Preview of “Giants” at Oregon Ballet Theatre

By Rylee Warner | October 13, 2016 1:40am

Eva Burton with Oregon Ballet Theater dancers in George Balanchine's Serenade, one of three works presented in Oregon Ballet Theatre's 2016 fall production of GIANTS at Portland's Keller Auditorium.

Media Credit: James McGrew / The Beacon

The Oregon Theatre Ballet (OBT) started its run of “Giants,” a compilation of three dance pieces, at the Keller Auditorium this week.

“Giants” will be running from Oct. 8-15, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Students who arrive at the box office at least two hours before the performance can purchase tickets for $20 with a show of student ID. You can purchase tickets in advance here.

“Giants” is a unique ballet in that each of its three parts are completely distinct from one another, all created by entirely different people. It’s like catching a matinee at a movie theater and then sneaking into two different films afterwards. It’s a triple feature.

The show begins with George Balanchine’s “Serenade.” This part is the most traditional of the three. There are gorgeous ballerinas, plenty of tulle, soft blue lighting and lots of dancing en pointe. “Serenade” is the first work that Balanchine choreographed in America, and was unique from other classical works because it reversed the traditional last two movements, “Russian Dance” and “Elegy.” Movements are individual portions of a piece of classical music. “Russian Dance” is a fast-paced, positive movement, while “Elegy” is mournful, so the reversal leaves audiences on a depressing note.

The narrative in this first piece of the performance positions two male dancers to about fifteen female, and one of them is clearly making eyes at at least two of the female ballerinas from the moment he sees them. He continues to flirt with both of them, and one of the female ballerinas is trying to influence him, covering his eyes and steering him away from her competition. In the end, he chooses only one of the girls and the unchosen is left mourning her loss.

The second act is “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” which is named after two gold cherries that hang “in the middle” of the stage, “somewhat elevated” above the dancers’ heads. The best way to describe this act is what The Hunger Games training scenes would be like if they were performed by ballet dancers. The movement is aggressive, the music is loud, electronic, and there are lots of metal clanging noises. It is a very intense sort of post-apocalyptic portion of the ballet and a real change of pace.

The third act of “Giants” begins after the second 15-minute intermission. This one is called “Giants Before Us,” and it is an original by Nicolo Fonte. Onstage, there is a piano on an elevated platform and a grouping of male ballerinas are dancing in front of it. There is one woman who plays the shadow of a giant, and another who comes onstage and dances with one of the male dancers. In a change from the last two, this one has a fantasy feel to it, like what you might get from watching “Once Upon A Time.”

As a whole, OBT’s “Giants” is a varied and unique compilation and can be recommended to anyone who is not interested in the typical traditional ballet.