"Opus 111," Für Alina," "Mopey," "3 Movements"
Pacific Northwest Ballet
New York, N.Y.
January 5, 2010
By Carol Pardo
Copyright ©Carol Pardo
The prodigal has returned--if only for a week--bringing a new work by Twyla Tharp with him. Peter Boal,not seen on stage in New York since his retirement from the New York City Ballet in 2005, made a welcome return to town as directly of the Pacific Northwest Ballet. The prospect of a new Tharp was greeted with more caution, for two of her most recent works "Nightspot' for Miami City Ballet and "Rabbit and Rogue" for American Ballet Theatre, had sunk under the weight of their out-sized ambitions. Not so here. "Opus 111" is a keeper.
The work opens with one detail, initially incongruous is telling. The women are bare-legged and wear soft slippers. Everyone, dancers and choreographer alike, seems to relax in the absence of pointe shoes. Tharp's witty signature mix of ballet and modern is still here--a shimmy or shake contrasts with a back always near plumb--but the opposition is neither confrontational nor cute. It is, rather, delicately balanced and delivered with a light touch. So, too, are the folk accents which populate the score, Brahms' "String Quintet No. 2," and the dancing. But there is nothing relaxed about the structure of the piece, so rigorously built on units of two within the cast of twelve, that a trio jumping across the stage comes as a shock. Only the costumes detract from the success of the piece. Draped busily around the dancers' bodies in a jarring palette of white, orange, brown and indigo, they conceal rather than reveal the choreography. But nothing can obscure the fact that Twlya Tharp back on top of her game.
The pairing of Marco Goecke's "Mopey" and a pas de deux by Edwaard Liang harks back to 2004 when
Peter Boal and Company played the Joyce. "Für Alina," danced with unflagging commitment by Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz, opens with the two dancers in their own spotlights, as far from each other as it is possible to be on the rather small stage. Blackout. The lights come up. He has come closer to her. Her upper body expresses strife while the lower body moves with restraint. Blackout. Restraint falls away in the adagio where the act of partnering signals a relationship in turmoil. As the pas de deux ends, she is back where she started and his is moving back where he first stood. Is the relationship on hold? Over? Was it just a dream? A nightmare? It would have been easier to care about the answer if the piece were not so top-heavy with devices that have become all too familiar: the blackouts, the chunks of partnering left undeveloped in the name of expression, and, yet again, a score by Arvo Pärt.
"Mopey," a solo commissioned by Peter Boal, begins in silence begins with a guy in a hoodie making his way across the stage, his back to the audience. His hood is tied so tightly that his face is invisible. He returns to the strains of C.P.E. Bach and The Cramps sans hoodie, picking at his bare torso and the air around him, afflicted with lice, self-loathing or a surfeit of self-love. Whatever the diagnosis, such complete self-absorption presented without much variety of weight or dynamics is not absorbing to its audience.
The virtues and faults of Benjamin Millepied's "3 Movements" to Steve Reich's "Three Movements for Orchestra" are those of his "Everything Doesn't Happen at Once" seen in New York last October. He has a real gift for creating masses of bodies whose form and weight bring the stage space to life. But his not yet willing or able to reveal the qualities of individual dancers or of dancers as individuals. And he's still and new enough, young enough choreographer that he wears his sources on his sleeve. "3 Movements" owes a large dept to Jerome Robbins' "Glass Pieces" both in its composition and its theme, the contemporary urban crowd and its style.
The rhythm of the program itself was one of the virtues of the evening. None of the dances, except possibly "Mopey," went on too long. Each dancer had a moment to shine within a larger sense of community. There dancers are people you want to see again. With any luck, they'll be back soon.
Photographs: Pacific Northwest Ballet principals dancers Ariana Lallone and Stanko Milov in Twyla Tharp's "Opus 111." Photo © Angela Sterling; Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carla Körbes and Bathurel Bold in Edwaard Liang's Für Alina. Photo ©Angela Sterling