Pacific Northwest Baallet’s November program highlighted “local” Seattle talent in three impressive pieces—Eva Stone’s Foil (see my earlier blog on Eva Stone’s FOIL), Donald Byrd’s Love and Loss, and Miles Pertl’s Wash of Gray. Byrd’s piece was bold and purposeful. As reported here Byrd/PNB Blog,
What drives the work that I do at Spectrum [Dance Theater] is around social justice issues, but I don’t have the social justice agenda in the community of PNB. I think my agenda here is addressing beauty. I want people to feel they are in the presence of something that’s really beautiful and it’s beautiful in the sense of being sublime, that they are elevated by being in the presence of it.
Amidst Byrd’s fast-paced, bold, and assertive moves, there most certainly is beauty—from the production elements (simple upstage inset entrances, dramatic lighting, pedestrian costuming, Emmanuel Witzthum’s chilling but sometimes morose music) to the demanding moves. Such moves include a lot of aerial work—individually, but also in partnering (Byrd is particularly fond of batterie) to the few restful moments—in the stories the dancers tell. Shout-outs to Lucien Postlewaite, Leta Biasucci, Benjamin Griffiths, Kyle Davis, Angelica Generosa, Dylan Wald, Cecilia Iliesiu, and all the other featured dancers. Besides the batterie, there’s also a lot of dagger-like jutting extensions—either just a leg or whole body (as with Iliesiu’s rapid-fire penché). Byrd’s mixing up intimate gestures with daring moves, and challenging the dancers to show both strength and fragility—and Byrd does so with great success.
Love and Loss © Angela Sterling
Pertl’s delightful tribute to “all Seattleites near and far” depicts dancing raindrops, coastal waters, majestic mountains, and even a Pacific-breeding bird (the Swainson’s Thrush), but mostly it offers a lot of terrific company dancing. Large-sized Seattle scenes are sketched (and projected) in the background, Jherek Bischoff’s highly rhythmic music jumps between slow and serious, circus-like tones, and the dancers respond with playful, expansive moves. The fanciful ballet features something Seattle has a lot of (at least seasonally)—water—but also (perennially) beautifully skilled dancers in an unforgettable piece full of surprises and mystery.