Dance review

In a display case in the McCaw Hall lobby is a little bit of Pacific Northwest Ballet history: a 1999 photo of Noelani Pantastico, then a corps de ballet member still in her teens, costumed as Spring for her first “Cinderella.” Three years later, she made her debut in the title role. Fast-forward to 2020 and here Pantastico is on opening night, making something warm and joyous and deeply moving from the fairy-tale story of a motherless girl who dreamed of going to the ball. So many years, gone in a flash; you’d think, watching Pantastico, that time had stood still.

Choreographed by PNB co-founding director Kent Stowell and designed by Tony Straiges (sets), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes) and Randall G. Chiarelli (lighting) in 1994, this “Cinderella” is a familiar one to PNB audiences. And while it’s not a perfect ballet — it feels a bit padded for length, and some of the group scenes seem unfocused — it’s a perfectly lovely Valentine. The Prokofiev score, a shimmery cousin to his exquisite “Romeo and Juliet” ballet, speaks of gentle beauty and wistful romance; the costumes are a witty rainbow (those red ballgowns that open Act 2 never fail to elicit a gasp); the light seems magical.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Kent Stowell’s “Cinderella,” running through Feb. 9. (Angela Sterling)
Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Kent Stowell’s “Cinderella,” running through Feb. 9. (Angela Sterling)

And the dancing, on opening night, was a joy, from Laura Tisserand’s ethereal Godmother to Benjamin Griffith’s soaring Jester (his corkscrew-perfect pirouettes were, as always, astonishing) to every last tiny Bug from the PNB School. Seth Orza, who punctuates every step and every (delicious) flourish of a cape with elegant precision, made a noble Prince.

But the stage belonged to Pantastico, whose dancing ability (and beautifully light feet) hasn’t faltered a bit in two decades, and whose radiant presence seems, if anything, even brighter. There’s a kind of abandon to her performances, a way of both disappearing into a role and yet showing us herself, that was clear in every scene: Cinderella’s gentle connection with her father (William Lin-Yee), her kindness to her stepsisters (Nancy Casciano, Abby Jayne DeAngelo), her dazzlement on entering the ball, her dreamy little head-roll on the morning after, remembering. And in the final Act 3 pas de deux — a brief, rapturous duet that’s one of Stowell’s loveliest creations — she and Orza made joyous silk together. Amazing how quickly, and how beautifully, 20 years can go by.

_____

Cinderella,” through Feb. 9; Pacific Northwest Ballet at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$190; 206-441-2424, pnb.org