A review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Love Stories," an evening of great pas de deux, including excerpts from "Swan Lake" and "Sleeping Beauty."

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Little moments stay with you after Pacific Northwest Ballet’s sweeping “Love Stories” evening, lingering in the memory like beautiful shadows. While the dancing Friday night was of a very high caliber, a themed evening of five ballets such as this puts the emphasis on storytelling; the creation of something dramatic between two dancers, a piece of music, and an audience. What remained after opening night wasn’t so much the turns and leaps, marvelous as they were, but the connections between the dancers, some of which seemed to magically turn vast McCaw Hall into an intimate, secret place.

In Jerome Robbins’ “Afternoon of a Faun,” at PNB after more than 30 years’ absence, the audience becomes the mirror into which the dancers gaze. A young man (Jerome Tisserand) and woman (Kylee Kitchens) meet in an empty studio; fascinated by their own reflections, they notice each other almost accidentally. Tisserand and Kitchens quietly allowed this brief encounter to change and charge them; you could see, as he lifted her, a quiet, sudden rapture. With Debussy’s shimmering music, they beautifully created a mood — a dreamlike sense of innocence awakened; of two briefly becoming one. (“Faun” got a subdued audience reaction on Friday, perhaps due to a scheduling shuffle that placed it after the fireworks of “Swan Lake.” Saturday’s program, with the original order restored, had a more logical flow and served the dances better.)

George Balanchine’s 1972 “Divertimento from ‘Le Baiser de la Fée’ ” made its PNB premiere; set to a delicate Stravinsky score and danced by a couple and a female corps. Jonathan Porretta and Kaori Nakamura were sweet and playful at the beginning, then later overcome by a sense of tragedy: something is happening to separate these lovers, illustrated in a moment where they reach for each other, but are kept apart by the corps delicately stepping between them. A signature Balanchine move — the jazzy, flopped-back high kicks from “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” — returns here in a completely different mood, now melancholy and fragile. At the end, the couple walk backward, in separate worlds, reaching for something they can’t find.

The three remaining works were familiar. Nakamura and Lucien Postlewaite performed Jean-Christophe Maillot’s “Romeo & Juliette” pas de deux with joyous abandon; we believed, every moment, in these two lovesick teens enchanted by moonlight. Carrie Imler and Postlewaite — an electric pairing — danced the “Black Swan” pas de deux from “Swan Lake” with wicked, dazzling sparkle. Only the “Aurora’s Wedding” sequence from “The Sleeping Beauty” disappointed: Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold danced the grand pas de deux with beautiful precision (though Bold uncharactistically struggled a bit with his jumps), but didn’t find much connection. In an evening of stirring stories, the final one lost something in the telling.

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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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