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Eclectic Energy at PNB’s ‘New Works’

Something old, something new, something borrowed and lots of blue…At last night’s premiere of PNB’s annual New Works showcase, three international choreographers embraced both old and new, blending traditional ballet with contemporary modern dance and hip-hop for three varied, highly energetic pieces, including one world premiere from former break dancer Victor Quijada.

The aptly named A Million Kisses to my Skin, choreographed by David Dawson, used brisk and impressive footwork, quick pirouettes, and a succession of swift transitions to create a constantly rapid flutter of movement across the stage. Like a flock of graceful butterflies, ballerinas en pointe and simply costumed in pale blue leotards glided across the bare stage, breaking off in groups to partner with male dancers in duets and trios, allowing themselves to be dragged around the stage like skaters on ice, or lifted (legs in long graceful splits) and carried, rocking like beautiful carousel horses. Dancers transitioned flawlessly from punchy staccato playfulness (high-energy leaps, pas de chats and kicks) to slower, more sensual duets, extending their bodies into long lines and swooping arched backs, filling the stage with exuberant energy and dazzling technique.  

Cylindrical Shadows, choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and re-staged for McCaw Hall by Olivier Wevers, wove between a light, dreamlike state and a gorgeous nightmare. For the PNB premiere, several dancers were added to the mix, with Andrew Bartee and Lucien Postlewaite reprising the roles they danced when Whim W’Him premiered the preliminary piece last year. Stunningly graceful and highly balletic, the work featured repeated swaying arms motions, acrobatic partnering and chain reactions of movement set off with the slightest touch from a single dancer. Although the piece is essentially esoteric, a delicate duet between Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura was drawn through with sad longing, and the small moments are the most poignant—when he runs his hand tenderly over her shoulder, or she sinks to the floor to embrace his face-down body. Their on-stage chemistry crackles, and when he drags her around, hands beneath her arms, Nakamura trustingly surrenders, allowing Postlewaite the trust to lead. Ochoa, with a keen eye for empathy, knows how to translate emotion through movement, finely tuning the dancers’ interactions so that even the smallest caress carries sentimental weight.

Victor Quijada’s world premiere of Mating Theory was definitely something new. The former break dancer created a piece full of tension—between forms, between dancers, between genders—that sparked with an electrified current of energy. Infusing hip-hop with modern dance and ballet, Quijada’s choreography was innovative and exciting. Dancers didn’t look like ballerinas attempting to pop-and-lock; the finely toed line between the two forms was impressive—torso isolations followed by graceful kicks and pointed toes (sans pointe shoes), cartwheels executed with bent legs and controlled floor work that mimicked the stomp-and-bounce of break dancing while maintaining balletic grace. With a sweep of modernism, dancers broke into small vignettes within a larger group, depicting emotions like anger and lust through pedestrian interaction (caresses, mimed fighting, etc.). The hugely athletic undertaking was a refreshing showcase from a young choreographer pushing the boundaries between genres—here’s hoping that he continues to bring us more of that something new. 

New Works runs through March 24. Tickets avaliable here

Pictured above PNB company dancers in Cylindrical Shadows. Photo by Angela Sterling.

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