“Memory Glow,” a contemporary ballet making its world premiere at Pacific Northwest Ballet Friday night, takes place in a ring of low-placed lanterns, creating the effect of a night-lit pool. Its 10 gray-clad dancers move in and out of that light, in graceful, flickering waves. A signature move is repeated throughout, with variations: a woman, held under the arms by her partner, falls sideways, straight legs becoming parallel with the floor. The music — recorded excerpts from six composers, several from movies or television — comes and goes, with the dancers sometimes dancing in silence; likewise, the light at times fades to black on movement, reducing bodies to a shadowy glow before they disappear.
Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, with masterful lighting by PNB’s Randall G. Chiarelli, “Memory Glow” is the anchor for “Director’s Choice,” a repertory program of contemporary works. Like the image suggested by the title, the effect is of something haunting yet indistinct; a series of arresting pictures and moods; at times dark (a female dancer is dragged, lifted and pulled across the floor by a vaguely threatening male ensemble), other times playful. Danced with fluid exuberance by a cast mostly made up of corps de ballet members, “Memory Glow” is a pleasing if uneven work, leaving its viewer wondering what it meant but eager to see it again.
Three returning works shared the bill. Jonathan Porretta attacked Molissa Fenley’s punishing solo “State of Darkness,” performed to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” with his trademark electricity; it seemed, as the lengthy dance progressed, that the music had taken hold and possessed him. (A seemingly endless back bend, mid-dance, was so beautiful you wished time could stop.) Susan Stroman’s Broadway-esque “Take Five,” set to happily familiar jazz tunes by Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, feels more slight each time I see it — there’s a theatrical cuteness to the choreography that grows old quickly — but was danced with great charm, particularly by Kaori Nakamura, Lindsi Dec and a soft-shoe-stepping Kiyon Gaines.
And Susan Marshall’s “Kiss,” performed by James Moore and Carla Körbes (a welcome sight; she’s been sidelined with an injury for several months), once again created seven minutes of magic. Set to Arvo Pärt’s minimalist, evocative music — the sound, it seems, of pure longing — and danced while dangling from ropes, “Kiss” casts a spell that’s hard to shake off. Its dancers soar like angels, swinging away and toward each other in poetic slow-motion; they, and we, seem lost in love.
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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org