Pacific Northwest Ballet
Rep 1 Program (Streaming)

October 15-19, 2020
Streamed pre-recorded performances of The Calling and Mopey, and excerpts from Dances at a Gathering, F O I L, One Body, Swan Lake, Jewels, The Trees The Trees, Red Angels

Dean Speer

Pacific Northwest Ballet has often been leading the charge for embracing change — and figuring out how that change will look. Their opening salvo, due to the pandemic, was to stream a video of their re-tooled Rep 1 program over a limited period of time to subscribers and one-time ticket buyers (who were given access codes). Very savvy. This is the way to do it for presenting groups, and not to completely shut down, as too many have (think Broadway).

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer James Moore
in Marco Goecke’s “Mopey”
Photo by Angela Sterling

Smartly done, it featured “small” dances — dances that require smaller casts such as solos or petite groups, and if partnering happened, it involved married couples or those abiding in the same household. Musicians were masked and socially-distanced. Excerpts ranged from Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake, George Balanchine’s Jewels, and Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering to PNB audience favorites like Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels, Jessica Lang’s The Calling, and Marco Goecke’s Mopey.

Opening was Lucien Postlewaite in a solo from one of my favorite Jerome Robbins works, Dances at a Gathering with music by Chopin. The dancing was at once lovely, poetic, and poignant. Postlewaite is at his artistic height and depth, and paired with his considerable talent and technique, this made for compelling viewing.

Set to music by female composers, Eva Stone’s F O I L is unusual in that three of its dancers, who are semi-nude, face upstage throughout the dance. It is an interesting dance, relatively high on the contemporary scale, with lots of upper body movement and a minimum of leg and pattern changing. Great cast with (II – Be Still) Amanda Morgan, Cecilia Iliesiu, and Juliet Prine and (IV – Wait) with Abby Jayne DeAngelo.

One Body was a dance new to me and PNB. I enjoy seeing dances that showcase dancers, individually and collectively, and this one, danced by Christopher D’Ariano, is a really good example. To music by John Kennedy (“Prayer for the Great Family” from One Body, 1998), with choreography by the late, great NYCB dancer Albert Evans and staged by its originator, Peter Boal, it’s all too short at five minutes.

Swan Lake is always a blockbuster, even if presented in a smaller format. I so enjoyed the excerpts presented and danced by some of PNB’s finest:  Pas de Trois Variation with Kyle Davis; Odette Variation, Elizabeth Murphy; Black Swan Pas de Deux, Angelica Generosa & Steven Loch (each of whom made their debuts in this part).

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer
Leta Biasucci in “Emeralds”
from George Balanchine’s “Jewels”
© The George Balanchine Trust
Photo by Angela Sterling

Emeralds is the most lyrical of the troika that comprises Balanchine’s 1967 Jewels. How lucky it was that PNB had a couple of its original cast members on hand a few years ago to coach (Violette Verdy and Mimi Paul). I don’t know if Leta Biasucci got to work with either of them, but the sheer joy and loveliness embedded in the opening solo came to fruition with her radiant and happy interpretation.

Rubies is SO contemporary — exciting, quirky, and unusual with sharp, not rounded angles, flexed feet, bent arms; very insouciant. Having fun with its pas de deux were Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan and Davis.

This brings us to the concluding section of Diamonds (Scherzo) with principals Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand. Elegant and refined, these dancers are amazing in everything they do, and they evoked to me grand ballet and old-world artistic standards.

The Calling, with Dylan Wald, is a lyrical solo by Jessica Lang and a soulful rendition of someone, I think, with deep longing, perhaps meditating or grieving or even expressing a profound love. The extra-long wrapping white skirted costume is a striking feature and becomes part of the choreography.

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Dylan Wald
in Jessica Lang’s “The Calling”
Photo by Angela Sterling

James Moore owns Mopey, and I think of this increasingly athletic and frenetic solo as being “his.”

Set to recited poetry  (of Heather Christle),  The Trees  The Trees, with choreography by Robyn Mineko Williams, is a strange, hauntingly beautiful poem itself and it uses the rare, but not unheard of, combination of music, movement, and spoken word. In its excerpted Pas de Deux were Elle Macy and Wald.

Ulysses Dove’s dancing and creative careers were cut short all too soon. His Red Angels is one of his best choreographic inventions, and the excerpt (Finale) presented here showcased its bite and edgy patina. It featured Amanda Morgan, William Lin-Yee, Cecilia Iliesiu, and Postlewaite.

The program was a successful litmus test for this kind of presentation. It’s a presentation format that we’ll be enjoying, through the magic of technology and computing, for the duration of the 2020-21 season. I am grateful that we have the tools, and PNB the talent, to pull off what is a small miracle.