Kylián + Pite
McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 441-2424, pnb.org. $28–$174. 7:30 p.m. Thurs. & Sat., 1 p.m. Sun. Ends Nov. 17.
After opening its season with one iconoclast, Pacific Northwest Ballet is following up with two others. Like Twyla Tharp, the Czechoslovakia-born Jiří Kylián and Canada’s Crystal Pite are both taking ballet in unusual directions, combining it with several other movement styles. In this program of four dances, their work feeds PNB artistic director Peter Boal’s desire to broaden the horizons of his dancers and their audience.
Kylián’s hybrid style retains the physical virtuosity of ballet, but tempers it with a kind of organic lyricism, drawing a more grounded quality from modern-dance techniques. After making over 75 works, most for Nederlands Dans Theater, he’s become one of the major influences on European contemporary dance—and an increasingly popular import to the U.S. PNB already dances a pair of his works to Mozart; and here we see how Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze both make sly fun of baroque mannerisms. New to PNB is Kylián’s 1981 Forgotten Land, inspired by an Edvard Munch painting of three women contemplating a drowned landscape. Given a propulsive quality by Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, dancers surge like water across the stage, where couples struggle and fail to remain together.
Those who’ve previously seen Pite and her Kidd Pivot company at On the Boards will be familiar with some of her extreme movement choices. But those kinetic experiments are really amplified by the sheer scale of Emergence. Created four years ago for the National Ballet of Canada, the work features almost 40 dancers in a stunning investigation of group behaviors and “hive mind,” drawing images from the insect world. Ballet often uses unison movement to create a sense of rising momentum, but here the collective action is more threatening than exhilarating. At several key moments, the dancers count in sotto voce as they snap from one position to another—a thoroughly eerie effect.
Opening weekend was packed with truly impressive performances. Rachel Foster’s intensity was thrilling in the opening section of Emergence, where she was like a newborn colt struggling to master limbs and joints. Andrew Bartee and Kiyon Gaines, alternating in a thrashing solo from the same work, launched themselves across the stage. Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz were a sleek pair in Petite Mort and an anguished one in Forgotten Land. But it was the company as a whole, throughout the program, that knocked the audience flat.