A premiere! A heart-melting pas de deux! An kinetic, contemporary masterpiece! And a crazy fucking postmodern thing that involves 20 large tables and a lot of graceful crawling!
There's a ballet for all persuasions at this year's edition of Director's Choice, a sort of mini second season that Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal slips in to the program in the spring. You have one more weekend to see it, and I suggest you do.
At the opening night performance, Ezra Thompson, a soloist dancer who's steadily building a career as a choreographer, premiered a pretty straightforward and delicately done narrative ballet called The Perpetual State.
The title makes you think of the desire to attain a perpetual state of happiness, but grief and longing—"we say, because desire is full / of endless distances"—seem to be the perpetual state of Thompson's protagonist, danced by Leta Biasucci.
She's mourning the death of her former love (Karel Cruz) when a new guy (Jerome Tisserand) suddenly comes into her life. They dance well together, but going through the motions of courtship only recalls memories she shared with her old love. Two other dancers—Cruz and Sara Ricard Orza—physically embody those memories, mirroring the movements of the main character and her new suitor. The corp, done up in maroon turtlenecks and silvery tutus, serve as observers, variously cheering on or ignoring the couple(s) as they fall in love and fall apart. It's a sort of sad and lovely piece, one that celebrates new love while acknowledging the ghosts that will always haunt us.
If that one doesn't make you swoon, a selection from William Forsythe's Slingerland Duet will. You know from the first second you hear the impossibly plaintive, sighing whine of the violin in Gavin Bryars's score that you're in for it. The violin sounds like a radio dial searching for the correct frequency, and Laura Tisserand and Karel Cruz extend their legs and arms and hold their poses as if in an attempt to extend the sound. All the slow-motion turns and held poses reflect the sad romance and show off Cruz's and Tisserand's strength, skill, and fluidity.
The highlight of the evening is Ulysses Dove's Red Angels with music from Richard Einhom. Four dancers in candy apple red leotards move to Mary Rowell's raw, percussive, invigorating violin with all the speed, precision, and surprising flexibility of a fly cleaning itself. The movements are bold, modern, and they included some pretty advanced voguing. The choreography is almost Cubist, as if Dove were trying to present every facet of the body all at once. Lindsi Dec, Jerome Tisserand, Lesley Rausch, Lucien Postelwaite executed perfectly. My jaw dropped when Tisserand caught Dec after she jumped and did a double turn into his arms without even making that big of a deal about it.
In a smart and kind of cheeky gesture from Boal, the evening's final performance is William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, reproduced which completely deconstructs Red Angels. PNB dancers drag twenty tables onto the stage, replacing the bright red, high modernist set with a grey grid for the dancers play in and around. Costumes switch from tight red leotards to the ballet equivalent of tech dude gear—hoodies, t-shirts, slacks, sweat pants. (The notable exception here is Mr. Blue Velvet Pants in the photo below.)
The singular drive of Rowell's violin is replaced with chaotic, industrial beehive sounds of Thom Willems composition. The piece appears to be obsessively choreographed down to to the tiniest detail, and yet the whole thing also looks so scattered and wild. Pattern-seeking creatures that we are, we can't help but get excited when the dancers mirror one another or act as a group, as if some kind of narrative might form. Forsythe knowingly exploits our tendency to think this way, reminding us that all patterns don't necessarily "mean" anything, that some are just happy byproducts of a larger process. Occasionally we move together as one, but only some of us, and only for a few moments.