A review of an all-William Forsythe program at Pacific Northwest Ballet.
A high-speed bonbon made of kicks, spins and flying leaps — that’s one way to describe choreographer William Forsythe’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude,” the 12-minute piece that, this past Friday, opened Pacific Northwest Ballet’s all-Forsythe program (the first presented by a major U.S. dance company).
Set to the surging final movement of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 (“The Great”), “Thrill” whetted its audience’s appetite for the evening to come. Its dancers — shifting between a five-strong ensemble and various solo, duo and trio combinations — were pure whirligig energy.
The women’s lime-green tutus (their skirts suggesting a fusion of cocktail glasses and flying saucers) were part of the fun. But Forsythe’s fleet neoclassical movement was at the heart of it.
‘The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude’
Through March 22, Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$184 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).
The fancy footwork was never showy for showiness’ sake. Instead its wit and wiliness flowed directly from the music. Leta Biasucci, Carrie Imler, Margaret Mullin and Jonathan Porretta made the piece’s technical challenges look like a frolic, and a levitating Benjamin Griffiths latched so zestily onto the orchestral rhythms that he was airy exactitude personified.
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“Thrill” was one of two Forsythe works making PNB premieres on this program. The other was “New Suite,” a deeper, more multifaceted series of pas de deux that’s a vital addition to the company’s repertory. Excerpts from works by Handel, Berio, Gavin Bryars and Bach provide the score.
The first few duets struck strongly balletic notes. But as things progressed, Forsythe’s couples entered more shadowy, technically startling territory. By the time Lindsi Dec and Jerome Tisserand, in muted burgundy costumes, performed “Berio 3,” the mood was thornier and the maneuvers more muscular and contorted.
At times, watching them was like seeing a complex calligraphy of limbs scrawl itself across the stage. Here, and in several other duets from “New Suite,” a whole relationship was evoked in a matter of minutes — entanglement, rejection, demands, concessions, enfolding embraces and casual departures.
Karel Cruz and Laura Tisserand handled the longest duet, set to a Bryars string quartet. Alive to every pulse and pause in the music, their action was more delicate than that in “Berio 3,” but still precarious as Tisserand delivered a string of extraordinary en pointe balances sustained only by Cruz’s handhold.
The program closed with “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” in the PNB repertory since 2000. It’s a concoction of slithers, flickers and swaggers, set to a rambunctious electronic score by Thom Willems and lit so harshly the dancers’ faces resemble masks.
Not all the cast came up with the edginess the piece seems to ask for, but powerhouse William Lin-Yee nailed it — and Porretta (dancing daggers in the air), Dec, Seth Orza and Lesley Rausch weren’t far behind him.