Opening Nights: PNB's Contemporary 4

Dance doesn't need a story to make an impression.

Between the gentle fairy tale of last month's Cinderella and the magical rush of A Midsummer Night's Dream in April, Pacific Northwest Ballet's Contemporary 4 program is a bright, tart reminder that dance doesn't need to tell a story to make an impression. Paul Gibson's The Piano Dance and Pacific, by Mark Morris, are both welcome revivals. Gibson's stylish set of neoclassical vignettes owes a great deal to George Balanchine's innovations, and he manipulates that heritage quite deftly, making the ensemble look smart and sexy. Morris has laced ritual overtones through his work in a series of monumental shapes drawn from his modern-dance background, punctuated by his signature non sequiturs. Alexei Ratmansky's Russian training is evident in his choreography for Concerto DSCH, danced to Dmitri Shostakovich's Piano Concerto no. 2. It's buoyed along with a valiant, almost Soviet ballet style. His geometric use of the corps de ballet can claim Marius Petipa as an ancestor, and the thread of childlike whimsy through the work recalls the Ballets Russes. But beyond this Slavic family tree is an excellent development of classical dancing that's rhythmic and articulate. Ratmansky is part of the fresh new generation of post-Balanchine choreographers; we'll get to see his version of Don Quixote next season. Choreographer Marco Goecke intended the world premiere of Place a Chill to be disturbing. The movement vocabulary is a tour de force of twitching; the way his dancers emerge and disappear into dark corners of the stage keeps the viewer on edge. That tension is broken halfway through the dance, when a jumble of chairs is dropped onto the stage. Chaos—even the suggestion of catastrophe—suddenly intervenes, and we in our safe, stable seats are reminded of disasters outside the auditorium.

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