A review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's "New Works," a no-socks-knocked-off collection of contemporary ballets by David Dawson, Victor Quijada and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

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Dance Review |

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s latest collection of contemporary premieres, showing in a program entitled “New Works,” is an evening of interesting dance that doesn’t entirely click as a whole. Each work has moments of real beauty and power; each showcases talents of both choreographer and dancers; each might have shone a little more brightly in a different setting. It’s a tricky art to compose an evening of new works, though I remember some truly electric ones at PNB: “Valentine” in 2006, with the airborne theatrics of Susan Marshall’s “Kiss,” and the 2008 “New Works” program that introduced Benjamin Millepied’s “3 Movements.” This “New Works” felt a little more subdued; no jolt of discovery, just the more quiet pleasure of good work well done.

David Dawson’s “A Million Kisses to my Skin” came the closest to igniting the opening-night audience; it’s a work that, reminiscent of Paul Taylor’s “Aureole” (celebrating its 50th anniversary in New York this month), uses classical music as the backdrop to express loose-limbed, breezy joy. Set to Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor (played with delicate beauty by pianist Allan Dameron), it uses nine dancers in various groupings in a speedy opening movement, a meditative middle section, and a breathless finale. Maria Chapman tossed off an exceptionally difficult late solo — perpetually changing direction and off-kilter, like an intricate ballet obstacle course — and the cast’s three men (Lucien Postlewaite, Jonathan Porretta, Seth Orza) were a sort of dream team, seemingly everywhere at once: lifting, leaping, endlessly moving. Only the audibly heavy breathing at the end gave away the difficulty of this dance; it seemed to float on a cloud.

“Cylindrical Shadows” by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa was performed in Seattle last year in a smaller version by Whim W’him, and might have been better suited to a more intimate setting; it’s a lyrical, moving exploration of loss that sometimes seemed dwarfed by the cavernous McCaw Hall. The dancers’ arms sway like metronomes, indicating the passage of time (at one moment in the background, Andrew Bartee seemed to become a clock’s hands); a group of four men danced together, each movement seeming to affect the other three, like multifaceted dominoes gently falling. A mournful pas de deux, performed with quiet passion by Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura, concluded the work, ending on a delicate balance that seemed as if it could, and should, go on forever.

The world premiere of Victor Quijada’s “Mating Theory” concluded the evening, set to a variety of sampled music (complete with scratchy needles) and featuring movement reminiscent of Quijada’s previous work for PNB, “Suspension of Disbelief”: jittery, athletic, sometimes dazzlingly quick, sometimes almost surreally slow, as if the dancers are swimming through gelatin. It felt more like a collection of moves than a coherent idea, but offered pleasures of its own: Carrie Imler’s rapid-fire solo, in which her head and body seemed to be traveling in different directions; Postlewaite and Rachel Foster’s jellyfish partnering.


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