Thursday, December 31, 2015

What Is 'It'?

Audrey Hepburn in her first film, "Roman Holiday"
Last weekend I pulled out a copy of Audrey Hepburn’s first film, “Roman Holiday.” If you’ve never seen it, I’ll briefly recap: Hepburn plays a princess on a goodwill tour. By the time she gets to Rome, she’s exhausted and sick of the insular life she leads. Her doctor administers a drug. Under its sedative influence, she flees her hotel, and meets cute with Gregory Peck’s character, a suave American newspaper man. I’ll let you watch the movie to find out what happens next.

The thing that really struck me was Hepburn’s on-screen aura: she glowed. It was almost as if her light was so bright, the cameras and crew couldn’t contain it. I imagined what the studio execs must have thought when they saw the dailies: ‘holy smokes, this kid is gonna be a star!’

Audrey Hepburn had ‘it’: that indefinable charisma and presence that make it almost impossible for us to avert our eyes. That ‘it’ factor is what makes stars stars, no matter their artistic medium.

I’ve been working on a profile of Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jonathan Porretta; he has ‘It.’
Jonathan Porretta in PNB performance of "Fancy Free" by Jerome Robbins
photo by Angela Sterling

Audiences love Porretta. But he tells me he loves them more than they love him. And he wants to give them everything he's got. His boss, PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal, says when Porretta dances the role of Gamache, say, in “Don Quixote”, his aim is to steal the show. Oh, he does that!

Jonathan Porretta as Gamache in PNB production of "Don Quixote", choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky
photo by Angela Sterling

Gamache is the rich fop intended for the heroine Kitri. Of course, she only has eyes for the more virile Basilio. Gamache is a fool. Porretta chews the scenery, spits it out, and somehow draws every eye in the hall.

Which leads me to wonder: is ‘It’ in the eye of the beholder? Or is there something about certain people that just draws us to them?

Seattle’s stunning contemporary dance company Whim W’Him is made up of fine artists, but whenever I attend a performance, my eyes immediately follow dancer Justin Reiter. 
Whim W'Him's Justin Reiter, front, with Jim Kent
photo by Bamberg Fine Art

He throws himself whole-heartedly into the choreography, and his skill and dedication are obvious. But with Reiter, there’s also a frisson of electricity onstage, something that transcends the material.
Jade Solomon Curtis, performing with Seattle's Spectrum Dance Theatre

Former Spectrum Dance company member Jade Solomon Curtis had that same magnetism onstage. Andrew Bartee, who used to dance with both PNB and Whim W’Him and is now at Ballet BC, has it in spades.

A colleague and I recently had a conversation about the ‘It’ factor. She thought it would make a great feature story. She’s right, but actually, I’ve been talking to folks about it, and nobody can pin it down for me in a way that makes concrete sense.
Chow Yun Fat in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

Maybe there are ‘It’ performances, rather than ‘It’ people? I’m quite partial to Chow Yun Fat in the film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” And the possibility that British actor Idris Elba could succeed Daniel Craig as James Bond? Well, what can I say except, be still my heart?
Wouldn't hunky Idris Elba rock James Bond?


For now, I’ll get back to work on the Jonathan Porretta profile. And for his many fans who have missed him during his very prolonged recuperation from surgery, here’s a New Year’s gift: Porretta says he’ll “most def” be back at PNB in the company’s upcoming production of “Romeo and Juliette.” 
what a face!

2 comments:

  1. It is real! I have seen it in unexpected places. And they are not all celebrities. I saw it in an 18 month old baby at my daughter's daycare. All the other babies and daycare providers knew this baby had "it" He was born this way. Everyone,was drawn to him. I see it in the seattle men's chorus. Out of 300 men, there are 2 that I can't keep my eyes off. They aren't the best singers, they aren't the best looking. They just have IT. It is very exciting to me. Look around, these people are everywhere! The grocery checker at my QA Safeway has "it" too. (She always has the longest line and it is worth the wait).

    ReplyDelete
  2. It is real! I have seen it in unexpected places. And they are not all celebrities. I saw it in an 18 month old baby at my daughter's daycare. All the other babies and daycare providers knew this baby had "it" He was born this way. Everyone,was drawn to him. I see it in the seattle men's chorus. Out of 300 men, there are 2 that I can't keep my eyes off. They aren't the best singers, they aren't the best looking. They just have IT. It is very exciting to me. Look around, these people are everywhere! The grocery checker at my QA Safeway has "it" too. (She always has the longest line and it is worth the wait).

    ReplyDelete