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Sunday, January 29, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dance

PNB's modern "Valentine": no tutus — but lots of Sinatra

Seattle Times movie critic

Look in vain for a tutu in Pacific Northwest Ballet's upcoming repertory evening, "Valentine." You won't find one.

Oh, they'll be back later in the season, says artistic director Peter Boal. But "Valentine" is the most contemporary program that PNB will present this year — and one entirely made up of work from choreographers new to the company.

Among them is a ballet close to Boal's heart: "Red Angels," choreographed by Ulysses Dove. Boal was in the original cast of "Red Angels" in 1994 at New York City Ballet; Dove died two years later at age 51, of complications from AIDS.

"This man lived to the fullest, through dance and through choreography, it's almost as if he lived to such an extent that his life span couldn't be as long as everyone else's," said Boal, who remembered the choreographer's great pleasure in watching his work in the studio. "He would ask us to run through 'Red Angels' three times in an hour ... he was just enjoying the effect of his creation."

"Red Angels," performed to an electric-violin score (by Richard Einhorn), is a contemporary ballet danced with breathless, razor-sharp energy. In rehearsal, Boal urged the cast to find their own phrasing, their way of making the dance their own. "Part of what Ulysses loved," he remembered, "was if you were used to doing three pirouettes and suddenly you were right on balance and could do five, he wanted you to do five. If you went up on pointe and hit a balance, [you should] just hold that balance as long as you could, and then make the next phrase faster so you got back on the music.

"He wanted that freedom and that sort of unpredictability about it. It's an interesting way to work. Quite a few choreographers have done that — they found the movement as a phrase, and saw how that movement fit to the music. Certainly, in the school of Balanchine, the music came first, and you fit into the music. But it's a different way of working."

Boal, who worked closely with Dove on two ballets in the years before his death, wants to be sure that the choreographer's work is not forgotten. "I feel his work is strong, and not that many people have seen it," he said. "I feel like there's a certain responsibility of American dance companies to keep him alive. I think the Seattle public will remember his name."

Dance preview


"Valentine," 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Feb. 11, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Feb. 12, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $20-$134 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).

Boal's already working on scheduling another Dove ballet for near year. The poetic title: "Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven."

Among the various casts of "Red Angels" will be guest artist Rasta Thomas, who danced a dazzling "Apollo" in Seattle with the Dance Theater of Harlem a few years ago. Miranda Weese, a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, also will make a guest appearance with PNB for "Valentine." She will dance two performances of "Ancient Airs and Dances," a neoclassical ballet choreographed by Richard Tanner in 1992.

The program also includes Susan Marshall's "Kiss," an experimental duet in which the dancers are suspended in harnesses above the stage floor. Boal describes the dance as casting a strong spell. "They're in jeans and T-shirts and bare feet, hanging from ropes, in harnesses, and it's so eloquent. It's really quite powerful. I'm really looking forward to the public's response to it."

And "Valentine" is rounded off by a choreographer whose name is familiar, but whose work is new to PNB. Modern-dance legend Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs," consisting of seven duets and two group dances all set to Frank Sinatra classics, premiered in 1982. If you wandered PNB's halls in recent weeks, you could hear plenty of Sinatra ("One for My Baby," "Strangers in the Night," "My Way") wafting out of rehearsal rooms. The effect was unexpected yet exciting, like "Valentine" as a whole — the sign of a company continuing to stretch its muscles and repertory.

"Sometimes it's like you throw all the pieces up in the air, and this program just landed in the right place," said Boal. "These four works are going to complement each other beautifully."

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

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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