The 2005 dance calendar spanned the spectrum, from wildly outrageous to even more radically conservative. These examples could be matched many times over, but here are a few of the memorable evenings spent in the theater this year.
Wade Madsen: flying at 50.
One of the strangest double bills I've ever seen was the Spectrum Dance Theater Pineapple Poll/Petrushka show last February. Although both feature choreography by Donald Byrd, they were in extremely different styles. Poll (set to tunes by Arthur Sullivan) is a charming example of a narrative ballet, while Petrushka reflects Byrd's inclination to remake works from the ballet canon with his signature approach of aggressive virtuosity. Poll fit nicely with the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society's H.M.S. Pinafore in 2004, but was disorienting alongside a punked-out Petrushka.
Last year's farewell season for outgoing Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell had plenty of wonderful moments. One of the best parts of the tribute program in June was produced by their son, Christopher Stowell, director of the Oregon Ballet Theater. He and his brothers arranged for a one-time-only staging of George Balanchine's Liebeslieder Walzer, a powerfully romantic work to the Brahms waltz cycle, and one of their parents' favorite ballets. The entire cast was wonderful, with Arianna Lallone particularly stunning. She's often cast in roles that take advantage of her height and strength, but here she was especially limpid and tender, qualities that would come out again in her September performances of Jerome Robbins' In the Night.
The dance programs at the University of Washington and Cornish College both staged excellent reconstructions of work by modern dance pioneer Martha Graham. The UW's Chamber Dance Company's production of Primitive Mysteries last February was full of the high-tension devotion that characterized Graham's aesthetic, and the November performances of Diversion of Angels by Cornish students were unabashedly romantic and beautiful—qualities we don't see much in contemporary choreography.
And happily for all of us, a few months after his 50th birthday, dancer and choreo-grapher Wade Madsen produced "Four Elements," an evening of new works that reflected the wit and intelligence of a lifetime spent working in the arts. That, with his Fellini-esque Sad/Happy for the October d9 program, should make Madsen very proud of 2005.