Monday, March 21, 2016

Mortal Jumps Big And Small

Pacific Northwest Ballet company member Price Suddarth in "Little mortal jump"
photo by Angela Sterling
A friend of mine died this weekend.

He was an artist and a scholar, a curator and a sensitive soul.

I’m telling you this because I couldn’t help but think of him as I watched two beautiful performances this weekend.

“Betroffenheit,” a collaboration by choreographer Crystal Pite and her company Kidd Pivot, and theater artist Jonathan Young, artistic director of Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, explores Young’s own descent into depression and addiction after a tragic accident, and his difficult climb out of that abyss.
"Betroffenheit" by Crystal Pite and Jonathan Young

The performance is daring and emotional, at times funny, often shockingly raw. Ultimately, it is a profoundly moving story about one man’s battle back to the world of the living.

The Kidd Pivot dancers astound with their seemingly boneless bodies. They twist, jerk and spin as if pulled by an invisible puppeteer. And Young, well, what can I say? He is tender, powerful and powerless, all at the same time.

My friend, Jake, would have been engrossed by "Betroffenheit"; its searing narrative, the dark humor, its attention to each visual detail, the intricate sound design, and Pite’s captivating choreography. I wish he could have seen it.

“Betroffenheit” was presented in Seattle by On the Boards and Seattle Theater Group, and if you missed it, you’ll have to travel south to Portland. It’s worth the trip.

You still have another weekend to catch Pacific Northwest Ballet’s annual Director’s Choice program. As PNB’s artistic director Peter Boal wryly noted on opening night, he’s the chooser, and what he chose were three contemporary works.

The biggest pre-show buzz was for New York City Ballet soloist Justin Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit.” The piece was innovative and fresh, and exciting in its own way. But I was more moved by Alejandro Cerrudo’s “Little mortal jump.”
PNB's Elizabeth Murphy and Dylan Wald in "Little mortal jump"
photo by Angela Sterling

The ballet begins with a literal jump: company member Price Suddarth runs through the audience, climbs up onto the stage, then plunges into the orchestra pit. His leap is echoed upstage by James Moore, who descends into a dreamily dark and humorous world, accompanied by a musical mix that runs the gamut from Philip Glass to Tom Waits.

“Little mortal jump” unfolds in a series of duets, from Moore and Leah Merchant’s comically sultry intertwining, to Suddarth and Chelsea Adomaitis releasing themselves from their costumes which are velcroed to large black cubes, to Jerome Tisserand and Elle Macy, lovely as always, to the tenderly thrilling duo of Dylan Wald and Elizabeth Murphy.

Cerrudo’s “Little mortal jump” is about all the small joys of being alive; about laughter, and risk, and love. To me, he seems to be saying ‘You are born into this world, but to live fully, you need to take that jump, to seize the chances that come your way, to spin and whirl with the energy of your fellow human beings.’

My friend Jake seized his life by the lapels and lived it well. Alejandro Cerrudo’s dance reminded me to do the same thing.

See Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Director’s Choice” at McCaw Hall March 24-27.


Jake Seniuk, died 3/18/2016
photo by Alan Lande