Expect the Unexpected
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Contemporary 4" Program
19 March 2011
McCaw Hall, Seattle
by Dean Speer
German choreographer Marco Goecke’s new creation for Pacific Northwest Ballet certainly did deliver – both the expected and unexpected...and perhaps the unintentional. Set to one of the most glorious cello concertos – by Camille Saint-Saëns, Goecke’s work is highly gestural, dark – literally, and set one’s nerves on edge particularly when about halfway through a pile of wooden chairs came crashing down from the flies across center stage. The dancers then had to glide and move through them as they made their upstage entrances and exits.
The program notes report that his piece was inspired by the brilliant career yet tragic ending to that career of cellist Jacqueline du Pré.
Notable especially were the men – Jonathan Porretta, James Moore, Andrew Bartee, Price Suddarth, Ezra Thomson [on whom Goecke initially worked out some of the material], Sean Rollofson, and Ryan Cardea. Also on deck were Margaret Mullin, Chelsea Adomaitis, and Leah O'Connor.
At the other end of the light spectrum, Mark Morris’s “Pacific” opened the program. A sans gravitas dance set to music by Lou Harrison, the dancers are costumed in blue and green on a base of beige with light flowing leggings, leotard tops for the women and bare chests for the men.
Originally created for the San Francisco Ballet in 1995 and premiered at PNB in 2007, it presented a good opener – interesting yet not too complex. Duet was Rachel Foster and James Moore; the Trio was inhabited by Benjamin Griffiths, Lucien Postlewaite; and Josh Spell, with the Quartet taken by Laura Gilbreath, Kylee Kitchens, Ariana Lallone, and Lesley Rausch.
Keeping it simple but with lively fun was Paul Gibson’s “The Piano Dance,” set to several short piano pieces of various composers – from Chopin to Ginastera, which first made its PNB debut in 2005. It was very nice to see it again. The red costumes reminded me of “Rubies” and while also striking one as contemporary, there the similarity stops with Gibson’s own movement voice kicking in.
I was disappointed that the scheduled and soon-to-be-retired Jeffrey Stanton was replaced by Seth Orza yet very much enjoyed the strength of Orza’s rendition, complemented by his peers of Rausch, Rachel Foster, Griffiths, Margaret Mullin, Jerome Tisserand, Chalnessa Eames – another departing dancer whose iconic personality and style will be sorely missed, and Josh Spell [also leaving at the end of the season, he has provided yeoman’s service in innumerable ballets].
Hot on the choreographic circuit is Alexei Ratmansky and his “Concerto DSCH” ably proves why. Speaking of personality, you can get a sense of his and of what the ballet is going to be like, just from the title, which is a clever and double play on letters and words. It stands for the composer’s name – Dimitri Shostakovich (Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102, 1957) and it’s also, using German musical nomenclature, spells out actual notes which also give us his name.
Inventive and fun, I particularly liked the adagio with the pas de deux couple surrounded by two circles of dancers, each turning their own way but with the central couple slowly revolving on their own – independently at their own rate – the female, the awesome Carla Körbes reclined on her side, lifted by lanky Karel Cruz.
Taking virtuosity to new levels were the trio of Carrie Imler, Batkhurel Bold, and Orza. Imler in particular with embellishing saut de chat with a lightening-quick double rond de jambe...to the front, while executing the leap. Something I’d never seen before. Brilliant. Ratmansky kept Bold and Orza busy with “guy” steps – more jumps and vertical turns. We all loved it!
The conclusion was also the unexpected – a tutti pattern of a strong step into plié fondu with the back foot on forced-arch and the hands and arms clasped. Not a pretty and light shape but one that worked. Codas often use what we might call “open” movements and shapes and this was the opposite – down and “closed.”
“Concerto DSCH” was a full-company ballet that made use too of the mighty PNB Orchestra and one that ended the evening in a very upbeat way.