May 10th, 2008 | by HEATHER WISNER News | Posted In: Multnomah County

4x4: The Ballet Project

     
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EugeneBalletIt was crowded Friday night at 4 x 4: the Ballet Project, which capped White Bird's '07-'08 season at the Schnitz, but not so crowded that I couldn't move at intermission, away from the frizzy-haired, seven-foot-tall balletomane obscuring my view. (Has anyone ever considered a computerized ticket-sales system that would alternate short people with tall, or group them in sections by size?)
Moving, it turns out, was a good call: the four participating companies—Eugene Ballet, Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Oregon Ballet Theatre—offered plenty to look at. Eugene brought director Toni Pimble's Still Falls the Rain, which was inspired, Pimble said, by religious intolerance. This was merely hinted at, with the dancers' arms arcing upward as if in supplication, or in groupings suggesting the religious tableaux of classical art. Its strength came from sure-footed performances and a lighting design that framed the dancers in silhouette or shone a heavenly light on their upturned faces. That said, the movement vocabulary seemed limited compared to the rest of the work on offer.
It would be tempting to say that our own OBT stole the show, but that's open to debate. One thing is certain: Rush, created by choreography wunderkind Christopher Wheeldon, is something OBT should be proud take to their Kennedy Center debut next month. Rush is breezy and fresh, with an appealing color palette and enough movement quirks to keep it consistently interesting. The best of these involved the company's women hopping onto the bended knees of male partners, then scrambling up the front of their chests, tilting nearly sideways before falling away. It's like watching a race car careen up the side of a steep embankment, and it will be fun to see again in OBT's 2009 season.
San Francisco and Seattle closed out the night with two very different works. SFB did director Helgi Tomasson's Concerto Grosso, which gave the company's men the chance to show off their technical chops with a series of multiple turns, high-flying jumps and rapid-fire batterie in a piece that seemed strangely disjointed as a whole. PNB ended the show on a high note with Olivier Wevers' Shindig, a series of delightfully strange comic vignettes set to the likes of Leroy Anderson, in costumes suggesting an anime Candyland.
 
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