A review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Contemporary 4," including the stunning Northwest debut of Alexei Ratmansky's "Concerto DSCH."
Sometimes, a ballet can make you feel better about the world. That’s the case with Alexei Ratmansky’s “Concerto DSCH,” which made its Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere Friday night at McCaw Hall. Though it was the last work in a fairly long, up-and-down evening, it was a joy from beginning to end — the perfect introduction to the hot-ticket Russian choreographer, whose work we’ll be seeing more of at PNB in the future. (Next up: his “Don Quixote,” next season.)
Set to a score by Dmitri Shostakovich (played by the full PNB orchestra, with solo work by guest pianist Duane Hulbert), “Concerto DSCH” is crammed full of playful detail and nuance; when it’s over, all you want is to see it again. Though there’s no narrative throughline, its dancers live in a story; they wave at each other, walk with arms casually draped around partners, show moments of jealousy and of ardor (there’s a sweet kiss, between two corps members, that you could easily miss) and share a stage as part of a community. During a pas de deux, a few dancers sprawl on the floor in a downstage corner to watch.
And what a community it is. Carrie Imler, as part of a heaven-sent trio that also included the high-flying Seth Orza and Batkhurel Bold, danced with joyous abandon; she whirled seemingly on the edge of a precipice, sustaining a dizzying momentum. Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz, the central couple, were all lightness, with breathless lifts and delicate glances. All of them, with a strong corps behind them, created something magical.
More earthbound, and more puzzling, was Marco Goecke’s world premiere “Place a Chill,” a great deal of sound and semi-related fury. Made up primarily of wildly jittery upper-body movements (fiendishly difficult, to be sure, and performed with remarkable synchronicity by the cast), the dance had a few electric moments but mostly felt overlong and gimmicky, deliberately at odds with its music (a Camille Saint-Saëns cello concerto) for reasons only clear if you read the program notes. Jonathan Porretta, as always, was mesmerizing, but ultimately “Place a Chill” didn’t seem worth all the effort expended on its behalf.
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The evening began with the return of Mark Morris’ serene “Pacific,” with its flowing skirts and airy yet grounded jumps. Paul Gibson’s quietly elegant “The Piano Dance” also was performed, the highlights of which were a silky solo by Rachel Foster and a languorous pas de deux by Orza and Lesley Rausch. All very well done — but, more Ratmansky, please.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org