldier Jose (Jeffrey Stanton) and the proud bullfighter Escamillo (dynamic Batkhurel Bold) with her ravishing good looks and seductive dancing.
Both men fall under her spell and are equally obsessed with her charms; only Jose cannot seem to let go of her, even when she tires of him.
Despite pleas to return home from a young girl from his village, Micaela (lovely and lyrical Patricia Barker), Jose insists on pursuing Carmen. Despair and jealousy lead to the ballet's inevitable tragic conclusion.
Stowell incorporates innovative choreography with live video projections by Italian artist and architect Iole Alessandrini on a set of movable steel bars, shifted on and offstage by the dancers.
The bars suggest a variety of spatial environments in which the performers used to represent mirror frames, a prison cell, lighting racks and stretching apparatus for their backstage warm-ups.
Dancers rehearse steps later seen during "performances," allowing audiences to view the ballet from behind the scenes and get an intimate look into how a company works together.
Hand-held video cameras on stage capture the varying dimensions of the story, including the personal and sometimes very intense relationships between the dancers, the drama of the theatrical relationships and all the other intricate elements that go into making a ballet.
At times these visual projections distract the eye and cause confusion, leaving theatre-goers to wonder whether they are watching a rehearsal or performance, real life or drama, but this confusion only adds to the intrigue and makes for a very compelling production.
It is clear that with "Carmen,' Stowell has once again proved he is willing to take risks and explore new territory with PNB, to keep it the exciting and innovative company it has earned a reputation for in the dance world.
Up next for PNB is "Cinderella," opening Feb. 28. For ticket information, call (206) 292-ARTS.