Nadeau, long a favorite and a principal dancer since 1992, two years after she joined the company, chose her own program Sunday night at McCaw Hall. It was a delicious potpourri of odds and ends, a short survey of some of the ballets Nadeau liked the most in her career at PNB. Inevitably there were ballets of George Balanchine such as “Serenade,” “La Valse,” “Emeralds” and “Rubies” from “Jewels,” “Chaconne,” “La Sonnambula” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Almost all were staged by Russell. It is little wonder that Joe Norman, a patron of PNB and member of the University of Washington faculty, chose to establish a fund in Nadeau’s honor that would aid PNB in keeping Balanchine’s ballets a central part of its repertory.
But there were plenty of other excerpts to savor. Jerome Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite,” new to the company this season, was revived so that Nadeau who was scheduled to do the role of Anita in the spring but did not because of a sprained ankle, got her chance. The other Robbins’ was a pas de deux taken from his “In the Night.” William Forsythe’s 33-year old “Urlicht,” a deeply romantic pas de deux, set to the last movement of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony, gave Nadeau an opportunity to dance with Olivier Wevers. The final moment was the fourth act of “Swan Lake,” choreographed by Stowell, with a nod to the ballet’s creators, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.
The program ran nearly two and one-half hours. Nadeau did not dance in every work. Her contributions were in “La Valse,” “West Side Story,” “Urlicht,” and “Swan Lake.” The “Dream” excerpt was a videotape of her and Wevers’ doing the central pas de deux in the second act, filmed by BBC in London in 1999 for which the company received rave notices from the normally prickly British press. Larger than life on screen, the two conveyed the richness of Balanchine’s choreography. Every nuance and detail were in full view of the audience. What a clever idea.
So much has been said about Nadeau that anything now seems almost like an anti-climax. Yet, there she was instilling all the mystery and sense of doom in the pas de deux from “La Valse.” Too often the black ambience gets lost in the glamor of the setting — music and dance –but not with Nadeau. Her Anita in “West Side Story” reaffirms her comic talent, which always seems a surprise give the limpid serenity of her lyricism. With “Urlicht,” which finds Forsythe in a very dreamy mood, one sees Nadeau as beautiful as ever, her long line seamless, her body a single instrument, her sense of phrasing controlled but not rigid. I hope the pas de deux, staged by Otto Neubert, a ballet master with PNB, remains in the repertory.
Nadeau was not the only dancer on stage. Half the ballets were performed without her, but somehow her aura permeated the stage. The opening of “Serenade” possessed the enigmatic beauty the ballet deserves. “Chaconne” was more abstract beauty, the sort in which Nadeau specialized over her fruitful career. She danced leading roles in “Rubies” and “Emeralds” but not Sunday. Then it was Mara Vinson in “Emeralds” and Rachel Foster in “Emeralds.” Also in that cast was the extraordinary Ariana Lallone and Jonathan Porretta. So too “Sonnambula,” in which Nadeau made her memorable debut two years ago as the sleep-walking heroine. On Sunday the pas de deux was danced by Miranda Weese and Lucien Postlewaite. Weese is also retiring from the company. She came to PNB not long ago with some injuries. She danced only periodically in her short tenure here but with great effect. One will regret not seeing her next season. Also leaving the company is Jodie Thomas and Anton Pankevitch. Kaori Nakamura and Batkhurel Bold danced effortlessly in “In the Night” as did Carrie Imler and Stanko Milov in “Chaconne.” It should be noted that nine dancers from Nadeau’s VIII class at PNB School danced in “Chaconne.” They were a credit to their teacher.
It is typical of Nadeau’s sense of generosity that when pianist Dianne Chilgren was taking her bow after “In the Night,” Nadeau quietly came on stage, costumed for “Swan Lake,” which was to follow, and carefully leaned into the pit to give her a presentation bouquet in appreciation to the longtime pianist.
Women were the focus of the evening. Only Porretta got a star turn, in “Rubies.” But partner the men did, and well, and they should be mentioned if not already: Jeffrey Stanton in “La Valse” and Karel Cruz” in “Swan Lake.”
So to “Swan Lake,” It was bittersweet. Unlike many other choreographers, Stowell makes something of this act, and Nadeau took full advantage of what she was offered. There was the full glory of her artistry but also the realization that it would be the last time we would see her perform live.