Alejandro Cerrudo’s glorious “Silent Ghost” is the centerpiece and highlight of PNB's “All Premiere” evening of contemporary works, running through Nov. 11.
If life were kind, I would spend the remainder of this year watching Noelani Pantastico and Lucien Postlewaite’s pas de deux from Alejandro Cerrudo’s glorious “Silent Ghost” on endless loop. Since Friday’s opening-night performance, that dance, performed by two beautiful artists whose talents seem to bloom even brighter when dancing together, has lived on in my head: the ballet’s recurring theme of two heads touching, connecting, and breaking apart again; the way she seemed to swim through the air around his body, neither of them betraying any hint of strain; that time-stopping pose when she, balanced on his back, swung her body into an eloquent arch toward the sky.
The centerpiece and the highlight of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “All Premiere” evening of contemporary works, “Silent Ghost” is an all-too-brief mood piece, set to a mélange of twangy metallic strings, quiet piano and ambient sound. Dancers seemed to appear and vanish into Michael Korsch’s shadowy lighting design, like the creatures of the title. A second lovely pas de deux, danced with soft fluidity by Elizabeth Murphy and Dylan Wald, echoes themes of the first; the two dancers, eerily, become one and then two again. In his third ballet performed at PNB (after “Memory Glow” and the beloved “Little mortal jump”), Cerrudo demonstrates a consistent, inventive vocabulary of movement; you never know quite how the dancers will move next, but you marvel at how perfectly it all flows, and how it leaves you moved and changed and wishing you could live within it, just a little longer.
“A Dark and Lonely Space,” which opened the evening, is PNB soloist Kyle Davis’ first ballet created for the company’s main stage. (It was the evening’s only world premiere; the other two works on the program were PNB premieres.) A wildly ambitious piece, it lasts the better part of an hour and involves not only a full orchestra — playing the “Jupiter Ascending Symphony” by Michael Giacchino — but the Pacific Lutheran University Choral Union, singing like angels perched in the upper-tier boxes (a nice effect, with their voices flowing down onto the audience like soft water). Its design, by Reed Nakayama (scenery/lighting) and Elizabeth Murphy (costumes), involves a soprano (Christina Siemens) looming over the dancers in a mountainlike gown, and a quartet of robed, priestlike figures, wearing masks whose expressions weren’t distinguishable from my (fairly close-up) row.
What it all means is left vague, but there’s a theme of birth, as Leta Biasucci moves at first grotesquely (in what looks like an homage to Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”) and then hesitantly, on jelly legs, interacting with the other dancers as she tries to imitate them. And while the music has the vast, expectant sweep of a movie score (that’s what it originally was, for the 2015 film “Jupiter Ascending”), the movement doesn’t have the same grandeur. It’s sometimes effective, particularly a simple, ethereal pas de deux danced by Jerome Tisserand and Sarah Ricard Orza, but too often feels too spot-on; visualizing the music rather than dancing with it. Davis’ vocabulary as a choreographer isn’t fully developed yet, but I admired the ambition of this early effort.
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Of the sardonic “Cacti,” which closed the evening, choreographer Alexander Ekman has written that it’s a statement against the need to analyze and “understand” art. So I’ll offer no analysis, except that I appreciated the wit of Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan and Christian Poppe’s “annotated” pas de deux and of the wandering string quartet, that I have no idea what the various cacti meant (well, sometimes I did, when they were held at crotch level) and maybe that’s the point, and that watching a group of very talented dancers running in place, posing and doing odd things with powdered caps wasn’t exactly transporting. To each their own. Now, can I see “Silent Ghost” again?
“All Premiere,” Pacific Northwest Ballet, through Nov. 11; Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$187; 206-441-2424, pnb.org.