Portland Ballet Joins PSU Orchestra for Thanksgiving Weekend

Hopefully you’re all planning a nice Thanksgiving holiday weekend, whether you’re spending time with your family (biological or otherwise), having Friendsgiving or taking advantage of your extra days off to catch up on schoolwork.

If you’re on campus, you might consider indulging in some festive holiday cheer with The Portland Ballet and the Portland State Orchestra. Their annual collaboration includes John Clifford’s Léonide Massine adaptation The Enchanted Toyshop and a new work, Tourbillon, by TPB co-artistic director Anne Mueller. All performances are in PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall (the big one upstairs).

Okay, first of all, if bright shiny family-friendly holiday shows give you the creeping heebie-jeebies, you might want to skip this one and go watch Mannequin at 5th Avenue Cinema instead. Like Toyshop, in which a couple of kids get locked in a store with magical toys coming to life, Mannequin is a variant on the human creation myth, so you can still get your Christmas Spirit on.

I confess, grinch style is normally how I roll too, but I don’t think I can bear to pass on this holiday tradition of hearing our highly skilled, award-winning student symphony orchestra play sweet classical ballet music while nearly 100 dancers from TPB’s training academy present works choreographed especially for them.

Portland Ballet has been performing Toyshop for nearly fifteen years (and nearly a decade with PSU Orchestra), but I’m more excited for Mueller’s new work, which she created this year for 27 of TPB’s advanced-level dancers. Mueller’s Tourbillon combines the dance-centric spirit of David Lichine’s ballet Graduation Ball and Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow with colorful, ’50s cotillion style ballroom gowns and gloves and crowns, all set to music by Austrian composer Joseph Lanner, a contemporary of Johann Strauss who helped popularize the waltzes and polkas that dominated late 19th century Viennese high culture. PSU Orchestra conductor Ken Selden orchestrated the music himself, as he often does, based on Lanner’s piano and string quartet scores. Instead of a linear narrative, Mueller uses the interplay of colors to give Tourbillon its dramatic drive.

One last thing. If you’re grinchily coming only for the beautiful music and lovely dancing, and if your heart hasn’t grown a size or two during the performance, you might want to sneak out the side entrance. The lobby will be full of folks taking pictures with the cast, handing out gift bags, and other fun activities.

The Enchanted Toyshop and Tourbillon are staged Friday and Saturday, November 24–25, 2:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m; and Sunday, November 26: 1 p.m. & 5 p.m. Family packages, group discounts, and the usual Arts Card and Arts for All tickets are available online and at the box office.