|Pacific Northwest Ballet's Jonathan Porretta in "State of Darkness,"
choreography by Molissa Fenley, photo by Angela Sterling
Four dances were on the evening's bill, all made within the last 25 years, including a world premier by Hubbard Street Dance choreographer-in-residence Alejandro Cerrudo. (More on that after I get a chance to see it a second time). The four works were vastly different from one another, from Susan Stroman's jazzy crowd pleaser, "Take Five...More or Less," set to Dave Brubeck's jazz standard, to Molissa Fenley's intensely powerful solo "State of Darkness," danced on opening night by Jonathan Porretta.
"Take Five" is breezy and upbeat, and featured a lively opening solo from Kaori Nakamura. Scene stealers Kiyon Gaines and Lesley Rausch got an ebullient response from the crowd. "Take Five" is bubbly and fun, but it was Jonathan Porretta's work on opening night that had me up on my feet.
|PNB dancers Lesley Rausch and Kiyon Gaines in Susan Stroman's "Take Five...More or Less"
photo by Angela Sterling
Fenley is very slim, and in a videotaped performance from 1992, with her hair cropped short, she presents an androgynous, almost elfin persona. PNB's Jonathan Porretta, on the other hand, is solid and compact. With his dark hair hanging loose almost below his ears, Porretta commands the stage with a barely contained ferocity. Sometimes it was like watching a caged, semi-feral animal as he kicked his legs and slashed his arms to Stravinsky's percussive passages. In the dance's gentler moments, Porretta pulled back inside himself. He seemed to withhold his intensity for a few minutes, (and maybe gather more energy) only to unleash himself later on.
|PNB Principal Dancer Jonathan Porretta in Molissa Fenley's "State of Darkness"
Photo by Angela Sterling
As the musical energy builds, you hold your breath, waiting for Porretta to let loose one of his technically dazzling jetes across the stage. And you keep waiting, because Fenley doesn't give us that release until later in the dance. The tension escalates, the caged animal paces, then finally explodes with a burst into the air.
|PNB's Jonathan Porretta in "State of Darkness", choreographed by Molissa Fenley.
Photo by Angela Sterling
Also of note for all PNB fans: opening night of "Director's Choice" marked Carla Korbe's return to the stage, after months of recuperation from an injury. Korbes and fellow Principal Dancer James Moore performed Susan Marshall's "Kiss." It's an all-too-brief, poignant duet, with the dancers harnessed to sturdy ropes that are anchored high above the McCaw Hall stage. Moore is smoldering and sexy; Korbes, as always, shimmers like an ephemeral shooting star. The audience welcomed her back with ecstatic and sustained applause.
|Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancers Carla Korbes and James Moore
in "Kiss" by Susan Marshall. Photo by Angela Sterling