A review of PNB’s “See the Music” program, which gathers Christopher Wheeldon’s “Tide Harmonic,” Jerome Robbins’ “The Concert” and George Balanchine’s “The Prodigal Son” on a mixed bill.
When Christopher Wheeldon’s “Tide Harmonic” made its world premiere at PNB in 2013, audiences were wowed by its choreographic inventiveness, technical brilliance and sensuous beauty. This time around they still are, and with good reason.
Joby Talbot’s percussive score provides the foundation for Wheeldon’s flowing, twisting choreography, which suggests swirling eddies, powerful undertows and the ebb and flow of tides. Wheeldon doesn’t make the images too explicit, creating an aura of mystery from the opening tableau of dancers in silhouette to the ballet’s spellbinding conclusion.
There’s a lovely central pas de deux, beautifully danced on opening night by the delicate Maria Chapman and newly promoted soloist Joshua Grant, but mostly this is an ensemble work for four couples. At Friday’s performance, each of the eight dancers brought his or her own special quality to the ballet without dominating the others. Benjamin Griffiths’ perfect technique gave every movement polish while Margaret Mullin softened her sometimes-overbearing intensity, revealing a softer, supple side. Both were dancing “Tide” for the first time, as were Chelsea Adomaitis, Leah Merchant, William Lin-Yee and Ezra Thomson. All looked completely comfortable with Wheeldon’s demanding steps and tempos.
‘See the Music’
Presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet, through Oct. 4, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$187 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).
Holly Hynes’ marine blue leotards, accented with a filmy fin-like panel for the women, enhance “Tide Harmonic’s” nautical theme, while PNB lighting designer Randall G. Chiarelli creates a gorgeous palette of ocean colors. The glorious PNB orchestra under Emil de Cou continues to plumb the music’s shifting moods in a sensuous exploration of the score’s many colorations.
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Jerome Robbins’ comic masterpiece “The Concert” allows PNB’s talented dancers — and company pianist Allan Dameron — to showcase their flair for humor. A sendup of what serious concertgoers might really be thinking, Robbins uses nine Chopin pieces as the backdrop for a series of hilarious vignettes. The main female character is a dreamy, hat-obsessed young woman pursued by a henpecked husband with fantasies of killing his culture-vulture wife. Sarah Ricard Orza, whose prodigious acting skill matches that of her dancing, made a charming flirt while a cigar-chomping Seth Orza revealed a comic side we’ve rarely seen.
Every Robbins ballet is fundamentally an exploration of human relationships, and each scene in “The Concert” tells a little, self-contained story. Among the most delightful are the hilarious “mistake waltz,” in which six female dancers struggle to dance in unison, and the grand finale when the onstage pianist takes up a net to capture the butterfly-clad characters who have disrupted his performance.
Also on the program is George Balanchine’s “The Prodigal Son.” PNB has been performing the work since 1984, but the opening-night cast of James Moore as the Prodigal Son and Laura Tisserand as The Siren failed to communicate its full dramatic power. One hopes that the alternate casts who will appear later this week are able to capture the emotional depth of this iconic Balanchine creation.