Pacific Northwest Ballet
McGaw Hall

Seattle, WA

November 4, 2017, evening
“Her Story” Program: Her Door to the Sky, Afternoon Ball, Plot Point

Dean Speer

For anyone who is charmed by the works of painter and sculptor Georgia O’Keeffe, it will come as no surprise that Jessica Lang’s ballet Her Door to the Sky, inspired by O’Keeffe’s Patio Door series of 1946-56 and set to the Simple Symphony of Benjamin Britten is filled with light and the colors of New Mexico. I was reminded of that state’s song, O Fair New Mexico, which goes in part,

Under a sky of azure, where balmy breezes blow,
Kissed by the golden sunshine, is Nuevo Mexico.
Home of the Montezuma, with fiery hearts aglow,
State of the deeds historic, is Nuevo Mexico.

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers (l-r) Cecilia Iliesiu, Elle Macy, Angelica Generosa, and Leta Biasucci in Jessica Lang’s "Her Door to the Sky" Photo by Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers
(l-r) Cecilia Iliesiu, Elle Macy,
Angelica Generosa, and Leta Biasucci
in Jessica Lang’s “Her Door to the Sky”
Photo by Angela Sterling

It’s a sunny work clearly filled with love, good feeling, and a nice sense of community. It starts with an all-cast section, then one for the women, one for the men, and then a reprise of the entire cast of 10.

The return of Twyla Tharp’s 2008 PNB premiere Afternoon Ball was a welcome one – good to see it again. I think my take on the storyline is a bit different than the program notes. It came across to me as two pixies (Leta Biasucci and Ezra Thomson) haunting and torturing the mind of a lone man (the excellent Ryan Cardea), interrupted by a waltzing couple (Cecilia Iliesiu and Dylan Ward), concluding with one of the tormentors being consoled, corrected, or redirected by an angelic figure. Vladimir Martynov’s strangely weird music fit well with Tharp’s vision. This was conducted by Allan Dameron.

Virtual Hitchcock. That’s what patina came to mind in viewing Crystal Pite’s Plot Point for the first time. Reiterated anew for PNB, eliminating a sub-plot, and set to the sound score (Bernard Hermann) from Hitchcock’s Psycho, there are two distinct groups within the cast. Crime and passion intertwined, and by this, slightly connected to the first work, only in that New Mexico’s state song was penned by the daughter of Pat Garrett (who captured Billy the Kid), Elizabeth. Pite describes the two groups – one head-to-toe in white (like clay models; the program listed as replicas) and the other as regular human beings:

If the configurations and gestures of the models sketch out the essential plot points of a narrative, their corresponding characters embody the emotional tone and tension of those moments. The characters literally flesh it out.

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer James Moore and members of the company in Crystal Pite’s "Plot Point" Photo by Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer James Moore
and members of the company
in Crystal Pite’s “Plot Point”
Photo by Angela Sterling

Entertaining and theatrical to its core, Plot Point opens like a cinematic work, the story outlined and projected onto a downstage scrim. Act I and has the elements of a good crime drama: love, betrayal, revenge, pursuit, rescue. With Noelani Pantastico screaming at the top of her lungs (amply, believe me!) at the famous point in the score around when, in the movie Psycho, Janet Leigh is about to be slashed in the shower scene, a zombie (one of the models) pops up right behind the conductor and starts waving a knife around. It concludes just as theatrically with bodies on the stage and two lovers entwined – with but with no clear “winners.”

Karel Cruz and Linsdi Dec danced as Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Lucien Postlewaite and Leah Merchant as Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Fernando was danced by James Moore; Pantastico was Celia; and two thugs were Ryan Cardea and Miles Pertl. Their replicas were represented by William Lin-Yee (Jones/Thug); Emma Love Suddarth (Jones); Kyle Smith (Smith/Thug); Leah Terada (Smith and shadow); Benjamin Griffiths (Fernando); and Leta Biasucci (Celia).