Elle Macy defying the laws of gravity thanks to a strobe light and otherworldly hustle.
Elle Macy defying the laws of gravity thanks to a strobe light and otherworldly hustle. Angela Sterling

A couple times each season, Pacific Northwest Ballet's art director Peter Boal sets aside the canonical material that audiences typically associate with the genre and delivers a collection of contemporary ballets that showcase the art form's range. Plot Points was this year's entry into that category, and it was so good and approachable and fun that I initially didn't have much else to say about it beyond those blunt descriptors. In my notes after the show, I literally wrote, "A bunch of fun ballets for people who like to have a nice time," as if I were some grandad who was just happy to be there.

Though live performances wrapped up over the weekend, you can stream the production online between March 31 and April 4 — and, if you're a fun person who likes to have a nice time, then you should!

As usual, Boal's thoughtful curation created a rich, layered experience that rewarded both the casual viewer and the die-hard dance headz out there. Though each of Plot Points' four ballets drew from markedly different styles, for me they seemed bound by the multifaceted season of spring itself, but in a non-obvious, non-corny way.

Spring is all about multiplication, and all four ballets played with the theme of multiplicity in their own ways. The season also straddles the past and the future, breeding "Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire," and, in turn, all four ballets worked with nonlinear timelines. In a season that begins with scarcity and ends in abundance, the musical compositions, too, moved from airy minimalism to dense maximalism. And in a season that regularly swings from sunny days to stormy ones, the pace of Plot Points' pieces fluctuated wildly.

The show started nice and nostalgic with the world premiere of Robyn Mineko Williams's Before I Was, then we hit the gas with David Parsons's Caught, then we snuck around a park at night with Crystal Pite's Plot Point before someone blew the recess whistle and kicked off Justin Peck's adrenaline-packed The Times Are Racing. All that variety made the nearly 2.5-hour runtime feel like a tight 90 minutes.

Williams's Before I Was captured the formative moments of childhood that happen away from adult supervision, those early ethics lessons you only learn with your best friend. Set designer Andrew Boyce assembled the stage like a foggy memory — a kid's idea of a house frame, an oversized chair, and a pair of headlights that randomly appeared and disappeared from a dark driveway. Hogan McLaughlin's costumes came straight out of a Peanuts cartoon. Ghostly, symphonic indie music from Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham (fka OHMME) filled the air with nostos and stray lyrics that defined a companionate relationship between the pair of dancers onstage.

On opening night, that pair was Christopher D'Ariano and Leah Terada. They made Williams's complex and demanding chain of steps look like a tumble across a playground. Terada showed off her considerable flexibility and strength as she executed a series of moves apparently drawn from martial arts and the weird shit kids do on jungle gyms. D'Ariano, who exudes a sort of princely largess, tossed her around like an older brother in a swimming pool. Aside from offering up a dreamy vision of past and future selves, the piece served as a nice spotlight for a couple strong dancers growing out of the corps de ballet, imo.

Elle Macy nailed Parsons's Caught on opening night. She perfectly timed her massive jumps with a strobe effect to make it look as if she were soaring across the stage and then magically coming to rest in the center with her hands crossed firmly behind her back like a character from Street Fighter. Robert Fripp's Tron-like video game music intensified the 8-bit feel of the piece and kept the blood pumping. The short runtime and brisk pace prevented the strobe light's novelty from wearing thin, and once the shock wore off I could see the moments Macy spent shrouded in darkness as a metaphor for all the work dancers do offstage before the spotlight shines on them, which made the piece quite effecting in retrospect. And, though the ballet originally premiered in 1989, in 2022 it's hard not to read it as a social media critique — on the feeds we only ever see people flying through the air, not them running and sweating and leaping and then falling down to earth.

In Pites Plot Point, each main character has his or her double.
In Pite's Plot Point, each main character has a pale double. Angela Sterling

The program takes its name from Crystal Pite's enigmatic Plot Point, a noir ballet that sprints through a fragmented drama of infidelity, murder, and charming house parties. This year marks the second time I've seen this show, and I still have no idea what the hell is going on. It's clear Pite wants to play with the figures of storytelling rather than simply tell a straightforward story itself, but aside from that vague notion I feel like a young child lost in the grocery store. But I love all the packaging up and down these aisles! On the night I saw it, Elizabeth Murphy, James Moore, and Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan turned in stellar performances. They acted well and perfectly embodied Pite's trademark angular style. This one's particularly worth watching for the novel death scenes — Mrs. Jones (Murphy) eerily dies on the kitchen floor to the sound of a fallen plate wobbling to a stop, Fernando (Moore) dies after running for his life through a forest of paper trees, and Celia's (Ryan) blood-curdling scream takes every last bit of air out of the room.

A team effort.
A team effort. Angela Sterling

As PNB audiences have seen in repeated performances of Year of the Rabbit, choreographer Justin Peck loves him some team sports, and he exercises that affinity yet again in The Times Are Racing, a sporty piece that trades in pointe shoes for sneakers and classical music for Dan Deacon's maximalist electronica. Though there's no I in "team," Kyle Davis stole the show the night I saw it. He moved with nearly insane speed and precision, projecting the boundless energy pent up in the constantly-morphing choreography itself. His duet with D'Ariano simply ruled, and it probably would have won my own personal Duet of the Night Award if it weren't for Lucien Postlewaite's turn with Elizabeth Murphy toward the end. The duet they pulled off left me cheering and breathless like, well, a grandad rooting from the sidelines.

You can buy digital access here through Monday. The only caveat: Caught isn't included in the package. :(