Pacific Northwest Ballet Review: Singularly Cerrudo
October 7, 2021 | Digital
In their first live performance in McCaw Hall since 2020, Pacific Northwest Ballet returned to the stage with a triple bill featuring resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s work. Rep 1, also titled Singularly Cerrudo, features three works spanning Cerrudo’s career at PNB and with other companies.
Cerrudo, born in Spain, joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as their first Resident Choreographer from 2008 to 2018. He was named Resident Choreographer of PNB in 2020, just before the shut down in the United States. His first season as Resident Choreographer has been solely digital, and Rep 1 marks a satisfying return to live performances for the company.
Opening the program is Silent Ghost, a work for ten dancers, five men and five women, set to a playlist featuring several musical artists.
The curtain goes up, revealing two men on stage accompanied by a sharp, plucking sound. Soon it becomes apparent the plucking sounds are from an electric guitar (“Salads Lament and “This is the Place” by Dustin Hamman). The two men become a quintet, moving in and out of synchronized and asymmetrical movements.
Men were outfitted in slacks and tank tops while the women (arriving soon after the quintet) were in shorts and low-cut vests.
Cerrudo weaves from group work to partnering duets several times (in this piece and the others) but the partnering is where he excels. He builds a seemingly endless braid of limbs; the pas de deux become fluid and the dancers ooze off each other only to meet up again and repeat.
Noelani Pantastico and Lucien Postlewaite, the leads, are a strong dancing couple. Pantastico moves like caramel and toffee, gooey in some places and snappy in others while Postlewaite is stoic and secure. In an impressive lift (the first time you see it… unfortunately the shape repeats itself in every piece in the program), Pantastico wraps her arms around Postlewaites’ shoulders, he leans over as she arches her back, legs lifting overhead in a scorpion position.
There are moments of clever arm work and appropriate uses of canon, but the majority of steps are pulled from an expected vocabulary (the contemporary, one-armed floor slide makes an appearance) and leaves the piece with an overall flatness and a foggy message, if there even is one.
One Thousand Pieces, next up in the program, was originally planned for the 2020 season and made it all the way to dress rehearsal before being put on pause for the nationwide quarantine. The piece makes its reappearance in an excerpt (it would normally be a full evening-length show).
Opening on a downstage couple (later duplicated by another couple on stage left) in deep blue lighting, the dancers perform Cerrudo’s signature style of infinitely meshed partnering. The movements push the couples to expand and contract, wide and small in their moves, accordion-like. Cerrudo’s strength in pas de deux work shines here with the simplicity of the two couples against a black backdrop.
This same backdrop I just admired for its simplicity dramatically lifts to reveal a cloudy mist blowing from the overhead fly space and the floor damp with puddles of water. It is not new to dance on water, as seen in places like Pina Bausch’s Vollmond, Alexander Ekman’s Swan Lake, Francois Girard’s production of Wagner’s Parcifal (this occurrence uses water to imitate blood), and even in Mac’s Dance from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Cerrudo’s originally premiered in 2012 (before Ekman, Always Sunny, and Girard but after Bausch) and takes a more subtle approach to the presence of water. The overhead mist was used as a curtain allowing for dramatic entrances and exits, but the water itself left little impression on the dance besides a glimmer on the stage floor.
Last up on the program was Little mortal jump, which included a plethora of musical artists (eight to be exact). Cerrudo has a way of stringing together music from classical to neo-classical to movie soundtracks and making them work by selecting pieces that easily complement each other. He heavies up the musical drama in the last piece, creating a bizarre, turn of the century, circus-like feel played up by the almost period-piece costumes which included boots and bowties.
Whitty and whimsical, Cerrudo plays with the audience for the first time of the evening, and appropriate for a closing piece, I think. One of the dancers jumps into what looks like the orchestra pit just as the lights go out making it look as though he has disappeared into a black hole.
A couple has their bodies Velcro-ed to the walls of large moving cubes; in a no-nonsense way (adding to the comedy), they simply begin to unsnap the front of their unitards and, removing themselves from the wall, they leave behind the carcasses of their costumes like cicadas in the spring.
Another dancer is centered in a spotlight, possibly preparing to do something, when instead he spritely jumps out of the circle of light – gone as quick as he arrived.
Filled with brief moments of trickery (the moving cubes, the orchestra pit jump, the Velcro, at one point a sudden and bright light coming from downstage left), the additions left me confused as to why things were there and what they meant. Perhaps they were meant to mean nothing.
Cerrudo’s choice of movement is strongest here, perhaps easier to achieve with the vehicle of a mild characterization. I found the shapes pushed the envelope of creativity more so than the first two pieces; particularly in the duet between the Velcro-ed couple, Leta Biasucci and Price Suddarth, who both brought substantial charm to the stage. Cerrudo leans into the goofy, sweetness creating a curious, almost bird-like duet.
Morphing into a larger section of group work, usually a moment of cohesive momentum, the choreography feels muted and understated due to the flat nature of the timing. Each step appeared to be given equal value in time rather than quickening some steps and easing out others. As with all the pieces, Cerrudo flows between duet and group work and continues to do so through the end of the final work. He brings back the cubes in a spinning flurry to close out the piece, ending in another question mark.
Cerrudo makes adequate choreographic choices, but it is the undulating, liquidous, infinite limb-work in his partnering sections that quickens the pulse and keeps the eye moving. While not everything made a splash, he is certainly a relevant creator capable of perhaps some larger waves in the near future.
Featured Photo for this Pacific Northwest Ballet review of Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in an excerpt from Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces © Angela Sterling
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