PNB: Director’s Choice

by J. Autumn Needles

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday March 17, 2014

Mara Vinson and James Moore in ’Kiss’
Mara Vinson and James Moore in ’Kiss’  (Source:Angela Sterling)

Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Director's Choice" this year spans quite a range in the four pieces chosen. From the jazzy and dynamic "TAKE FIVE... More or Less" to the dark and challenging solo piece "State of Darkness," from the limits of the solemn and grasping duet "Kiss" to the uplifting sense of reach and expansion in "Memory Glow," there's a little bit of everything in this program.

"TAKE FIVE... More or Less" choreographed by Susan Stroman is a bright and charming way to start the evening. Kaori Nakamura as Yellow drew spontaneous applause as the curtain lifted and the first notes of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond's "Take Five" sounded from the orchestra.

The ballet, like the music, is upbeat and fun, with five ballerinas in vibrant colors and very individual personalities: Nakamura's Yellow has a breezy, easygoing air, while Lindsi Dec's Red is overtly sexy. Lesley Rausch's Purple is sultry, seducing the five male dancers (Joshua Grant, William Lin-Yee, Steven Loch, Kiyon Gaines and Ryan Cardea) away from their partners into a blues-y sway as the music shifts from 5 count to 4. Sarah Ricard Orza's Blue has a lovely line through her feet and legs. Chelsea Adomaitis and Brittany Reid as Orange and Pink respectively round out the group.

Kiyon Gaines adds a little tap into the number, which adds a delightful lilt to the evening. Clearly the dancers are having fun with this piece and their mood is infectious for us in the audience as we tap and sway along.

The mood shifts dramatically for "Kiss," choreographed by Susan Marshall and premiered in 1987 with music by Arvo Part. Carla Korbes and James Moore dance the part of the two lovers, rigged by harnesses to ropes, which sometimes spin them away from each other or towards each other as they either struggle to connect or dangle away in defeat.

Props are tricky and in this piece, while Korbes and Moore perform well, the harnesses and ropes feel like the main characters. The choreography has little dynamic variation, a challenge after the variety of the first piece.

Cerrudo's "Memory Glow" has a sense of yearning and reach, but with a satisfying feeling of fulfillment, perhaps like a past and much loved memory relived for the pleasure of it.

"State of Darkness," choreographed by Molissa Fenley and danced by Jonathan Porretta is challenging in a different way. A solo dancer has to work extra hard to build and keep connection with an audience, and "State of Darkness" is a long and subtly nuanced piece. Porretta does a nice job of it with the help of the fine orchestra playing Stravinsky's music under the direction of Emil de Cou.

"Memory Glow" premiering at this performance was my favorite piece of the evening. Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo the piece opens with a shadowy group of figures in the back with large lights set on stage shining up and out from the darkness. A single figure strides forward and starts us on this kinesthetic journey.

I loved the choreographic details in this piece: a group of dancers running hard in circles, as one dancer lifted by another runs in slow motion, one couple exiting the stage in slow motion, pushing one another off, as a second couple echoing their movement enters at the same time on the other side, a single female dancer partnering all of the men following the musical arc up and then down in perfect synchronization.

Cerrudo's movement vocabulary has stylistic qualities of contact improvisation, creating a lovely feeling of connection and continuity among the dancers. There's also an interesting use of the angle of the shoulder as a continuous element. The dance has a sense of yearning and reach, but with a satisfying feeling of fulfillment, perhaps like a past and much loved memory relived for the pleasure of it. It will be interesting to see more in the future from this choreographer.

"Director's Choice" runs through March 23 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St. in Seattle Center. For info or tickets, call 206-441-2424 or visit

J. Autumn Needles lives in Seattle where she writes and teaches yoga and fitness.