Pacific Northwest Ballet
McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

November 5, 2021
Program: “Beyond Ballet”
Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, Ghost Variations, The Personal Element

Dean Speer

November brings with it definitive Fall weather as well as PNB’s annual foray into what’s usually their most experimental or out-of-the-ballet-box program, prior to jumping into “Nutcracker” in December.

Titled “Beyond Ballet,” the program included the late Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, subtitled “Odes to Love and Loss”; Ghost Variations choreographed by Jessica Lang, and a work by a choreographer new to PNB but long experienced, Alonzo King and his The Personal Element. All are fine pieces.

Lesley Rausch and Dylan Wald
in Ulysses Dove’s “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven”
Photo by Angela Sterling

Dove showed that he was a good choreographer who knew how to put a work together. He used the classic form builder of structure that has a theme, a development and/or variations of that theme, and a return to the theme. This return he used multiple times — the cast scurrying in from all stage points, converging in a circle, with the men and then the women each executing motifs, such as bouréeing in place. I tend not to be in the Arvo Part fan club but yet found this Estonian’s music to be quite effective and appropriately haunting here.

Elizabeth Murphy in Jessica Lang’s “Ghost Variations”
Photo by Angela Sterling

I really liked that Lang used both Robert and Clara Schumann’s piano pieces for her ballet. I appreciate digging into and using the work of female composers and also of works that are not necessarily well-known of themselves. These seem to make good fodder for intimate, often personal pieces as was the case here. First released digitally a year ago, it was a thorough pleasure getting to see it live on-stage and in-person.  At the piano was one of PNB’s stalwart accompanists, Christina Siemens.

Pacific Northwest Ballet in Alonzo King’s
“The Personal Element”
Photo by Angela Sterling

I was intrigued by the (to me) unknown music of composer Jason Moran that King used for his work. It also lent itself to the intimacy of this chamber-sized ballet, a dancer cast of 8 — some of the best that PNB has to offer: Cecilia Iliesiu, Elle Macy, Amanda Morgan, Miles Pertl, Lucien Postlewaite, Lesley Rausch, James Kirby Rogers, and Dylan Wald. This work had some surprising and memorable moments. The piano soloist was Josh Archibald-Seiffer.