This weekend is your last chance to see three world premieres from three local choreographers in Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Locally Sourced. The show includes a pop-up gallery called, in keeping with the Seattle-centric theme, "Skid Road Galleries," which showcases the work of over 60 low-income artists who have no gallery representation.
The art show was A LOT to take in. And though a lot of it wasn't my taste, much of it was. In the lobby before the show, PNB Corps de Ballet dancer Miles Pertl, who curated the show with the artist Sydney M. Pertl, told me they sold quite a few pieces during the first week of performances, and I hope that trend continued last night.
The concept of Skid Road Gallery worked well, and I think it offers a good model for other art institutions to follow. Theaters always have contextual stuff hanging in the lobby, so why not engage other artists in the city to contribute? The cross-pollination is productive and exciting.
But the evening wasn't all art. We had three local premieres to behold, each wildly different from the other.
I got a lot of slumber party energy from Eva Stone's elegant, coquettish, F O I L. When lights went down, eight chandeliers dropped from the rafters, transforming McCaw Hall into an abstract ballroom for seven dancers to romp around in vividly colorful, sheer costumes by Melanie Burgess, which were breath-taking in and of themselves.
The five-part piece, set to music from five undersung contemporary and Romantic-era women composers, was fun and smiley on its bookends, but Stone's darker moments really shined. A pas de trois in the amber candlelight of a few chandeliers painted a gorgeous moving portrait of sisterhood and solidarity. In another scene, Margret Mullin stood in the center of a dark stage wearing a modern-looking nightgown as dancers holding balls of light—like flashbulbs suspended in a dark room—surrounded her. They chased her all around the stage, like a star escaping the paparazzi. It was an elegant fever dream, and a fabulous performance from a dancer I don't get to see enough of.
The first 10 minutes of Donald Byrd's Love and Loss were fantastic. The costumes from Doris Black and the scene design from Randall G. Chiarelli felt very noir—short-sleeve button-ups and smart slacks on the men, simple dresses for the women, with a dark backdrop composed of five big rectangles with identical, urn-like sculptures hanging between them. The dancers' movements were frank, urbane, gracefully rigid. At times they welcomely slipped into melodrama. Emmanuel Witzthum's score began with a low, rumbling rhythm—the beat of a big city commute.
But then it kept going. And going. And going. The beat dropped and the music sank into this low murmur that sounded like the last 10 seconds of a song that lasts FIVE HOURS, or however long it went on. I thought the piece was going to end 14 times before it actually did, but then one of the dancers would emerge from the darkness and perform another needless run about the difficulty of finding and keeping a romantic partner in a city. Though the on-deck style of the dancers' entrances contributed to the feeling of endlessness, they did embody this idea that there's always someone else to love in a city, and I wonder if the piece would be better with different music.
Though the music wasn't for me, the dancers executed their roles brilliantly. I was particularly taken with a pas de deux between Kyle Davis and Angelica Generosa. Their clean, powerful, exacting styles complimented each other well, and perfectly fit the mood of the ballet. And Amanda Morgan gets 10,000 or 15,000 points for literally dancing en pointe in circles around Ryan Cardea and Price Suddarth in an incredible display of technique.
PNB dancer Miles Pertl made his debut as a choreographer with Wash of Gray, a visually stunning, balletic postcard from Seattle. Set to a new score from Stranger Genius Award-winning composer Jherek Bischoff, the piece opens with a nod to grunge fashion, with both women and men dancers dressed in overcast gray long sleeves and long black skirts. Animated paintings of Seattle scenes—Pioneer Square, a passing ferry, a choppy Elliott Bay—by Sydney M. Pertl, Maxfield Woodring, and Eli Lara, play on two massive screens in the background, giving the whole piece a cinematic feel.
Highlights here include a pas de deux between Elizabeth Murphy and Luther DeMyer, who meet on what looks like Alki beach and immediately fall in love, as you do. The best part was a duet between Noelani Pantastico and Price Suddarth set in the Olympic Mountains. From above, jets of actual mist sprayed the dancers, soaking them as they moved. Pantastico and Suddarth looked like they were performing some seasonal ritual to the monocloud, their energy more like a brother and sister exploring the forests with wonder and awe rather than some kind of romantic entanglement in the woods. It was all a liiiiittle on the corny side, I must admit, but it was hard not to get swept up in this impressive celebration of our green-gothic corner of the world.