A review of a Pacific Northwest Ballet program that pairs Alexei Ratmansky’s inventive “Concerto DSCH” with Kent Stowell’s massive “Carmina Burana.”
During the delicate, melancholy second-movement pas de deux in Alexei Ratmansky’s “Concerto DSCH,” a couple from the corps quietly sits down on the stage to observe — and why wouldn’t they? This ballet, returning to Pacific Northwest Ballet four years after its local premiere in 2011, rewards endless re-watching. It’s filled with stories, from that seated couple to a sudden kiss to a dancer suddenly showing us that she is tired; through those stories, framed in inventive, joyous dancing and set to an infectiously lively Shostakovich concerto, something vast and beautiful — like life itself — emerges.
It’s an odd pairing with Kent Stowell’s 1993 ballet “Carmina Burana,” a massive work set to Carl Orff’s musical cantata that, in contrast, seems to get smaller and more trivial the more you watch it. The dancers are dwarfed by designer Ming Cho Lee’s massive golden wheel, by the dozens of choristers on a suspended platform above them, and by the seemingly random onstage wanderings of robed vocal soloists — the choreography almost feels like an afterthought. There are stories here, too, but they’re mostly incoherent; involving merry peasants, frolicking and/or moody naked folk (flesh-toned leotards, incongruously brightened up with glitter), pensive monks and the latest in a long line of tall charismatic ballerinas (this time, the always-strong Lindsi Dec) reduced to a stereotyped, writhing temptress in a red bra. The dancing, repetitive and frenzied, drowns in the noise and flurry, leaving little trace (though the ever-charming partnership of Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffith provided pleasant diversion).
Better, instead, at the end of the evening, to ponder the pleasures provided by Ratmansky, an exciting and busy choreographer whose major new version of “Sleeping Beauty” just premiered at New York’s American Ballet Theatre. Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz, in a final pairing before Körbes’ imminent retirement, made intricate magic of a spiraling, just-off-the-floor lift; she seemed as weightless as tulle in the wind. The playful trio of Carrie Imler, Seth Orza and Jerome Tisserand, each perpetually lifting the other, seemed almost entirely airborne. There were straight-legged jumps with feet flexed; circles and lines forming and dissolving; and, always, the sense that these were not just combinations of steps but people performing them, with their own stories peeping through. Sometimes, the quietest works can speak the loudest.
Pacific Northwest Ballet, Through Sunday, June 7, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$184 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).