It's a lonely feeling to sit by yourself in a theater, waiting to see an evening of ballet called Valentine, drops from your solitary walk in the rain dripping into a small puddle beneath your seat. It's even more disheartening to realize that the dance wasn't worth the walk.
Like Past, Present, and Future and the other programs designed by Pacific Northwest Ballet's new artistic director, Peter Boal, Valentine mixes what you normally associate with ballet—prancing and pliés—with blue jeans, freaky moves, and other modish bait to hook young'uns to replace the ballet's—and the Rep's and the opera's and all regional theater's—graying subscriber base. Valentine is bookended by forgettables: a neoclassical piece (baroque! with tights!) and Nine Sinatra Songs (a "classic" by Twyla Tharp featuring dancers in high heels and a disco ball big enough to besparkle McCaw Hall). But I liked the main course, Red Angel, an intensely athletic dance of pairs to a furious violin solo. One of the dancers creeps like a spider on her toes and sharply angled knees. Another flips into a third's arms. The dancers are sweaty, precise, and flashy in red unitards. They look like they might, at any moment, break down and kiss. Or slap each other. Or burst into flames.
The Cody Rivers Show (a Bellingham sketch comedy duo) is equally sweaty but more violent and funnier—if you think an L.A. country singer forced to shoot a cute bunny in the head to prove he's a Heartland kind of guy is funny. Which I do. The boys are at their best when they're acrobatic (their comic dance routines are great) or bizarre, like the pantomime of a man in a disturbing mask (like Munch's Scream) haggling over a contract with the Devil to the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs." Or the routine about two wholesome sons who go mad when they realize they haven't gotten a Mother's Day gift. They throw phones, boxes, and themselves across the stage as they try to make a card, then staple mom a new dress, then write their names in blood on a daffodil. The straight-ahead sketches are goofy and collegiate (not so funny) but when they jump off the deep end, they're more fun than ballet.
The weekend's Least Sweaty prize goes to the dancers of Rona at On the Boards. I don't know if it was the white body powder or because they didn't move very much—an African/butoh hybrid (by South African choreographer Boyzie Cekwana and his Floating Outfit Project), Rona was very slow. The second dance, Ja'nee, was sweatier. Men waving sticks, shouting, singing, and stomping. Men jumping and tapping out rhythms in gumboots. Men almost fighting with each other, backing off, and singing some more. Throughout, one small woman in Capri pants and a T-shirt tiptoes among the men, like she doesn't want them—or us—to see her. Like she would prefer to be alone.