It’s Chilly in NYC

Reviews of PNB’s Joyce Theater performance are lukewarm.

By Laura Dannen January 11, 2010

PNB dancers James Moore, William Lin-Yee, Jerome Tisserand and Sokvannara Sar in 3 Movements. Photo courtesy Angela Sterling.

Temperatures dropped below freezing in New York City last week. Must have chilled a few dance critics in the process, considering the lukewarm reviews the Pacific Northwest Ballet received for its program of repertory work at the Joyce Theater.

Surprising, since more than one media outlet hailed the return of ‘prodigal son’ Peter Boal —a former New York City Ballet dancer who retired in 2005 and took over as artistic director of PNB shortly after. The New York Times’s Gia Kourlas spoke longingly for Boal in a preview, noting that there ‘just aren’t enough well-proportioned, innately elegant men with scrupulous line and demeanor to go around.’

But then the bloggers started up. There was more than one reference to Marco Goecke’s Mopey as ‘dopey’ (such wit!) even though the Seattle Times said James Moore ‘triumphed’ in the solo performance in November. [ST] In all fairness, we liked it too.

Even New York Times dance critic Alastair MacCaulay, practically a regular at McCaw Hall who’s been known to gush about the troupe’s ‘overall brio and luster’ had some harsh words. Mopey was ‘all surface gestures,’ while Edwaard Liang’s pas de deux, Für Alina, was ‘a showy nothing.’ Benjamin Millepied’s 3 Movements impressed with its ‘structural sophistication,’ though the work felt hollow, ‘too short of inner life.’

The rest of his review was upbeat but singular in its praise. He had nothing but love for Twyla Tharp’s commissioned choreography on Opus 111, a ‘quintessential Tharpian amalgam: lively footwork, expansive limbs, a mixture of modern pedestrian informality and bright ballet-academic propriety.’ But the dancers were reduced to a footnote, cited for their ‘individuality and maturity;’ in the same sentence, he complimented the show’s costumes and music. [NYT]

Which begs the question: What gives? Did Mopey not translate on a smaller stage? Was the repertory program too progressive for a critic who loves to see PNB do all things Balanchine?

Still, it wasn’t all bad news.

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