American Choreographers Pacific Northwest Ballet
Through April 24.


Cultural pluralism is
great for building democracies and preventing massacres, but it sure can make for some awful art. Case in point: American Choreographers at Pacific Northwest Ballet, which started as a stellar evening--two world premieres by local choreographers (hooray for Paul Gibson's The Piano Dance!) and a gorgeous, haunting staging of The Moor's Pavane (a riff on Othello) by José Limón. Then came Lambarena by Val Caniparoli--a vacant, mushy mess designed to make white liberals feel good about themselves for getting a little multicultural fiber in their diet without having to work for it. Of course, the crowd loved it.

Lambarena is a CD sprinkling a little "traditional African music" atop Bach for flavor. Lambarena-the-dance does the same with movement: ballet with more hips. A little black, a little white, but all we get are shades of gray, illuminating nothing about ballet nor African dance but managing to condescend to both. I'm all for mash-ups and think juxtaposing classical African and European modes is a promising idea: you could have African dance to Bach and ballet to pure drumming. Or African and European dances to the same music the same time. Or some other, more creative combination of the two. I suspect Lambarena was a good idea in somebody's head at some point, but it went very, very wrong. I don't care that Caniparoli brought in drum masters and dancers who won Emmys for their work on Roots (it's true)--Lambarena is muddleheaded, disingenuous pap.

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