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May 7th, 2008 HEATHER WISNER | Performance
 

4x4: The Ballet Project (White Bird)

Four on the floor: All ballet, all night long.

     
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ARTISTIC FOURTITUDE: (Clockwise from bottom right) Eugene Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Apparently there’s been some confusion over 4x4: The Ballet Project, the last show of White Bird’s current season. For the record, 4x4 isn’t a collaboration among ballet companies, nor is it four entire companies performing separately or together. And it’s not exactly a dance-off, according to White Bird co-founder Paul King.

King dreamt up the project while he was in the shower thinking about the best way to cap White Bird’s 10th anniversary season. He and co-founder Walter Jaffe have already integrated tango, hip-hop and flamenco into a modern-heavy rotation. “But we didn’t really do ballet,” King said. So he phoned the artistic directors of four West Coast companies—San Francisco Ballet, Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet, Eugene Ballet Company and Oregon Ballet Theatre—and proposed a shared bill. They liked it.

To make 4x4 work logistically and financially, each company is only sending enough dancers to do one piece. All the pieces will be Portland premieres. SFB is dancing the five-man Concerto Grosso, created by its director, Helgi Tomasson; PNB brings company member Olivier Wevers’ snappy new Shindig; OBT offers Christopher Wheeldon’s springlike Rush and Eugene Ballet presents Toni Pimble’s Still Falls the Rain, a work inspired by religious intolerance. Eugene Ballet, smaller and lesser-known than the other companies, is the wild card in this show, although King has fielded requests for them over the years. Except for OBT, none of these companies has played Portland in the past decade, and they’ve never performed together.

So that’s what 4x4 is, but will it be ballet overload for an audience that gravitates toward contemporary dance? King doesn’t think so, since each of the works has a contemporary bent and most of the modern dancers the series has hosted have a ballet base anyhow. He likens this to his previous career as a pastry chef. “In the pastry-chef world, you get French training and you can cook whatever you want,” he said. “It’s the same with dancers and classical training.”


SEE IT: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 790-2787. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, May 8-9. $20-$62.
 
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