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Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness at The David H. Koch Theater

For its 50th anniversary engagement, presented by The Joyce Theater, the company explores what makes a work timeless in a dazzling variety of choreographic styles.

Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness  at The David H. Koch Theater It's a cliche that diamonds are forever. For the Pacific Northwest Ballet this cliche rings true.

Of course it's George Balanchine's "Diamonds'' that the company infuses with this timeless elegance during its week-long residency at The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Led by former New York City principal dancer Peter Boal, the company's first New York season in six years celebrates its 50th anniversary with works by Balanchine, Alejandro Cerrudo, Ulysses Dove, Crystal Pite, and Twyla Tharp. In this mixed repertory program, the Pacific Northwest Ballet explores what makes a work timeless in a dazzling variety of choreographic styles.

"Diamonds," which first appeared as the third act in Balanchine's "Jewels" in 1967, is inspired by Balanchine's youth in St. Petersburg, the Mariinsky Theater, and the Imperial Ballet, where he trained. The piece, which eschews gimmicks -- no gratuitous production aspects or 'gotcha' stunts -- remains as pure as the gem for which it is named, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet truly lets it shine. Stark white costumes with glittering jewels twinkle as the dancers cluster together and then spill across the sage like so many uncut gems.

Homages to Marius Petipa's "Swan Lake" and "Raymonda" are infused throughout "Diamonds" ensemble moments, and especially in its pas de deux. While the work's simple sophistication requires the dancers to find ways to give it energy, an effort which is occasionally uneven in the Pacific Northwest Ballet's performance, it still stuns. Elegant and guileless, this is mandatory viewing for anyone who once looked at a ballet dancer and longed to see themselves.

In recognizing so many quintessential choreographers in an iconic city like New York, the company's repertory program is about legacy and tradition, Boal explained during a brief pause. It's a thought that's central to the Pacific Northwest Ballet's performance of Twyla Tharp's "Waiting at the Station." Tharp created "Waiting at the Station" during her time as an artist-in-residency with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2013. Less than a decade later, this narrative ballet tracing one man's journey as he attempts to connect with his son before he must surrender to the three gilded Fates is already a classic.

Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness  at The David H. Koch Theater The set, which is magically built in the timespan of a mere 15-minute intermission, brings 1940s New Orleans, where the ballet takes place, to 2022 New York City. A collection of R&B compositions by artist Allen Toussaint scores a work that is a true emotional journey -- and a welcome shock to the system after the more restrained "Diamonds." Tharp, whose "crossover ballets" merge Broadway-like panache with the art of movement, is sharp as ever here. Style oozes from every step and nothing, not even the seemingly impossible, is off limits.

"Waiting at the Station" demands near-constant movement from its dancers. Even a moment of relative stillness features dancers being carried across the stage as if suspended. From the feet to the face, nothing ever truly stops. Pacific Northwest Ballet comes alive with this piece, particularly James Yochi Moore and Kyle Davis who, playing father and son, live in their characters. It is exhausting and exhilarating and brutally human.

To designate something as a "classic," like a diamond, is to guarantee its significance forever. The Pacific Northwest Ballet is, by this definition, wholly classic.


Tickets range in price from $40 to $130. In celebration of The Joyce's 40th Anniversary and PNB's 50th Anniversary, the majority of tickets will be offered for $40 and $50 to audiences. Vaccination required and masks must be worn in the theater.




From This Author - Lora Strum

An award-winning freelance journalist specializing in long-form, community-focused storytelling, Lora has written for the Washington City Paper, the PBS NewsHour, Marquette Magazine, BroadwayWorld.com, PhillyVoice,... (read more about this author)


Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness  at The David H. Koch TheaterReview: Pacific Northwest Ballet Trades Timeliness For Timelessness at The David H. Koch Theater
June 23, 2022

To designate something as a “classic,” like a diamond, is to guarantee its significance forever. The Pacific Northwest Ballet is by this definition, wholly classic, @lorastrum writes.

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