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Originally published Saturday, March 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Review

PNB's "Director's Choice" program features contemporary works

In an evening filled with adventure but nonetheless a little flat, Pacific Northwest Ballet continued its turned-out march toward a more...

Seattle Times arts critic

Repeat performances

Pacific Northwest Ballet

"Director's Choice," 2 and 7:30 p.m. today, 1 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. March 20-22, Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $20-$150 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).

In an evening filled with adventure but nonetheless a little flat, Pacific Northwest Ballet continued its turned-out march toward a more contemporary identity. Earlier in the season, artistic director Peter Boal presented an evening of "Contemporary Classics" that was perfectly balanced and often thrilling, blending neoclassic Balanchine with the strobe lights of "Caught," the melancholy swaying of "Kiss," and the edgy, sneakered bounce of "In the Upper Room." By contrast, "Director's Choice," the current repertory evening of contemporary works, feels less well-chosen; its final two ballets, though both innovative and impressive, might have been better served in separate programs.

Ulysses Dove's "Vespers" and William Forsythe's "One Flat Thing, reproduced" are both danced barefoot and created on modern dancers; both are set to banging, often cacophonous recorded music; both feature props (chairs and tables, respectively); both send their dancers into writhing, whirling furies. "Vespers," to my mind the more intriguing of the two, is performed by six women in funereal black. Like Dove's melancholy "Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven" (though less gentle), its movements suggest loss and grief; the fierce dancers rend their garments, their movements sharp as knives. It's a difficult dance requiring the kind of forceful movement not typical for ballerinas, and yet the women attacked it with vigor and drama. Jodie Thomas whirled as if possessed by a dervish; Carrie Imler's strength as she jumped on and off a chair, then slid into a sudden split, was mesmerizing.

"One Flat Thing, reproduced," performed by 14 dancers and 20 tables looks (and sounds) like precisely planned chaos, and intriguingly so. The dancers slide and swing and whirl over, under and between the tables, slapping their hands on the flat surfaces. Little moments of unison emerge and then fade away; brief partnerships and trios are formed and dissolved into the constant motion. The dancers, bisected by the tables' lines, seemed hemmed-in and crowded — they're like the human equivalent of an ant farm gone wild — and yet the intricate weaving of it all keeps you interested. This isn't a dance for soloists, though Jonathan Porretta's mad energy (how do his legs fly up that high?) was as always a standout.

The evening began on a less frenzied note, with Paul Gibson's urgent, sharp "Sense of Doubt" (seen last year in PNB's Celebrate Seattle festival) and Edwaard Liang's delicate pas de deux "Für Alina." Accompanied only by a soft Arvo Pärt piano solo (subtly played by Allan Dameron), Miranda Weese and Batkhurel Bold entwined and separated in the soft spotlight and its surrounding darkness. Though they danced beautifully — Weese's liquid arms were a wonder — the connection between them was hard to read; Bold, though he's improving in this area, remains an inexpressive partner. Nonetheless, the dance cast a gentle, appealing spell, giving the evening some needed balance.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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