This year’s “Director’s Choice” at Pacific Northwest Ballet features moody, surreal work with music by Philip Glass, Sufjan Stevens, Tom Waits and more.
“Director’s Choice” is where Peter Boal flies. Each season since his arrival in 2005, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s artistic director has included one grab bag of repertory works (often contemporary, but not always) that reflect his adventurous spirit, chosen not so much for their safe rapport with audiences but for a chance to push the company in unexpected directions.
Alejandro Cerrudo’s “Memory Glow” was featured in a “Director’s Choice” program a few years back. Now Cerrudo, the resident choreographer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, returns with “Little mortal jump,” the intoxicating centerpiece of this year’s “Director’s Choice” program. The work uses the McCaw stage as, literally, a jumping-off point — its dancers seem not quite connected to the floor, or to this world.
Set to an assortment of recorded music (including Tom Waits, Alexandre Desplat, Andrew Bird and Philip Glass), and sometimes just to the rhythm of breath, it exists in a dreamlike state, with dancers dressed in gray moving atop and around large, whirling black boxes that seem to make the stage expand and contract. The movement, in soft shoes, feels willowy and airborne — the way we might move in our dreams.
7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, through March 27 at Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$187 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).
Cerrudo blends effortless pas de deux (two dancers seem to be weaving gentle circles around each other) with quirky invention: At one point, two dancers are Velcroed to the backdrop, paused comically in midair. The mood is surreal, down to the smallest details (in one horizontal lift, Jerome Tisserand seems to be supporting Elle Macy only by her head, poised parallel to the floor). As the boxes whirl away at the end, into darkness, you won’t want to wake up.
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Justin Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit,” set to orchestral music by Sufjan Stevens, feels like a nod to both ballet’s future (Peck, already a star choreographer, is still in his 20s) and its past: Much of the work features an intricate ensemble, folding and unfolding like origami, reminiscent of George Balanchine. A series of seven movements, each with a distinct mood, “Rabbit” is in turn both playful and haunting. Angelica Generosa’s trademark joyfulness shone in the first movement, and Noelani Pantastico and Benjamin Griffiths created magic in a quiet, slow pas deux that seemed blown by a gentle breeze; its long final note — will it ever end? — fading into an embrace.
The evening opened with a reworking of PNB ballet master/choreographer Paul Gibson’s “Rush,” last seen in the now-defunct Mercer Arts Arena at Seattle Center in 2002. It’s a pleasant, neoclassical piece amplified by Lisa Pinkham’s clever lighting design (the dancers frequently become dark silhouettes) and Lesley Rausch’s beautifully endless arabesques.