Pacific Northwest Ballet is a master in programming—variety, diversity, complexity. Case in point: Two very different PNB programs, one, all new choreography (Rep 4) and then the other, one of classical ballet’s greatest comedies, Coppélia (Rep 5). My cursory notes suggest a whole lot of great dancing. Highlights for me are below.
Rep (Program) 4 featured world premieres from Donald Byrd and Alejandro Cerrudo and streamed April 1 – 5, 2021. “And the Sky is Not Cloudy all Day,” with music by John Adams and choreography by Donald Byrd, had a distinct ranch/frontier theme. This is a piece that travels, and the dancers (including Mark Cuddihee, Christopher D’Ariano, Noah Martzall, Ezra Thomson) suggest a searching and longing with their moves set to some beautiful strings. It featured Kyle Davis, solo dancing to etchy violin music, in striking hip gyrations and body isolations. Dylan Wald, too, was a standout. Whether in attitude or extension, he swept the room, commanding the attention of all.
“Future Memory,” a new work by Alejandro Cerrudo, set to a montage of music, was danced by Leah Terada and Miles Pertl, and Elle Macy and Dylan Wald. The piece is characterized by gorgeous choreography (balances, counterbalances, lifts, evocative shapes) showcasing the dancers’ full extensions, slow movement control, rhythm, and musicality.
The June 2017 (archival) performance of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Alexei Ratmansky with music by Modest Mussorgsky featured a star-studded cast: Rachel Foster, Carrie Imler, Elizabeth Murphy, Sarah Ricard Orza, Noelani Pantastico, Karel Cruz, Kyle Davis, Seth Orza, Jonathan Porretta, Jerome Tisserand (over half of whom, by next year, will no longer be dancing with the company) that delivered brilliant dance as, well, stars do. The musical Pantastico was right on the music, others (Cruz and Murphy) played with it. Foster did not disappoint with her fiercely fast feet and batterie. Also of note: the technically smart Davis, the Orzas with their big, dramatic story-telling, Imler and Porretta with their seamless play and fabulous sense of rhythm, Davis and Foster’s gaming of it all, and Pantastico and Tisserand’s mesmerizing phrasing.
Rep (Program) 5: George Balanchine’s “Coppélia” with music by Léo Delibes streamed May 6-10, 2021. Delibe’s overture is at times emotional, at times familiar (that repeated mazurka!), but otherwise joyous. The music may be a little repetitive, as is the dance, but, at least, it’s all very upbeat. Leta Biasucci as the title character is a delight. Every move she makes is utterly self-aware. Her stamina, precision, acting—all spot on. Benjamin Griffiths, too, is a marvel in the role—a great technician (a massive jumper), but also actor. This is a perfect ballet for those new to it: Lots of dancing—some folk themed—but with plenty of classical, a creepy Dr Coppelius studio, dolls that move. It also has the requisite Act III divertissements: All the dancers (Margaret Mullin, Sarah Orza, Kylee Kitchens, certainly Noe Pantastico) enter the stage and the audience exhales, ready for uplifting dance. PNB had an appropriate note about the dancer in yellowface, and how it is assessing its pieces using a diversity and representation lens.
#PNB #Leta Biasucci #Benjamin Griffiths #ballet #Coppelia