Ariana’s Pointe of View

Ariana Lallone is famous for her stunning 24-year career as a ballerina with Pacific Northwest Ballet.  More recently she has graced the mirror-topped spiegeltent in both our dinner performances and kid-centric concert series. This spring she has taken flight as an aerialina (ballerina + aerialist =aerialina) in our newest production, Dinner at Wotan’s. Ariana documented her magical transformation and shared it with us to share with you. Without further ado, here is Ariana’s Pointe of View:

Ariana en pointe.  Photo credit: Keith Brofsky

Ariana en pointe.
Photo credit: Keith Brofsky

As I was working towards my final bow at Pacific Northwest Ballet, I was so grateful to know I was only months away from embarking on a new adventure. I loved my life as a ballerina, and deep in my heart I knew it was too soon for me to stop performing. Providing joy to an audience and giving young children their first memory of a ballet were some of the most important parts of my career. It gave me tremendous meaning not only as a performer, but also as a person. My passion never faded.  I knew I would miss that beyond measure.

Two months after my last performance at PNB, I had my first rehearsal at Teatro ZinZanni. I had always been a huge fan of ZinZanni, and now I was in rehearsal with some of my favorite performers. I was awe struck. Not to mention, I was working under the direction of Tommy Tune. I could only think, “How on earth is a ballerina going to fit in this magical tent with all these amazingly talented people?”

Immediately, I was embraced with love, support and most importantly – encouragement. It was only a matter of days before my first name was dropped; I simply became “Ballerina.”  I was handed a bass drum to play in the opening (after a small stint with a triangle that didn’t work out so well) and given lyrics to learn for songs I would sing. Luckily, it all happened so fast, I just did it without thinking about nerves. I was, however, very aware that my world was opening in a new and exciting direction.

After 118 shows of Bonsoir Liliane!, another end seemed near.  I had formed intense friendships with our cast, and the thought of not working with them again was too painful to think about. I set a new goal. I wanted a chance to do another show.

This ballerina is flying! Photo credit: Keith Brofsky

This ballerina is flying!
Photo credit: Keith Brofsky

I wanted to expand my ballet act – I wanted to push the boundaries of my ballet/pointe work, I wanted to see if I could move off center, travel, turn, and possibly jump within the space of the tent. In order to do these things, I knew I needed something to assist me. I chose a lyra. It was not my intent to become an aerialist, but I thought I might be able to use the lyra as my “partner”… as if it and I were dancing a pas de deux.

Over the next 12 months, I discovered endless possibilities and impossibilities… it was not easy! Adjusting to spinning/turning without spotting, being upside down 15 feet above the floor, and most importantly gaining upper body strength. were new challenges. I worked with Lexi Pearl, an aerial coach in Los Angeles and Jonathan Porretta, my friend and former coworker at PNB, who helped with the ballet choreography. I then relied on Anne Gish, a back stage manager at Teatro ZinZanni who operates the winch that raises and lowers the lyra, to wait patiently while I united these two art forms. Certain ideas that I thought would work, became impossible, yet I found perfect symmetry with others. It was at times frustrating and at times exhilarating! With perseverance, an intense desire to make it work, and much encouragement… I slowly carved out my act. The end result has meant another opportunity for me to perform with Teatro ZinZanni. I am beyond excited to premiere my new act and look forward to further creations with my new “partner.”

As rehearsals began for Dinner at Wotan’s, I was/am so grateful for the opportunity to meet a new cast of performers and be a part of the process of building a new show. This ballerina is flying high!

Attention All Mortals – the Nordic Gods are Upon Us!

Dinner at Wotan’s opens tonight!   We have been squee-ing all day  long in between feverish preparation for the grand opening.  This show is co-directed by our fearless founder Norm Langill and Swedish triplePhoto credit: Korum BischoffDinner at Wotan's threat  Tobias Larsson (actor, director, choreographer), who will also choreograph and star in this production. Get ready for an electric mix of fresh performances from the likes of Swedish superstar Anki Albertsson, sprinkled with impeccable returning acts such as  Vertical Tango (back by popular demand).

We’re also delighted to welcome back the incredible Los Excéntricos, a troupe who performed in our opening show waaaay back in 1998.  It has been far too long!

An ode to the Northwest’s Nordic community, Dinner At Wotan’s will musically rock the tent, presenting a hybrid of the classical sounds of Wagner’s The Ring and big, epic rock sounds, like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.  “A lot of rock tunes live very close to classical pieces, so we’re trying to mix that classical world with the rock, and course, with our own Durkee-ZinZanni style,” co-director Tobias Larsson commented. The music from Dinner at Wotan’s will be composed by harmonious superman Norman Durkee with lyrics by Martha Davis, long-time front-woman for the new wave band The Motels, best known for such hits as “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer”.

And we are oh-so ecstatic to announce that Christopher Phi will be returning to the tent as one of Wotan’s progeny.  In fact the whole cast just gives us jitters!

Let’s list them out again:

Geoff Hoyle/Jarion Monroe (Wotan, Ruler of Asgard)
Anki Albertsson (Frigg, Madame of Valhalla, wife of Wotan)
Tobias Larsson (Thor, Son of Wotan and Frigg, Heir apparent to Asgard)
Terry Crane
(Loki, Son of Wotan & Frigg)
Sam Payne of Vertical Tango
(Balder, Son of Wotan & Frigg)
Sandra Feusiof Vertical Tango
(Helga, Valkyrie, Guardian of the Underworld)
Kristin Clayton
(Brunhilde, Warrior)
Ariana Lallone
(Freya, Valkyrie, Goddess of Love)
Marceline, Sylvestre and Zaza of Los Excéntricos
(Kimir, Hardon, and Snotra, The Troubadour Dwarves)
Christopher Phi (Jorgemon, Son of Wotan)

Chef Erik Carlson has pulled out all the stops.  But what will we dine upon?

Appetizer: Hard Cider Slow Braised Duroc Pork Belly (there’s a herbivore-friendly variation of this dish upon request)
Soup: Smoked Gouda and White Cheddar
Salad: Shaved Fennel, Watercress, Dried Cherries 
Your Choice of Entree:
Hales Red Menace Ale Braised Beef Short Rib
Crab-Stuffed Wild Salmon Roulade
Puff Pastry Cornucopia
Dessert: Golden Apple Tart

See the full menu here.

Get Your Tickets!

The Gods are Coming to Dinner

Attention all mortals: The Gods are almost upon us!  Our new show, Dinner at Wotan’s opens January 31st and we’ve cast gods.  Well, we’ve cast performers to be gods.  No pressure.  Live up to mythological deity status.   Try to avoid the usual pitfalls that follow divinity, like wrath and pestilence.  Good?  Good.

We kid (except about not causing plagues and wrath, those things are the worst). The cast is perfect. Perfect!

Now, without further ado, here is the supreme cast of Dinner at Wotan’s!

Wotan, Ruler of Asgard: Geoff Hoyle / Jarion Monroe

Frigg, Madame of Valhalla, wife of Wotan: Anki Albertsson

Thor, Son of Wotan & Frigg, Heir apparent to Asgard: Tobias Larsson

Loki, Son of Wotan & Frigg: Terry Crane

Balder, Son of Wotan & Frigg: Sam Payne (Vertical Tango)

Helga, Valkyrie, Guardian of the Underworld: Sandra Feusi (Vertical Tango)

Brunhilde, Warrior: Kristin Clayton

Freya, Valkyrie, Goddess of Love: Ariana Lallone

Kimir, Hardon, & Snotra,  The Troubadour Dwarves: Los Excéntricos (Marceline, Sylvestre and Zaza)

The cast is an exciting mix of returning veterans like Los Excéntricos who performed in the first ZinZanni show EVER, and freshmen like Anki Albertsson who is Swedish celeb royalty (minus the crown).  The role of Wotan will be split, beginning with Geoff Hoyle reigning the opening and passing the scepter to Jarion Monroe on March 24th to the close.  It will be fascinating to see what each actor brings to the role.

There is much more to come, so please stay tuned!

“In Tents is Irresistible!”

We’ve been humming (and craving) “Popcorn” since Saturday and according to the reviews, we aren’t the only ones (looking at you Emerald City Kids).  Last weekend, we kicked off the first (and second) show in our rip-roaring good fun series, In Tents with Recess Monkey.  The show was not only a smashing success, it was sold out!

Here is just a taste of some of the juicy reviews:

In Tents, the new show for kids at Teatro ZinZanni, is irresistibly good fun, thanks to the trio Recess Monkey and acrobat Saffi Watson, among others.”

-The Seattle Times

“It was a fantastic combination of elements that transported adults and had the children staring open-mouthed in wonder.”

-ParentMap

“If there is one show to see in Seattle with kids this summer, I think it’s the Recess Monkey’s In Tents at Teatro ZinZanni.”

 -EmeraldCityKids.com

“The music was accompanied by fun performances from some of the Teatro ZinZanni performers and included some seriously impressive contortions, a performing “bear”, some great juggling (my son’s favorite part!), dancing and more!”

-GrowingBabyReviews.com

You can catch a glimpse of some of this monkey business tomorrow morning on Q13 Fox Morning News. Don’t miss your chance to rock out with Recess Monkey and some of their friends.  The concert series continues throughout the summer: Saturday 5/12, Saturday 5/19, Saturday 6/2, Saturday 6/23, Sunday 6/24, Saturday 7/14,  and ends Sunday 7/15.

Get your tickets before they sell out (and they will at this rate)!!

And now a dancing bear for your enjoyment:

The Weekly Herald Swoons Over Bonsoir Liliane!

Less than three weeks left to see the ever-amazing Liliane Montevecchi in Bonsoir Liliane!Michael Doucett

This fact makes us sad and we will remain in denial for long after it is appropriate.  The shows simply fabulous.  With possibly the best introduction EVER, Dale Burrows  from  The Weekly Herald is now a believer in the power of Teatro ZinZanni (as well he should be, we are delightful).  A visit here is “to step into a realm where dreams and reality converge, time stands still, everything is not as it seems”.

A few of many accolades for his delightful review:

“Well, I stepped in a skeptic, came out a believer and time is still standing still. “Bonsoir, Liliane!” knocks your socks off.”

“The acrobatics of Parisians Domitil Aillot, Gregory Marquet and Mickael Bajazet, dazzle.”

“Graceful sensuality shows itself in the amazing contortions of Ukrainian Vita Radionova.”

“Former Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Ariana Lallone’s solo is sheer elegance.”

Read the full review here!

Get your tickets to see this dazzling performance!

Ariana Lallone at the Gage Drawing Jam

Teatro ZinZanni proudly participated in the 12th Annual Gage Drawing Jam!  If you have not been, you must go next year.  It is truly a delightful and creative event for artists of varying talents.

Each year we select one cast member to attend/model for the budding artists to sketch.  This year, we brought Bonsoir Liliane! cast member and pirouetting sensation  Ariana Lallone to act as costumed portrait model.   Ariana kindly loaned us a spectacular drawing, gifted to her by participating artist Kelly Patterson, to add to our photo montage.

Check out Kelly’s drawing and some photos we snapped below!

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Seattle Magazine Raves About Bonsoir Liliane!

The muscles in my face literally ached from smiling“, says Bond Huberman from Seattle Magazine.  It appears Mr. Hubberman has fallen under the spell of the velvet-topped tent (he is not the first, we assure you) and its fantastically talented cast.  Of the show, he says it “tilts between musical numbers, acrobat stunts, comedy routines and even one opportunity for audience members to stand up and enjoy a romantic slow dance with their loved ones.”

Photo by Micheal DoucettOther highlights from the review:
“(Liliane) Montevecchi’s Auntie Mame persona keeps up with Kent in sheer audacity. She’s a petite older woman, but she has shockingly flexible legs (which she is unafraid to show off) and a voice that sometimes talks through and sometimes blasts out standard numbers like La Vie En Rose and Diamonds Are Forever.”
 “Every move (Kevin) Kent makes is backed by expert improv skills – or his uncanny ability to predict exactly who his audience members are, and where their boundaries are flexible.”

“So, when we’re not marveling at what Ukrainian contortionist Vita Radionova can do in spite of the typical rules of a human rib cage – or the terrifying free falls of Les Petits Freres (an adorable trio of French acrobats), we take deep dives into a darker story…”.

Read the full review in all its glory!

25 Things You Didn’t Know about Ariana Lallone

Graceful“, “stunning“, and “a twirling beauty”  are all terms used to describe Ariana Lallone, the  5-foot-11 (6-foot-5 on pointe) ballerina featured in our current production, Bonsoir Liliane!. The former Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Ballerina has been astounding audiences under the velvet topped tent.  Get a peek into her life below and find out why we love, love, love her!

1. I try to live each day to the fullest and not waste a minute of time.

2. I love Mexican food.

3. I hope to continue to learn and grow as an artist, perform and bring joy to people’s lives.

4. I was called “Big Bird” in high school… for obvious reasons.  Sometimes it was a little tough being the tallest girl in school.

5. I have always wanted to try parasailing… don’t tell my mom.

6. I fell in love with ballet from the first class I took at the age of 7. After graduating from high school, it was my desire to not only continue my ballet training, but to pursue ballet as a profession. I gave myself one year to see if it was possible. Luckily, after a summer course at PNB and a year in their school, the artistic directors (at that time Kent Stowell and Francia Russell) were willing to take a chance on a very tall, aspiring young ballerina… and the rest is my history.

7. I cannot resist buying vintage kitchen items that have a rooster on them.

8.I love the comedy of Modern Family and the drama of The Good Wife. I also have a weak spot for reality TV.

9. The last book I read was The Witch of Portobello by Paul Coelho: “When you dance, the spiritual world and the real world manage to coexist quite happily. I think classical ballet dancers dance on pointe because they’re simultaneously touching the earth and reaching up to the skies.”

10.I am afraid of earthquakes and wind…. a side effect of growing up in Southern California!

11.My celebrity crush will always be Paul Newman.

12. When I was 17 years old, I had a make-over on national television. I still have the cue cards that they used on the show to introduce the “all new Ariana Lallone!”

13. I really only speak English and some scattered Spanish, but since joining Teatro ZinZanni, I think I need to learn French!

14. My Favorite book is A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway… in fact, it’s time to re-read it!

15. I have four brothers that I tried very hard to keep up with. There was no crying over scraped knees.

16. I have unconditional love for those in my life, I will go out of my way to do something for someone, I am a good friend and I love to laugh.

17. I lettered in basketball in high school and had my jersey retired upon graduation.

18. I am unable to throw away anything that has sentiment. I save a lot!

19. I love the boardwalk between the Double Helix Bridge and Pier 70, along Elliott Bay.

20. I have a twenty-year old black, long hair cat named Celia.

21. I have never been to Spain.

22. Right now, I love the song “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

23. My list of favorite PNB roles is extensive. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to dance many ballets and work with numerous choreographers/stagers… each being a memorable experience. I couldn’t pick just one.

24. I am most proud of transitioning from my 24-year career as a ballerina at PNB, to having the opportunity to join the cast of Teatro ZinZanni in Bonsoir Liliane!,

25. My favorite drink is a combination of cherry juice, lemonade, mint and soda water.

Need more Ariana (who doesn’t)?  See her in our newest production Bonsoir Liliane!, a magical train ride through the life and fantasies of Liliane Montevecchi. Get your tickets here!

Bonsoir Liliane!: The Saucy Review by Erika Hobart

Opening Nights: Bonsoir Liliane!

Teatro ZinZanni salutes a legendary star’s career, from MGM to LQA.

By Erika Hobart

Wednesday, Oct 12 2011

If your significant other has a wandering eye, leave him (or her) at home. Teatro ZinZanni’s cabaret-style homage to singer/actress/dancer Liliane Montevecchi, who celebrates her 79th birthday this week, could be its sexiest production ever. At the center of this three-and-a-half-hour spectacle, which recounts her long, illustrious career (accompanied by a five-course feast), she may be its most alluring performer. 

Born in France and subsequently a contract player at MGM (where she supported Brando, Elvis, and Astaire), Montevecchi remains a magnetic force on stage. (Given that her legs still look flawless, she either has a pact with the devil or drinks the blood of virgins.) Playing the younger version of Montevecchi is former Pacific Northwest Ballet star Ariana Lallone, whose dancing en pointe is both stunning and painful to watch. Rounding out the so-attractive-it’s-creepy ensemble are Ukranian contortionist Vita Radionova, whose moves make the Kama Sutra look tame, and Swedish singer/dancer/acrobat Tobias Larsson, who looks like he belongs in a Calvin Klein underwear ad. (Swoon.)

Coming from a company that prides itself on kookiness, of course, Bonsoir Liliane! would be incomplete without silly antics. Enter improv master Kevin Kent, unquestionably TZZ’s most popular performer, who provides plenty of laughs by poking fun at willing (and unwilling) audience members. During a recent show, he shrieked at a group of bald men, “I want to rub all of you together and start a fire!” To a guest embarrassed by the unsolicited attention, he quipped, “You’re like the prom queen at 4 a.m. going home to Daddy.” Upping the outrageousness is Parisian acrobatic trio Les Petits Frères, which combines slapstick with gravity-defying stunts.

The whole glittery shebang is directed by Tommy Tune, who helped Montevecchi dance her way to a Tony in the original Broadway production of Nine. That, if you’re counting, was 29 years ago. Today her legs would make most 29-year-old women envious.

See the full review!

Voilà! A Tune-tooled trip to Paris in ZinZanni show

By Misha Berson

Seattle Times theater critic

Ooh la la, and then some.

“Bonsoir Liliane!,” the charming new show at Teatro ZinZanni, is something of a departure for Seattle’s ongoing dinner-cabaret outfit.

It has a specific destination — a nostalgic, romanticized Paris of gendarmes and chansons, of gilded cabarets and midnight rendezvous and toujour l’amour.

“Bonsoir Liliane!” is also famed Broadway director-performer Tommy Tune’s loving valentine to the undisputed star of the show, the actress-singer Liliane Montevecchi, who, still spry and sexy after nearly eight decades, is a living embodiment of the City of Light.

Despite her Tony-honored Broadway performance in “Nine,” her film turns (notably, in “Daddy Long Legs” with Fred Astaire), and her previous headlining gigs with ZinZanni and upscale nightclubs, Montevecchi is not exactly a household name here.

But the show, loosely constructed as an Orient Express train ride to Paris and India, introduces and celebrates this eternal gamine with the stylishness expected from Tune, whose atmospheric Broadway hits range from “Grand Hotel” to “The Will Rogers Follies.”

Swathed in one slinky, twinkly gown after another, the petite and vivacious Montevecchi is delightful company.

She recalls her own stint as a ballerina, and as the star chanteuse at the Folies Bergère. In a wispy but confident voice, she croons cabaret classics like “La Vie en Rose” and relative rarities, like Cole Porter’s racy “Si Vous Aimez les Poitrines” (translation: “If You Love Breasts”).

And in a lovely bit, she appears perched on a crescent-moon-shaped swing, as the iconic French clown character, Pierrot.

“Bonsoir Liliane!” also fits in staples of the Teatro experience. There are rousing acrobatic routines from ZinZanni veterans, contortionist Vita Radionova and the boisterous (and French) Les Petits Frères.

There is a kind of master of ceremonies (lanky, amiable Tobias Larsson). And there is the inimitable jester Kevin Kent, still a quick-quipping whiz at working hapless audience members into outrageous gender-bender stunts.

What is new here, beside the Parisian glam and je ne sais quoi, is the inclusion of classical ballet.

Supple, striking Ariana Lallone, a longtime featured dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, has a pair of numbers where the Tune touch is magical.

One is a dramatic “red swan” dance (spun off “The Black Swan” film) performed entirely at a barre on a tiny lifted stage.

The other: Lallone, wearing a diaphanous white gown with winglike sleeves, wafts and whirls in the lights like a silken moth fluttering around a multihued flame. Based on Loie Fuller’s pioneering modern dances (a Paris sensation in the early 1900s), it takes your breath away.

Tune also makes good use of his Triplets of Bellevue (get it?), the Andrew Sisters-esque singing trio Diva and the Dixies.

If anything, the show has so much going for it (including a lively Bollywood number), that an extra breather or two, and perhaps a light trim, are in order.

But it seems fated that, in an antique cabaret tent long ago christened The Moulin Rouge, “Bonsoir Liliane!” would take you on a trip to a mythical Paris. And thanks to director and star, what a bon voyage it is!

Read the full article!