Under the tutelage of new artistic director Kevin Irving, Oregon Ballet Theatre presented two very different pieces Saturday night. Dream, the season opener for Oregon's premier dance company, has something old and something new. The show opens with Nacho Duato's Por Vos Muero, a contemporary contribution from Irving who has ties with the prominent choreographer, and concluded with former artistic director Christopher Stowell's A Midsummer Night's Dream, one of Stowell's best classical pieces that will serve to reassure audiences not much has changed with the company's new face. The result is a diverse, if disjointed, night at the ballet—not a dramatic departure for OBT.
Por Vos Muero, a Spanish Renaissance-inspired piece meaning âFor you I would die,â is itself varied. The piece is an interesting mix of contemporary movement and classical imagery. In one scene, women in skin-tight taupe bodysuits hop into menâs arms, freezing as theyâre caught in poses with flexed feet and spread fingers. In the next, the women wear long, billowing skirts and perform a kind of court dance. Alison Roper, who's retiring at the end of the season, is prominently featured, but not as much as you'd expect. She dances with her trademark fluid stoicism, stretching her long limbs around Brian Simcoe in their duet. Elsewhere in the piece, other elements of Renaissance Spain make cameos: waltzing white masks of a masquerade ball, cloaked clerics swinging incense-burning thuribles. You would think the intermittent Spanish-language narration, a poem by Garcilaso de la Vega, would somehow tie these scenes together, but the translation is merely just a longer version of the title, with phrases like, âFor thee I was born/Through thee I have life/For thee I must die/And for thee I die.â The piece has no narrative arc to speak of, and surprisingly, nobody dies.
Stowellâs A Midsummer Nightâs Dream is, of course, heavy on the narrative. Last performed in 2010, itâs still fresh in audiencesâ minds. OBT probably didnât have to dig very deep into its basement to find all the butterfly wings and imaginative trees that fill the show. Set to a live orchestra, the story is literally a fairy tale, starting with a wedding and following Shakespeareâs story of humor and love spells. Fitting with that theme, Irving, in a splashy introduction for himself on Saturday, used the preceding intermission to coax an unsuspecting audience member on stage, where her boyfriend surprised her with a public proposal. Roper is heavily featured here again, this time as Titania, and her final pas de deux with Simcoe is lovely even if the choreography is a little underwhelming. The chaotic love stories between Hermia and Lysander (Xuan Cheng and Michael Linsmeier) and Demetrius and Helena (Brett Bauer and Makino Hayashi) are played with campy personality, with Linsmeier, Portland's punk-rock danseur, getting a good share of laughs.
Dream is what audiences should expect from OBT. Even its dissimilar components arenât out of the norm for the companyâwhen Stowell put on A Midsummerâs Night Dream in 2010, he paired it with George Ballanchineâs conceptual The Four Temperaments. If Irving is planning a wild reinventionâand maybe he shouldâhe isnât letting on yet. This opener is familiar, for better or worse.
SEE IT: Dream is at the Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St., 222-2538. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, Oct. 18-19. $25-$142. Tickets here.