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PNB at Bumbershoot:  Full House, Full Marks
A review by
Rosie Gaynor

Posted September 9, 2007






    Ballet at Bumbershoot? This year I went to see for myself, and I have to say, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s program really did fit into this indie music/art festival. Only one tutu, no tiaras, and a lot of intense art.  

    The program didn’t fit the stage quite as well; these dancers stretch, these dancers cover ground, and the Bagley Wright Theatre digs cramped their style a bit. Still, there was much to enjoy. 

    Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat started off the program. Is there anything new to say about this long-time Seattle favorite? You’ve seen it: it’s the one with the arc of bare stalks upstage (thus the title, perhaps, which translates to Walled Garden). It’s the one that starts out in silence, six people kneeling away from the audience, rolling their heads, very primal. It’s the one with the weeping and the broken-armed cranes. It is the saddest ballet, to the saddest music (Maria del Mar Bonet’s songs to Catalan texts ), and the PNB dancers treat it with a passionate intensity. They create a community onstage, and we watch as they struggle with amazing grace for life—individually and together. Jardí Tancat is beautiful and powerful; in spite of its sadness, it somehow leaves you with hope instead of despair. (My own hope is always that the curtain is going to go back up and that the piece will start all over again.) 

    Olivier Wevers’ almost-brand-new duet followed. (see Wever profile

    A short duet followed, this one by first-time choreographer Stacy Lowenberg. Called Rushed Goodbye, the work was a favorite at the PNB Choreographers Showcase, where two students premiered it last June. Intimate, dramatic (red! red! red!), mostly lyrical, Lowenberg’s piece details the mixed feelings of a break up. Love, anger, yearning, resignation, recollection:  it’s all there. It was good to see this well-paced piece performed by Lesley Rausch and Karel Cruz, professional dancers who were understandably more comfortable with the not-your-mother’s-old-ballet moves that Lowenberg created. This is contemporary ballet to popular music (“Green Spandex” by Xavier Rudd). Although the style reminded me of the Dominique Dumais pieces Lowenberg has danced so well here in Seattle, the vocabulary is Lowenberg’s own. No small feat for a first-timer. Kudos!  

    The program ended with Mopey, a dark, charged, sweaty, 12-minute solo by young German choreographer Marco Goecke. Violent athleticism, violent lyricism, and innocent humor are played out to C.P.E. Bach, The Cramps, chest beating, silence, and, in the end, just plain breath. This was one of the first contemporary works PNB artistic director Peter Boal brought to the company back in 2005. It certainly ruffled some feathers back then in the audience at McCaw Hall. At Bumbershoot, however, it fit right in. Most of the steps are so different from anything in ballet that PNB dancers had to make up names for them in order to learn the piece:  the Britney Spears, the Play With Your Nipple, the John Travolta… The dancer performing at Bumbershoot was the very focused, detail-perfect James Moore. I’m happy to say that he survived this piece once again.   



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