Jessica Lang choreographed “The Calling” after receiving a letter from a mentor who’d recently passed away, and Pacific Northwest Ballet audiences will swarm to see a remount of the insect-themed “Emergence.”
Later this month, Pacific Northwest Ballet will immerse itself in a brand-new holiday “Nutcracker,” but now it’s time for a very different evening of dance. “Emergence,” opening Friday, Nov. 6, features four contemporary ballets and takes its title from the dark, swarming Crystal Pite work that was received rapturously by local audiences two years ago.
The 2009 “Emergence,” originally created for the National Ballet of Canada, is a rare pointe-shoe ballet from Pite, whose work with her Vancouver, B.C.-based company Kidd Pivot (a popular visitor at On the Boards) tends more toward modern dance. At the time of the work’s local premiere at PNB, she spoke of the joy of being reacquainted with “the ecstatic architecture” of ballet vocabulary.
PNB artistic director Peter Boal said the delight was mutual: “I thought [‘Emergence’] really suited our dancers. They loved doing it.” Pite’s coaching, he said, “really involved how they were breathing, the energy in their fingertips — she pulled more out of them. Sculpturally, they felt that their bodies were finding new lines.”
Pacific Northwest Ballet: ‘Emergence’
Nov. 6-15, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$187 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).
The ballet requires a vast cast of 38 dancers — nearly the entire company — to envelop the stage in often-frenzied movement that Pite said was inspired by emergent structures such as beehives or ant hills. “I love the democracy of it,” Boal said. “Principals are next to the apprentices, next to the corps [de ballet]. It’s a shared experience. It becomes more powerful the more it’s shared.”
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In sharp contrast to “Emergence” is “The Calling,” a new-to-PNB work from choreographer Jessica Lang. It’s a brief, quiet solo, in which one dancer stands center stage in a vast white skirt, whose folds both entrap its wearer and join in the dance.
Boal said he originally envisioned the piece as a showcase for the dramatic talents of principal dancer Carla Körbes — but when she announced her departure from the company after last season, “we did a rush job to get Carla in it” for her final appearance with the company in June.
Now, three dancers will alternate the role during this two-week run, having benefited from a week of coaching with Lang earlier this year.
Lang, on the phone last week from New York (where she’s putting the final touches on a new work, “Tesseracts of Time,” designed by architect Steven Holl), said that the primary attribute she looked for when casting the dance was “simplicity.”
“The ability to be very simple, to take the barely-there movement and keep it barely there, not to add an affectation,” she explained. “It has to be emotional, and it has to come from a very visceral place, but it doesn’t require any extra decoration in the arms. Something that’s coming from really deep within the person’s soul.”
“The Calling,” created in 2006, was originally the opening sequence to a longer work called “Splendid Isolation II.” It was inspired, Lang said, by a letter she received from a mentor — Benjamin Harkarvy, the director of Juilliard when Lang was a student there. The letter was found after Harkarvy’s death, when his office was being cleaned, addressed to Lang but never sent.
“There are no words for that experience,” Lang said. The letter was “expressing what he wanted me to do with my life, and it was really quite powerful … It was on a day that I was feeling very tired, thinking, ‘Oh, I should not do this,’ having those questions. It came as if he were still here.”
Also on the “Emergence” program are two homegrown works: “Sum Stravinsky,” created in 2012 by former PNB soloist (now PNB School faculty member) Kiyon Gaines; and the world premiere of “Signature,” choreographed by PNB corps de ballet member Price Suddarth, set to a new score by local composer Barret Anspach.