For the Fans, PNB’s Bouquet of Kylian, Duato & Robbins
PNB’s Director’s Choice program has one more weekend to enthrall dance–not simply ballet–fans. Running through October 3 at McCaw Hall, it’s post-Balanchine, but just barely: Three of the four pieces are from the mid-1980s.
My favorite of the evening was the finale, Glass Pieces, an against-type Jerome Robbins work that PNB’s Peter Boal is personally acquainted with. Using a Philip Glass score, Robbins looks into the beehive of humanity. “Robbins wanted us to be frenzied pedestrians traversing Grand Central Terminal at rush hour,” reports Boal in the program notes. The towering back wall is a gridwork that also suggest the ubiquitous tile of public spaces.
After the first movement’s commute–threaded by three spare, elegant duets–a shadowed line of dancers processes slowly across the back of the stage, carrying the rhythm in their hips and knees, trading places, stepping sideways, as Glass’s minimalist score also chugs its way past the fevered fingers of the orchestra.
In the second movement, Carla Körbes and Batkhurel Bold have a duet is almost purely musical shapes. It’s minimalist dance–for a moment, they stand, arms lightly curving. There’s a solidity and amplitude to Körbes and Bold, as if they’d been sculpted from living rock. For the third “act,” Robbins has social machinery transmit the movements that gradually lead to a stage-filling ensemble, the initial regimentation blazing out in a furious complexity.
Favorites or not, this is a program that encourages the audience to explore their tastes. Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze were clearly popular as well. Mozart (Piano Concerto in A Major, Piano Concerto in C Major) draws a startling inventiveness from Kylian, who says Petite Mort “should convey the idea of two ancient torsos, their heads and limbs cut off–evidence of a deliberate mutilation–however unable to destroy their beauty, thus reflecting the spiritual power of their creator.”
There are six duos–or more, if you count the dancers using gold fencing foils as partners as well. They bend the foils behind their heads, set them on the floor and, with the sweep of a hand, roll them on their barrels in a semi-circle, and slash the air viciously enough for you to hear it at the back of the theatre.
The human couplings are more–not always–referential to the title’s reference to orgasm, though Kylian refuses any stock sexual gestures. He often works out something in contrast to any position that might read as lovemaking, whether it’s a levers-and-pulleys schematic injected with an ecstatic arch, the male partner’s hands reaching between legs to pry open the hips, or the woman, bent backward from the knees until she’s horizontal to the floor, balancing on her partner’s calf. It’s suggestive, but with lacunae where the personal history might be.
I leave it up to you to decide if any of the duos outdid another; I found them equally engaging. What Kylian is asking them to do is still so innovative that it’s like witnessing multiple acts of creation.
Sechs Tänze had people laughing more or less constantly, but Mozart’s Six German Dances are here treated, I think, as the basis for something like Goya’s Caprichos, not simply as gags: The odd angularities and powdered wigs trailing clouds of white make for questions about who these jittery, vain people represent.
The austere black, hourglass dress models of Mort reappear on wheels, with the dancers behind, skimming across the stage. Occasionally, to general hilarity, a male dancer “wears” the dress, which, as chance dictated that I be sitting in the row with a cross-dresser in a black dress, problematized this performance for me. Is it really that hilarious? I felt like something disquieting or brazenly disjunctive was getting lost.
Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat is “based on Catalonian folk tales, composed and sung by Maria del Mar Bonet.” The women are in flowing skirts that they can swish or sashay in, or, more nontraditionally I imagine, flip over their shoulder so that their rears are exposed. I didn’t honestly get this piece; I’d have to see it again. I’ve read that it’s in part about the importance of water, which I did not pick up from the choreography.
When the curtain rises, the dancers are in a semi-circle of small wooden posts (or bent branches), and it turns out to be one of those dances where the feet are used percussively. For me, the thrill here was watching Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers display two very different ways of interpreting the style of dance.
Lallone can pull off the Catalan vernacular, the sinewy imperiousness, while Wevers must find another way to “dance the culture” so that he’s not miming gesture (something other dancers involved fell back on here: They may have been in the right position, but they looked out of place).
Here, Wevers manages to be both feline and to take up more space than his lithe frame requires; he moves with an unusual gravity. I imagine he treats it as a rite. We don’t always understand why we do what we do in ritual. But we know you have to perform it as if a misstep would bring calamity.