Opening Nights: Director’s Choice

Director’s Choice

McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. (Seattle Center), 441-2424, $28–$179. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.–Sat., 1 p.m. Sun. Ends March 23.

Pacific Northwest Ballet director Peter Boal may have trained and performed at New York City Ballet, but he’s got a curiosity about dance that stretches beyond its neoclassical heritage. His picks for this year’s Director’s Choice program include Broadway and contemporary influences at either end of the evening, with a pair of postmodern works in the middle.

Susan Stroman’s Broadway-inflected TAKE FIVE . . . More or Less is a sunny opener full of stock characters: a brassy sexpot, a jazzy tap-dancer, flirty women, and snappy men. All go home happy in 5/4 time to the familiar tunes by David Brubeck and Paul Desmond. Kaori Nakamura and Angelica Generosa share the pivotal role of the woman in yellow who jump-starts the action; both bring a bright and sharp quality to the movement.

Kiss, an aerial duet by Susan Marshall, provides an eerie contrast to Stroman’s happy-ending world. Barely suspended off the floor by 40-foot ropes, Carla Körbes and James Moore glide in eccentric parabolas, sometimes swinging in tandem, other times just missing the connection. Kiss does indeed include an embrace, but it’s a darker kind of romance than sharing an old-fashioned porch swing. The two reach for each other, only to push away repeatedly. The rigging makes their relationship as much about physics as about emotion.

Just about any dance made to Igor Stravinsky’s iconic Le Sacre du Printemps would be a tour de force. Even if you don’t follow the original scenario about ritual sacrifice, just working with his ever-shifting time signatures and eccentric accents would qualify for the title. In the case of Molissa Fenley’s grueling State of Darkness, it is indeed a triumph just to dance through to the end. Fenley has created a ritualized journey for a solo performer that is both an endurance test and a meditation. Matthew Renko made a very able debut in the part opening weekend, but Jonathan Porretta, who’s danced the role before, shows the depth of his experience. He makes the stage seem small.

The program closes with a premiere: Alejandro Cerrudo’s Memory Glow is a slippery and twisty ensemble work reminiscent of Jiří Kylián, who’s been such an influence on European contemporary dance. Cerrudo seems to have lubricated the air inside McCaw Hall. Ten dancers shift in and out of relationships as they slide across the stage on stocking feet. (At one moment, Raphaël Bouchard surfs halfway across the stage to arrive with a flourish, rather like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.) Partner work resembles an advanced class in knot-tying, with limbs folding and twining, only to have it all slither apart in the end. We’re left with a memory of wild activity, retreating into darkness.

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