Pacific Northwest Ballet Review: Beyond Ballet November 18, 2021 | Digital
I am totally going to date myself here by saying that watching Royal Swedish Ballet perform Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven on an episode of PBS Great Performances in the mid-1990s was my marked introduction to neo-classical ballet. I was in awe by the dancers’ ability to stretch the limits of the classical ballet vernacular and musical holds, although I did not express this sentiment as so in my teen years; my reaction was more like, “Whoa!”.
Decades later, with no viewings in the interim, I am again mesmerized by Ulysses Dove’s dedication to his loved ones, this time as interpreted by Pacific Northwest Ballet in their Beyond Ballet program.
Donned in white unitards with shoes to match, this recording’s cast features Cecilia Iliesiu, Amanda Morgan, Lesley Rausch, Christopher D’Ariano, James Kirby Rogers, and Dylan Wald, in a series of evolving – and revolving – solos, duets, trios, and groups set to Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. This transcendental accompaniment of bell and strings serves as the musical motif for the overarching themes of the piece – love and loss.
At times the melody to the hypnotic harmony, at others their shoes the only sound in a theater filled with silence, each individual of the sextet brings a distinct character to the plotless ballet. Most notably, Morgan’s expression of angst contrasts sharply with Wald’s tendency toward the stoic. It is this range complemented by the dynamic choreography that brings dimension to an otherwise monochromic visual and audial experience.
After producing a lackluster response in me when viewing the world premiere of Jessica Lang’s Ghost Variations a year ago, I was looking forward to seeing it again, curious if I would have a different reaction.
But yet again I struggled with what, for me, feels like an incongruous confluence of beautiful dancers, effective lighting, and emotional music.
Closing is The Personal Element, a piece originally created by Alonzo King for dancers of his company – Alonzo King LINES Ballet – and New York City Ballet. Set to Jason Moran’s jazzy piano music, the choreography showcases the athleticism and expanse of PNB’s dancers although, for this viewer, a different cast would have been appreciated.
Not because the dancers aren’t wonderful – because they certainly are – but because we had already seen many of them once or twice earlier on in the program. The decision to feature the same dancers in pieces that only have six to eight to begin with make the 41-member company feel small.
So it was very welcome to see Miles Pertl (who for the record, is my favorite Friar Lawrence to date) performing sinewy pas de deux work with Rausch, a ballerina whose lines are luxuriously endless.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.