Pacific Northwest Ballet's "All Robbins" program is a delight.

Dance review |

In Jerome Robbins’ life and in his work, ballet and theater were intertwined. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s splendid “All Robbins” evening, which opened Thursday at McCaw Hall, provides three very different examples of how the choreographer wove emotion into his work: the jumping-out-of-their-skin exuberance of three sailors on shore leave in “Fancy Free”; the trio of wordless love stories in “In the Night”; and the gorgeous, occasionally wistful silliness of “The Concert,” in which a young woman is so moved by Chopin that she simply must bourrée ecstatically, gliding on her toes around a concert hall. Too bad such behavior is frowned upon in an audience; so delightful was the evening that there might well have been some happy bouréeing in my row.

Making its PNB premiere, Robbins’ 1956 comic work “The Concert” is set to sedate piano works by Chopin, played onstage by Dianne Chilgren and witnessed by a motley crowd in pale-blue leotards. The ballerina (a funny, loose Miranda Weese) practically embraces the piano in her joy, while a pair of hatted ladies (Lesley Rausch, Maria Chapman) cross their legs in exaggerated precision. A wife (Carrie Imler) scolds her cigar-chomping husband (Jonathan Porretta) — not noticing that his eye is on the ballerina.

And from these character vignettes, Robbins sweeps us into fantasy: a dimly lit umbrella dance that’s both melancholy and lovely; a cast transformed into gossamer-winged butterflies, suddenly lighter and sillier than air. It’s a wacky dream ballet, performed with airy precision, and the giggling opening-night audience rewarded it with a standing ovation.

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“In the Night” is also set to Chopin (also played beautifully by Chilgren), but its velvet mood is a world away: three romantic pas de deux on a starry night. As the most tempestuous of the couples, Louise Nadeau and Karel Cruz were mesmerizing; though they initially seemed physically mismatched (he looks at least a foot taller than she), their shared recklessness and dramatic ardor cast a powerful spell. Ariana Lallone and Stanko Milov, arms reaching to the sky, brought regal strength to their more formal dance. Noelani Pantastico and Olivier Wevers, in their effortless lifts, personified youthful, sparkling love.

And “Fancy Free,” an eventful little novella of a dance (it later inspired the musical “On the Town”), was all loose strolls, soft-shoe shuffle, slinky girls and swaggering sailors. With its jazzy Leonard Bernstein score, it blew through McCaw like a fresh breeze; a touch of Broadway on the ballet stage. Just like Robbins.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or