Review: The Portland Ballet’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

review by Shannon Milliman – local Portland area mom and PDX Kids Calendar reviewer

A break in rain found my three lip-glossed daughters and I headed to The Portland Ballet‘s 2012 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Mendelssohn’s music played live at every performance by the PSU Orchestra and opera singers. The orchestra tuned, the curtain rose and entrance into a dreamland ensued. An intriguing forest painted by Liliya Drubetskaya formed the backdrop that changed with lighting and layers creating a rich ambiance and magical quality. My seven-year-old, Adrianna, delightfully noticed the subtle changes and whispered in my ear every time she identified one.

The lyrical quality of a stage that used all its space, provided a beautiful forest with purple emperor butterflies, fireflies, lacewing butterflies – inviting the viewers to believe in the power of imagination and to create a longing for the playful joy that comes from life’s little sprinkles of mischief. Upon my request that my daughters dress up, I was met with two who savored the opportunity and the oldest who did not. Sunny observed when we got there, “Not everyone is dressed up!” Trying to impress upon these impressionable youths the importance of ballet etiquette I retorted how I knew she was grateful that she had the aplomb to be one who showed her respect in this manner. But admittedly, her pot-stirring efforts reminded me of a certain pot-stirrer named Puck. And what would this show, life, for that matter, be without all sorts of such rascals. Adrianna didn’t get why they teased and stole the flower from each other. Sunny relished the engaging energy this brought the cast. Rainbow, age four, moved to my lap after intermission. She told me she wanted to have a dress like the Queen.

The cast of dancers ranged from young to mature and intermingled in a very professional and respectable manner.  The art of ballet was apparent with every level of dancer. Impressive to me, personally was John Clifford’s choreography. It was energetic, diverse and kept my wandering eyes stimulated and eager to see what the next graceful feat would reveal. The Portland Ballet trains its dancers with professional intent and four of the leads in 2011’s Midsummer world premiere are now training or dancing with professional companies, including San Francisco Ballet (Peter Deffebach and Henry Cotton), Sacramento Ballet (Maggie Rupp) and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Caroline MacDonald). I was impressed with the ballet basics at every level. Good turnout, beautiful body lines, impressive jumps, leaps and combinations.  So many appealing aspects of the dance filled me with awe and a reverence for TPB’s vision and its execution. During the pas de deux dances the strength, grace and athleticism shined more of a spotlight on the men which was unexpected as usually the women in a ballet are highlighted.

As Oberon and Titania parted ways at the conclusion I considered complementing and opposing forces of nature. The sun, the rain and their work together creates a rainbow when conditions are just right. A bit like our family. My favorite part of the ballet is the inspiration it sparks in the minds and bodies that attend. Down Market street we four girls leaped and arabesqued to our cars. And if you look around town long enough you might still see us pirouetting somewhere in the vicinity of southeast Portland.

Shannon and her family were given tickets to attend this performance on behalf of PDX Kids Calendar for review. They were in no way compensated for their opinions

posted by Tabitha Rhodes

Shannon Milliman

Shannon Milliman

Mother to Sunny age 10, Moses age 8, Adrianna age 6, Rainbow age 3 and Phineas age 2. She seeks after things of beauty and of good report. Nature’s little wonders remind her that hope and faith bring peace in the challenges life and parenthood inevitably bring. Some things that bring her joy include dancing, art, theatre and playing outside. She seeks to find opportunities to share these passions with her family. Currently working in the Customer Service field and teaching weekend children’s art and dance workshops in her home studio, Free Spirits Dance, Shannon writes about where motherhood, nature and the arts intersect. Favorite activities include Sunday morning bike rides to church with her family of seven trailing behind like ducks, tromping through Portland park fountains, submerging in the Oregon coastal waves for a refreshing life perspective, and cheering on her favorite band, Subterranean Howl (Husband Simon’s creation) with five, short, blond groupies. Portland, all her children’s birthplace has given her family roots. Watching them grow here illuminates the giving nature Portland offers. As a parent, Shannon likes to hold loose reigns allowing the kids to learn and make mistakes independently and hopes that after burning their fingers on a marshmallow stick, and eating a couple worms they will eventually find their way to becoming well-adjusted and hopefully still dream and vision seeking adults.
Shannon Milliman