PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET MAKES ITS JOYCE DEBUT (and Marco Goecke Steals the Show IMO)

Tuesday night, the Pacific Northwest Ballet opened its 5-day run at the Joyce. This was my first time seeing this company, and it has a reputation as one of the most prestigious in the U.S. Helmed by Peter Boal, a former dancer with New York City Ballet, the company is already familiar to many NYCB fans, but not yet to me.

I really wish they could have brought the whole company and danced at City Center, a more suitable stage for ballet. The Joyce is small and known for modern dance and so they could only bring a small portion of the company. And, the small stage limited their choice of choreography and prevented the dancers from dancing full-out. So I felt it lacked a certain balletic grandeur, although I still greatly enjoyed the evening.

For one thing, I was thrilled to finally be able to see Brazilian ballerina Carla Korbes dance, after being introduced to her on the Winger. She had a part in just about every ballet and she did not disappoint — she has great charisma and dances with great dramatic intention.

I was also happy to be able to see Seth Orza again 😀 (Everyone who’s read this blog for a while knows how downright devastated I was when he left NYCB…) He’s so sharp and precise, and so strong — I think he definitely needs to be promoted to principal (he’s now a soloist, as he was when he left NYCB).

So, there were four pieces on the program: Opus 111 by Twyla Tharp, Fur Alina by Edwaard Liang, Mopey by Marco Goecke (my favorite, and pictured above, James Moore dancing), and 3 Movements by Benjamin Millepied.

I’ll start with my favorite — Mopey, by Goecke, danced very intensely by Moore.

I’d always been curious about this young German choreographer ever since this little exchange (the “Evan M.” being Evan McKie, a principal with Stuttgart Ballet).

Anyway, Mopey is hard to describe — basically just a solo for a man who by turns twists and contorts his body into awkward shapes, bounces up and down, makes muscle-man poses, waves his arms about gracefully, appears to be possessed and struggling to control his limbs — his fingers bent and curved down somewhat grotesquely, almost monster-like. It was short but really engrossing.   Here’s a YouTube clip of a dancer from Stuttgart dancing an excerpt from the piece. Unlike in the clip, which is danced only to one piece of music, Moore danced first to silence, then to Bach, then to pop punk by The Cramps.

I also liked Millepied’s 3 Movements, pictured below (dancers are James Moore and Lucien Postlewaite).

All photos by Angela Sterling, by the way.

It was abstract but I thought I detected a bit of a men versus women showdown (I think this is a recurring theme of his — at least in his recent works). It was set to rather unsettling Steve Reich music and filled with original movement, the way the groups of men and women would go at each other at times, almost like they were from separate clans. But the costumes were contemporary: almost casual work attire for the men and little flirty dresses for the women. Costumes were designed by Millepied’s girlfriend, Isabella Boylston, corps dancer at ABT.

I also liked Fur Alina by Liang. It was a man woman pas de deux danced by Carla Korbes and Karel Cruz and it seemed to be the somber story of two lovers slowly deciding to part. It was set to Arvo Part (who it seems, understandably, is becoming the most used composer for contemporary ballet these days — at least for these despairing pas de deux).

Oddly, the Tharp was my least favorite (below: dancers in front are Korbes and Batkhurel Bold).

I’ve never seen Opus 111 before and this one (set to Brahms) didn’t seem to have any of Tharp’s signature comical character roles or her theme of ballet versus other kind of dance (fill in the blank: American social —  like in Deuce Coupe, Scottish folk, hip hoppy aerobics —  like in Upper Room) or her crazy, almost death-defying lifts. It was pretty and lyrical and the dancers lightly flew around the stage, at times coupling off. But sweet as it was, it just seemed to lack something. Might have been the small stage though and they just couldn’t dance it full-out?… Sir Alastair saw something more in it though.

I hope the company comes to NY again — to City Center.

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