Pacific Northwest Ballet Review: Rep 6
June 11, 2021 | Digital
In the past year, ballet companies across the globe have faced overwhelming restrictions on the artform: ballet classes in living rooms, rehearsing over zoom, performing without a live audience, limiting physical contact in choreography. One would think the red tape would stifle dancers and artists alike, but delightedly I have seen company after company rise to the challenge and flex creative muscles.
Perhaps voyaging into the unfamiliar has propelled ballet in a digital direction it might not have found itself in otherwise. As much as I want to get back to a stuffy theater with a thousand other people, I am also so impressed by resilient companies eager to leave their imprint in the digital space.
And resilience is certainly present in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s last program of their season, gloriously showcased on the smiles of their dancers doing what they do best.
PNB brings two premieres, one by Christopher Wheeldon and the other by Edwaard Liang, plus a reprise from Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo to their final official program.
Peppered with extras, the program also contains behind the scenes talks, a beautiful musical interlude for piano and trumpet, Antonio Vivaldi’s entire Four Seasons as played by the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s orchestra, and three additional ballets to stream. It is a lot to offer but also a testament to the company’s creativity and love for art.
Organized almost as a triple bill, the delivery is a bit odd with Cerrudo’s PACOPEPEPLUTO sandwiched between two half-hour pieces making it a bit of a blip in the evening.
Short but sweet, and the most human of the three, Cerrudo plants his wealth of dance movement under dim lighting, paired with popular Dean Martin songs from the 1950s and 1960s.
Three male dancers – Christopher D’Ariano, James Yoichi Moore, and Lucien Postlewaite – wear only flesh toned dance belts which under the heavily shadowed lighting causes illusions of nakedness. And if you find yourself wondering if they are meant to appear naked, you are answered by the dancers’ shy and amusing gestures of covering their crotches with their hands.
With the stage and dancers stripped, we are left with croony love songs and Cerrudo’s athletic stream of movement. Amusing and whimsical, it is a fine piece to add to any program.
The most dramatic dance of the evening, Wheeldon’s Curious Kingdom is a bizarre piece I can only describe as a retired French mime’s fever dream… but in the best way possible.
Reminiscent of the Red Room in the television show Twin Peaks, it does not create another world but rather the essence of one full of seemingly random plot devices.
Five dancers open the stage spaced about six feet apart (aren’t we all at the point where we can accurately measure six feet with our eyes?) in silhouette against a yellow-lit backdrop. Piano notes puncture the air and the dancers reciprocate with angular movements.
The entire piece weaves back and forth between solos, pas de deux, and minimal group work. Postlewaite shows adeptness of both acting and dancing in a solo where he repeatedly breaks the fourth wall with an inquiring gaze. It is here where we start to question what is really going on and especially when the camera moves overhead to expose a shimmering, reflective rectangle laid across the floor.
Wheeldon ventures into intriguing hand choreography, at times having a couple hold only each other’s fingertips or repeatedly flipping hands from palm forward to back of hand. His use of shapes is outstanding and he almost makes the dancers put them on display, flat to the audience as if to say, “see this”?
Set to music by the French artists Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, and Edith Piaf he progresses from piano to the iconic reverberations of Piaf where we reach the height of our confusing dream.
Costumes by Hariett Jung and Reid Bartelme are exuberantly glamorous. Orange gloves, short and long, appear here and there; sometimes a pair is shared by two people. Dancers don shimmering silver unitards (that would look divine with a pair of red pumps) and change from mesh jumpsuits to flowy skirts to boleros and swimming caps from scene to scene.
Curious Kingdom is a trip worth taking but when you wake you will still not know quite what happened.
Closing the program is Edwaard Liang’s premiere piece with PNB, The Veil Between Worlds. With the largest cast, it is the piece most reminiscent of a more traditional neo-classical ballet.
Ten dancers in beautiful peach, rust, and powder blue leotards (designed by Mark Zappone) display clean, balletic movement intertwined with droplets of modern accoutrements. Liang plays with moments of speed and serenity, the dancers finding themselves flitting across the stage then morphing into a suspended balance.
It is a successful piece reaching highs and lows accompanied by a cinematic score from Oliver Davis.
Reinforcing the veil idea, an enormous silk fabric is utilized multiple times in interesting illusions.
But the most refreshing part of the piece was seeing the joy it brought out in the dancers. Several times the camera would catch a glance between two dancers, driving reciprocal grins amongst the pair. An electricity between two friends, blossoming into Liang’s steps and through the screen to the viewer, it may be the closest I have felt to a live performance in a long time.
PNB’s Rep 6 runs from June 10-14, 2021.
Featured Photo for this Pacific Northwest Ballet review of principal dancers Laura Tisserand and Jerome Tisserand with company dancers in Edwaard Liang’s The Veil Between Worlds © Lindsay Thomas
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