Ballet Across America: Pacific Northwest Ballet
Long Live the Pioneer! Duato's ballet of survival reveals anguish and triumph
by Ali Duffy
June 10-15, 2008 - Kennedy Center, Washington, DC
Nacho Duato’s “Jardi Tancat,” performed by Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet, cast a refreshingly earthbound light on the Kennedy Center June 14th in its Ballet Across America season. One of nine companies featured in the showcase, PNB displayed its dancers’ superior diverse technical strengths in the work based on Catalonian folk tales of hardship and survival.
Dressed in muted reds and browns, three male and three female dancers gathered in a corner of the space atop a floor of animal skins. At first in silence, they shifted back and forth on their knees. The dancers slowly climbed to their feet, tension curving their backs into beleaguered crescents. All eyes gazed downward in a shameful, pained expression of life’s injustice. Maria del Mar Bonet’s soulfully wrenching vocal score pleaded alongside the dancers, who personified her voice. Reaching arms to the sky then warping their torsos over, the group’s spirit wavered between blazing a trail and admitting defeat.
Duato established a sense of community with occasions of unison mixed with duets that depicted shared grief and supportive empathy. While a female pairing (Ariana Lallone and Noelani Pantastico) hinted at a developing matriarchal society, male/female partnerships struck a more traditional emotional cord. Especially memorable moments occurred when the women were lifted, responding with flexed-foot kicking and flailing arm gestures.
Upon viewing “Jardi Tancat,” one wonders if this is a ballet at all. With no pointe work, no tutus, and no sensationally triumphant love story, what exactly is this barefoot, organically atmospheric creation? Duato provided sublime sophistication in its basest form using commonly shared goals (to overcome adversity and thrive) as subject matter. “Jardi Tencat” demanded a solidly grounded and gloriously fearless cast, a challenge Pacific Northwest Ballet boldly rose to meet and conquer.