movement: Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Mae G. Banner
Pillow, Becket, Mass., Aug. 20
Ah, Peter Boal. A rare dancer who moved with soul and intelligence,
he retired last summer from the New York City Ballet to become
artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, a long-time
Seattle outpost of the Balanchine legacy. His exceptional
dancing is our loss, but his leadership of PNB is the dance
PNB, with a quietly proud Boal at the helm, returned to Jacob’s
Pillow last week after a 10-year absence from the East Coast.
Actually, Boal chose 15 dancers from his 43-member company
to perform three small-scale ballets including one by Balanchine,
and a final stage-filling tour de force in which African music
and Bach blended seamlessly.
If these dancers are representative of the whole group, Seattle
is fortunate, indeed. Drawn from around the globe (Japan,
Brazil, France, Belgium, Hawaii, Mongolia), many were trained,
as Boal was, at New York City Ballet’s official School of
American Ballet. They move together silkily, speaking the
same dance language.
I wish some of this year’s new Diamond ballets at SPAC had
looked like PNB’s The Piano Dance (2005), a ruby red
ballet choreographed by Paul Gibson to a collage of short
pieces from Chopin, John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti, Bartók, and
Ginastera, all played live by Dianne Chilgren.
Duets, trios and a quartet of dancers showed immaculate classical
technique, even when performing the most unusual moves. One
example: From behind her partner, a woman swung her leg over
the man’s extended arm like a waiter’s towel in a chic restaurant.
Such insouciance—I couldn’t wait to see what she’d do next.
Mechanics (2005), choreographed by Sonia Dawson to deep
vocal laments by Nina Simone (“Ne Me Quitte Pas”) and Jacqueline
Fuentes was a muscle dance for three men and Carla Korbes,
a dancer Boal discovered a few years ago in Brazil. He brought
her into NYCB and she moved with him to PNB, another loss
for the East Coast and gain for the west.
Korbes did a slow, stretchy duet with Batkhurel Bold, the
choreography very modern and at ease with itself, while James
Moore and Kiyon Gaines decorated the stage with serifs of
their tree-trunk bare legs and made strong calligraphic shapes
with their arms. All this took place in an abstract beach-like
setting with four boxes draped with red fishnet and ambient
sounds of ocean waves and distant rain.
The men would take turns dancing athletically with each other
or with Korbes, then drift back to sit on one or another box
and observe. The dance was small, sexy, abstract. The choreography
made no pretense of matching the sadness of the music, yet,
at one moment, a man fell to the ground in grief.
Balanchine’s Duo Concertant (1972) was a revelation.
Danced by Louise Nadeau and the blond Apollo-looking Olivier
Wevers, it was faster, edgier, clearer, more joyous, more
romantic, with the dancers more attuned to the onstage musicians
and to each other than in this summer’s account at SPAC by
Darci Kistler and Nikolaj Hubbe.
We saw the dance in a new way, partly because the Pillow’s
stage sets it off better than the expanse at SPAC, but, surely,
also, because Boal is coaching his dancers to become instruments
of Balanchine’s (and Stravinsky’s) intent. The dancers were
fresh, chaste, moving with textbook perfection, but also with
love and delicacy in this opalescent dance.
The full-company Lambarena (1995), made by Val Caniparoli
to mixed music of Bach and traditional African drums, balafon,
and chants, was all sunshine and clarity, the uplifted posture
of ballet partnered with African arms that thrust forward
and back from the shoulders, African pelvises that rolled
from side to side. and hips that pulsed deliciously.
Before a bronze-colored backdrop, a full ensemble of dancers
in African-printed wide skirts or tight knee-length pants
kept the stage in constant movement, sustaining a high level
of excitement. The ethereal Bach music was blended unabashedly
with the African sounds in a rude contrast that, nevertheless,
yielded an exciting new taste, like stirring hot cinnamon
into Viennese coffee. The lead dancer, tall, sinuous Ariana
Lallone danced on toe, yet was earthy, swirling with power
and pride through the big finale.