Beneath a canopy of wild roses and columbine, the dancers of the Pacific Northwest Ballet wove an enchanting spell last weekend in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” A remount of the 1962 choreography by George Balanchine, staged for PNB 14 years ago by Francia Russell, this PNB favorite is still replete with charm, featuring a delightful children’s corps and some excellent dancing and acting from the principals to complement the fairy-tale sets and costume.
One of Balanchine’s most famous ballets, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is unusual for this Russian-born American choreographer, the lavish kind of story-ballet he mostly despised. But it’s also one of his best. The choreography combines nimble, creative vocabulary with Balanchine’s perfect eye for tableaux, which the PNB dancers executed in perfect alignment – Puck and the fairies in pyramid, Titania’s retinue laced like a cobweb across the stage, the butterflies collapsed in a heap.
Balanchine also tells this well-known Shakespeare story with clarity, and here the PNB soloists also shone.
Titania (a willowy but regal Lesley Rausch) and Oberon (a fierce Benjamin Griffiths) made clear their disagreement from the start. In the love-tangled mortal realm, Stacy Lowenberg was heart-breaking as the desperate Helena, in love with Demetrius (Seth Orza) who in fact is pursuing Hermia (a graceful Rachel Foster). Pulling and pushing, the two danced a brilliant pas de deux of unrequited love and interrupted arabesques.
Some of the comedy was missing: As Puck, Eric Hippolito Jr. was crafty rather than clowning, though dancing Balanchine’s athleticisms with ease. Barry Kerollis made a lovable Bottom, munching nettles and shyly accompanying an effervescent Titania, but there could have been some more laughs in his timing.
Other soloists took up the slack, though. Carrie Imler was proudly solid as Hippolyta, while her hounds charged through the mist like inquisitive Irish setters. The corps inhabited their characters – Titania’s fairies calm, Oberon’s greeny-silver attendants more intimidating – while the 24 child-butterflies were just gorgeous, perfectly in step and very cute in pompom wigs and bobbly antennae.
One of the reasons to see this show is to marvel again at Martin Packledinaz’ Burne-Jones-ish sets and costumes: giant frogs and mushrooms, enormous roses, sparkling stars and a cascading spiderweb, brought to life by the vibrant palettes of pastels for the fairies, earth-tones for the butterflies, and teal-red for the mortals.
But another big reason is to hear Mendelssohn’s perfect music in its original setting. From the first four quiet chords through the shimmering fairy violins to the menacing brass, the orchestra played excellently under a steady Allan Dameron.
This is one ballet you’ll want to take your kids to – but be warned, Balanchine gets through the whole plot in one act, with, like “The Sleeping Beauty,” a round of beautiful, pointless dances for Act II. If you leave at intermission, your kids won’t get squirmy during the melancholy, graceful pas de deux between Laura Dilbreath and Karel Cruz. But neither will they hear the famous Wedding March, nor see the breathtaking firefly ending to this most magical of ballets.
7:30 p.m. Apr. 14, 15, 16; 2 p.m. Apr. 16; 1 p.m. Apr. 17. $27-$165. McCaw Hall, Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St., Seattle. 206-441-2424, www.pnb.org