What's so great about Director's Choice at Pacific Northwest Ballet—which ends this Sunday, Mar 25—is how it can show off a little bit of everything. It's an opportunity for ballet enthusiasts to order a limber little tasting menu instead of settling in for the big ol' steak dinner that is, say, Swan Lake. And PNB newbies get to experience the wide range of places the art form can go. This year's production, for instance, starts with a ghostly ballad with vaguely cultish imagery and ends with a dozen dancers rolling around on tables.
The ghostly ballad (The Perpetual State), a premiere work choreographed by company soloist Ezra Thompson, plays with memory and longing as Leta Biasucci mourns a lost love (Karel Cruz) while courting a new one (Jerome Tisserand). Corp dancers act as the connective tissue between past and present, physically carrying Cruz around the edges of Biasucci's consciousness as she pushes toward and pulls away from this new lover in the flesh. The whole thing feels a little busy. But Thompson—promoted to soloist last year with much fanfare from his colleagues—seems like a dynamic creator and a consummate professional just hitting his stride.
The next bite, William Forsythe's Slingerland Duet, features Laura Tisserand and Karel Cruz—two of the limb-iest principals in the company. Cruz, who has the wingspan of a 747, lifts and twirls Tisserand as I would a pencil. And when Tisserand extends her legs to impossibly straight angles, her toes basically touch the ceiling of McCaw Hall. A pas de duex featuring two of the company's most physically impressive dancers moving to waves of mournful strings, Slingerland's Duet's boils PNB down to its core elements. It also could have gone on for at least 5 minutes longer. But then again, I'd give a standing ovation to those two eating brunch together.
From power in grace to sinew and sex. Scored to nothing but Michael Jinsoo Lim's violin, from which he somehow plucks and strums the lofi sounds of an electric guitar, Red Angels by Ulysses Dove is seedy. Fire engine red–clad Amanda Morgan, Ceclilia Iliesu, Christopher D'Ariano, and Dylan Wald are like lean hearts, throbbing and flexing and catwalking around the stage. There is something vaudeville about the costuming, the spotlights, all that red—tension derived from the four alternatively feeling themselves and reacting to each other. Needless to say the audience was into it.
Then came Forsythe's One Flat Thing, reproduced to scramble the evening. Twenty tables in a precise grid under harsh light. Fourteen dancers slamming them, sliding on top of and under and in between them. An intrusive cacophony of static and electrical mayhem and the low baseline of a basement rave heard from street level. One Flat Thing, reproduced tumbles onstage in a fight between chaos and order. The tables themselves evoke an interrogation room or a prison cafeteria or church pews or microchips on a motherboard. The dancers move frenetically within these constraints, occasionally pausing to move a table back to its correct place or sit atop one in prim attention: a violent defragmentation with no resolution. The tables get dragged away, the curtain drops.
Thru Mar 25, McCaw Hall, $37–$142