Monday, March 2, 2015

Dance To Melt The Stars

Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Lindsi Dec
photo by Angela Sterling
Last week somebody asked me why I write about dance. I had a quick answer: dance is my favorite art form.

Then, I started to wonder why. Why?

And here's where everything gets high falutin' and woo-woo. Great dance takes me to a place beyond words, to feelings that transcend my earth-bound self. I have that experience with some musical performances; I used to dance around my dorm room to Bach's "Brandenburg Concerti." Yes, I'm weird!!
PNB Principal dancers Ariana Lallone and Olivier Wevers in Forsythe's "Artifact"
photo by Angela Sterling

I have these specific memories of dance performances that have electrified me.
The one and only time I saw Rudolf Nureyev dance in person. To say his jetes were ferocious is an understatement.

The Stephen Petronio company, years ago, at On The Boards when it was located at Washington Hall. As the dancers moved across the floor, in that small, intimate space, I felt a primal rhythm come up through the floor boards. It still raises the hairs on the back of my neck to think about it.

Pat Graney's "Faith" blew my mind.

And then, there was the first time I saw William Forsythe's "In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated."

Pacific Northwest Ballet added this dance to the repertoire in 2000.
It's technically demanding for the dancers.
Ballet, but more than ballet. Their bodies angle, their feet are fulcra. It's kind of amazing.

It's fluid and jagged, thrilling and beautiful, a dance that challenges the audience the way one of the Three Musketeers might challenge a rival to duel with the slap of his leather riding glove on a wooden table.
PNB Principal Dancer Carla Korbes, "In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated"
photo by Angela Sterling

On March 13, PNB revives "In the Middle," along with two dances Seattle area audiences haven't seen yet: "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" and "New Suite."  The latter is a series of Forsythe duets first combined into a single work in 2012.

I was beyond excited when PNB announced this all-Forsythe bill. I'm more excited now that opening night is almost here.

Last week I caught up with former Forsythe dancer and current Forsythe stager Laura Graham. I'd watched her work with the PNB dancers in late 2014, and I was blown away by her energy and enthusiasm for these dances.
Laura Graham works with dancers from Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Graham seems to glow from the inside when she talks about how it felt when she first danced one of Forsythe's pieces.  Honestly, I feel the same way watching them from the audience, or from the side of the rehearsal hall.

As I mentioned, great dance seems to defy my words. When I try to write about it, I'm reminded of something Gustave Flaubert wrote in "Madame Bovary."

"Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap out crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars."

Yeah, that's pretty much how I feel about William Forsythe's work; I'm giving you some crude description of something that melts the stars for me.

Come find out what I'm talking about. "The Vertiginous Thrill of Forsythe" is at McCaw Hall March 13-22. On March 14th I'll be talking with PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal and dancers after the show. Here's a link for a ticket discount to that performance.


  1. Best ballet I've seen in years. The company has never been better. A perfect match of performers and material.

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