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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 12
PNB's New Works continue through Saturday
Arts & Entertainment
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PNB's New Works continue through Saturday

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

New Works
McCaw Hall
Through March 24


Pacific Northwest Ballet is enjoying one of its busiest times in several years. A collection of three new-to-Seattle modern dances, simply titled New Works, continues through tomorrow at McCaw Hall. Evening and matinee performances remain and good seating is available for all performances. A special 'family ballet,' a 60-minute dance version of Snow White, plays its second weekend at PNB and good seating is also available for those final performances. And, best news of all, at the opening of the New Works program last Friday, Peter Boal, PNB's artistic director, welcomed an enthusiastic crowd with the news that PNB had been selected as the second recipient of the prestigious Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance.

Linda Shelton, executive director of The Joyce Theater in New York, presented the Nureyev prize to Boal, who will officially receive the award for PNB at the Joyce's Spring Gala on April 4 in New York. At the gala, The Joyce will also honor the Boeing Company with its 2012 Award for Corporate Philanthropy.

PNB will use the award, a $25,000 commissioning grant, to create a new work by Alejandro Cerrudo, currently the resident choreographer for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. PNB will premiere the new work in Seattle and at The Joyce in New York during its 2013/14 season. It's a great honor for Seattle, for Boal, and for PNB. Boal called the grant 'the kind of stuff artistic directors' dreams are made of.'

Boal's continued support of new works and new choreographers took the focus for all three dances in the New Works program - 'A Million Kisses to my Skin,' 'Cylindrical Shadows,' and the world premiere of 'Mating Theory.' Like any evening of new-to-Seattle dances, it's next to impossible to accurately review three new creations with just a single viewing. Reactions - in the press room at intermissions, with PNB patrons seated next to SGN's reviewer and guest, comments overheard in the aisles and lobby - were all over the place.

'A Million Kisses to my Skin' was the evening's strongest work, a U.S. premiere that is likely to return to PNB's repertoire soon. Danced by nine of the company's top dancers, the abstract work is a 2000 creation from the Dutch National Ballet (Amsterdam). Choreographer David Dawson was in Seattle on opening night to supervise final touches in the work's U.S. premiere. It was danced to a live performance of music by Bach, with conductor Allan Dameron leading the small Baroque orchestra from the piano. Six women in nearly backless sky-blue and ice-blue leotards and three men in tights of the same colors (with tan or flesh-colored T-shirts) moved in various combinations. The up-tempo sections were 'almost exhausting,' one critic in the press room noted at intermission. One highlight of the work - and of the evening for this scribe - was the trio of men who ended the fast-paced opening section. Overall, it was an exhilarating work, one that is more than welcome to return to PNB.

'Cylindrical Shadows' debuted in Seattle in January, 2011, at Whim W'Him, the local dance company formed by Olivier Wevers, a former PNB principal dancer. Choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, the PNB premiere was staged by Wevers. It is officially noted as a co-creation between Whim W'Him and PNB. Since works by female choreographers are relatively rare events, even today, excitement in the press room was high.

'Pretentious,' hissed one patron behind this writer not very far into the abstract, modern work. Danced to a record score compiled from Bach, Purcell, and a modern electronic composer, the nine dancers (six men and three women this time) wore a ragtag assortment of tie-dyed and 'found' contemporary costumes - sort of a Hair or Godspell collection of castoffs. The opening sequence - unison moves of the nine dancers - seemed strangely out of unison. This may have been intended (it was difficult to tell what the intentions were).

Some of the combinations were remarkably appealing, while some appeared to be outtakes from West Side Story - much thrusting of arms in upward positions. Projections of trees on a screen and the clever use of shadows of on-stage dancers brought a classy touch to the work. 'Cylindrical Shadows' is not likely to be an audience favorite, although one critic found it to be her favorite of the evening. 'It was about death,' she sighed, trying to turn commentary toward the positive.

'Mating Theory' closed the three-part program. Danced to electronic music by Jasper Gahunia, the third abstract work of the evening suffered from its programming with the earlier ones. Gray, ill-fitting, unattractive costumes for both the men and women did nothing to make the work more appealing. 'The Dance of the Electronic Robots' would have been a fitting description. Two women exiting mid-way through the work whispered, 'Will it never end?' as they stomped up the aisle. They were among several walkouts near this scribe. The electronic score included numerous 'defects' built into the work. The work was a world premiere that would seem more at home at Seattle's On the Boards rather than at PNB at McCaw Hall. But, like any new work, it has to be seen to be evaluated.

Fans of more classical ballet programming will be delighted with the April 13-22 revival of Balanchine's Apollo and Kent Stowell's Carmina Burana, danced to the world-famous score by Carl Orff. Both works are audience pleasers - and both were once modern and new. Who knows, all three of the New Works titles might end up on an 'audience favorites' list in 50 years.

Complete ticket details are available at www.pnb.org or (206) 441-2424. Ask about various discounts.

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