PNB Streaming: Wheeldon’s “Curious Kingdom” and Liang’s “Sail Between Worlds”

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So the curtain has fallen on the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s very first digital season, although a Season Encore performance will be available June 18-22 ($ 29).

Rep 6 was the last regular season schedule, with two world premieres: Christopher Wheeldon’s Curious kingdom and that of Edwaard Liang Sailing between worlds, and the first PNB of the film by Alejandro Cerrudo PACOPEPEPLUTO (2011). All of them were broadcast in 1080p, a decision that shocked me since our extended stay indoors eventually led to my switching to a 4K TV. That misstep aside, the film crew deserves kudos for their work over the season. The multi-camera PNB approach is touchingly immersive, especially for solos and no two when the dancers are there, filling the screen, and in quieter moments, you can hear the subtle squeak of their ballet shoes in turn. That said, editing this program was not as seamless as it used to be. I counted about five transitions that were either slightly shifted or that encountered changes in fields of view, so you had the feeling of super-fast zooming.

Leta Biasucci at the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon Curious kingdom, member of Rep 6 at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (Photo: Angela Sterling)

Part of the excitement of world premieres is whether there is the option of pronouncing one or more works as an instantly accessible masterpiece – here it turns out not. Both works had memorable facets, but neither managed to crystallize into a moving, moment-defining whole, despite repeated viewings. Of course, not everything that is good is “instantly accessible” – sometimes greatness only appears in the rearview mirror, as with Citizen Kane Where The great Lebowski.

by Wheeldon Curious kingdom was most formally inventive, but also remarkably down to earth for its first half, with an almost algorithmic execution of the styles of port de bras. Sheathed as they were in form-fitting, shiny silver unitards with the appearance of strapless bodices (designs by Harriet Jung and Reid Bartelme), the dancers could at times resemble slingshots waving in a vase, an effect enhanced by gloves. red. The first part has been settled on Satie’s Warhead N ° 4, the meditative-for-not-to-say-soporific Gnossians 1 and 2, and Penultimate thoughts, then from Ravel mirrors, “Sad Birds” and “The Valley of the Bells”.

At the start, the five dancers appear in silhouette in a wash of golden light; standing in a mirror-like rectangle of ground, they briefly flap their arms, come forward with a pull cart, then deflate. Movements, gestures, seem to descend with the keys of the piano, to ring. Later, with one foot back, they cantilever their torso back. You will find this movement in the second part, Lucien Postlewaite in the majestic drag Red Queen while Piaf sings “No, I regret nothing”, leaning almost parallel to the ground before tilting then sinking into a naturalistic bow, scraping the floor, arms sweeping to accept applause. Postlewaite’s red-gloved hands, floating around his face as if controlled by strings, also turn into a floral opening or wreath (his head out of sight), form a heart on his chest, and then turn to break into two pieces.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Dylan Wald and soloist Elle Macy at the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Curious Kingdom, as part of PNB’s fully digital 2020/21 season (Photo © AngelaSterlingPhoto)
(Box: Is there a Fitzgerald ballet Tender is the night? Oh there is. Great, well, can I suggest Wald and Macy’s as leads for you. Oh, planning for the season is Peter’s job? Guess the cast is too? Fine! * raise your hands *)

It’s not just impressionist portraits: Dylan Wald and Elle Macy appear for no two in both parts, sharing a pair of red gloves (in the second, with the addition of a large red tulle bow on each of their backs), and although the vocabulary of movement is still angular and form-oriented , there is a fascinating shared journey through space. Among the highlights: with arms outstretched and hands joined, creating a box, the two gently turn their heads around each other; then one standing, leg raised, knee bent, and the other on the ground, knee lowered, foot pointing upwards, a diamond is formed. You think of the flamingo, naturally, but I think you have to remember the flamingo croquet as well.

Likewise, the elegant and Swiss rotations of Jérôme Tisserand’s watchmaking across the stage are associated with a sort of mimed playing card. Then Leta Biasucci bursts onto the stage, cutting edge in a gray tulle skirt, dancing with an almost Red shoes energy, only here are red gloves up to the elbows. The lighting as a backdrop by Reed Nakayama reaches whimsical and minimalist heights with a pool scene generated largely by the teal color and the two very gracious dancers wearing red swim caps.

Do you have difficulty integrating this floral-aquatic, French impressionist-Piaf, non-binary, esoteric-Alice in Wonderland, TikTok dance (okay, not that but would that surprise you?) Because I struggled to put all these pieces together. It has been a long pandemic. I wrote myself in an appreciation of the work, but it still seems like a lot to digest, and I think the program notes were four lines long.

Pacific Northwest Ballet lead dancer Lucien Postlewaite in Alejandro Cerrudo’s PACOPEPEPLUTO, as part of PNB’s fully digital 2020/21 season (Photo © Lindsay Thomas)

I’ll mention what I didn’t like about Cerrudo’s short provocation PACOPEPEPLUTO first to eliminate that, and it’s just that it was hard to discern which three songs from the time of Dean Martin’s crooner (“In the Chapel in the Moonlight”, “Memories Are Made of This” and “That’s Amoré”) had to do with the three dancer solos on a dark and menacing stage wearing only a dance belt (and which, of after the mimed gestures of the protective crotch, could be intended to be considered entirely naked).

Otherwise, I have seen thirty minute dance pieces with less choreographic ideas than this 8 minute profusion – it’s the 90 pages Moonlight dance script, without any phrase actually stopping: there’s always a twist, jump, shimmy, or turn, and it sprints in another direction (ironically, things don’t “end” until the dancer runs away). Christopher D’Ariano gave a macho Stretch Armstrong-ball performance, James Yoichi Moore got a little head butt and a strutting comic, and Lucien Postlewaite was a curvy Greek urn athlete and nervous like Elvis in love (clutching on a shaking hand but watching his foot twitch in the place). I don’t want to theorize too much here, but the primordial nudity and the 50s bachelor-pad soundtrack come together in a way that touches on something about the history of male pride and body exposure… oh , but I see your eyelids are drooping. I will keep it for my long Substack format.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancers Laura Tisserand and Jerome Tisserand with Company Dancers at Edwaard Liang’s World Premiere Sailing between worlds, as part of PNB’s fully digital 2020/21 season (Photo © Lindsay Thomas)

Edwaard Liang Sailing between worlds also came with wispy notes on the work that invited you to ‘join the dancers in their creative world’, but that would be a heinous comparison (that’s right, I’m trying to bring back the uninvited) to contrast the neoclassical style of Liang with Wheeldon’s experience, regardless of New York Times you say. I’m more interested in what the work means, and Liang’s oracular notes on “perceived reality and fantasy” struck me as out of step with our current scenario of drowning in a pandemic conspiracy.

Nonetheless, it’s a sympathetic and entertaining piece of work, although it doesn’t follow through on the spectacle of its overture (pictured above). A few seconds before, Laura Tisserand was a giant size, dressed in the fabric like a dress – in a theater one would have heard gasps. Her no two with Jérôme Tisserand, filled with long slides, little step, and the elevators were a welcome and graceful respite from the notion of an obstacle. There is a lot of gaiety, with duets, trios and quartets (the whole cast, apparently, revel in Liang’s light choreography), but also a fugue-like transfer of movement that perhaps left allusion to something else; if you listen to Oliver Davis’ propulsive and motive score, with quick hits of the strings, there isn’t much distance between cheerfulness and a mask with a smile on it.

Dylan Wald sprang out from under the material to dance something with a little more intensity, and I thought for a second I saw a Hamlet-like “Alas” gesture, but his bent right arm continued past. his head and the little shiver is gone. Normally impressed with Mark Zappone’s costume design, I was a little baffled by these, which suggest an Olympic gymnastics team from the late ’70s.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancers Leta Biasucci and Lucien Postlewaite at Edwaard Liang’s World Premiere Sailing between Worlds, as part of PNB’s fully digital 2020/21 season (Photo © Lindsay Thomas)


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