In June, Pacific Northwest Ballet and On the Boards present their Next Step performances and New Works Festival respectively. Both showcases allow audiences to see the first stagings of works or works-in-progress from established and emerging talents.
Next Step 2013
PNB’s Next Step program allows dancers within the company to choreograph new works which are then performed by students of the PNB school. In recent years, PNB has collaborated with Seattle Youth Symphony to further connect young artists of different disciplines, giving musicians experience playing for dancers and giving the dancers the extra energy (and challenge) of performing to live music.
Each of the seven pieces showed a unique voice. Some were more fully realized than others. Two pieces in particular were the highlights of the night. Price Suddarth’s long, lovely duet “The Spaces Between” received the only standing ovation of the night. The dancers Saho Kumagai and Isaac Aoki both performed in numerous pieces throughout the night, but they both truly shined in Suddarth’s piece. All three young artists are ones to watch. The final piece of the night was an exuberant, mature and complex work by Ezra Thomson titled “Ich Liebe Dich.” The straightforward title bespeaks the direct, no-nonsense manner of Thomson himself, but there was nothing so simple about the work itself and one might hope that Thomson will expand it into a larger work. It has that potential.
SYSO provided the music for both of these performances under the direction of Maestro Stephen Radcliffe. He and his young musicians deserve accolades of their own, and it would be a shame to not mention the brilliant performance of cellist Naomi Tran, who performed movements from Bach’s “Cello Suit No. 1” for the penultimate performance of the night, a pleasing study titled “Beila” choreographed by PNB principal dancer Jonathan Porretta.
You can read my full review of PNB’s Next Step 2013 on Seattle Arts News.
Northwest New Works 2013
The main stage performances at On the Boards for the second and final week of the New Works festival were dominated by grief and death, especially in the first half. Those pieces in the first half were also the more polished works, and they balanced each other with divergent approaches to matters of loss. Paul Budraitis’ solo CLEAR BLUE SKY was a dramatic dropkick, whose narrator related two true tales of fathers who lost children. In one case, the father wreaks a terrible vengeance but is accepted by his community for restoring some order. In the other case, the father is destroyed and lives on driving a mobile memorial to his son in the back of his truck. The narrator seems caught between these extremes, somewhat mad with grief or righteous fervor, but the details of his own experience are never revealed. What becomes apparent is that though death may be an inevitable fate for all of us and something we must face as it claims loved ones, we all face it differently.
Indeed, the second performance on the main stage illustrated that beautifully. The New Animals performed new choreography by Markeith Wiley titled Tre, a commemorative piece eponymously titled after their friend and collaborator Joe Sodd III, who was slain five years ago this month in a robbery in his hometown. He was only twenty at the time, and the troupe danced with an apt, youthful exuberance and athleticism, broke into toasts and party scenes, and above all showed a mature bond among them and a continued love for one taken too soon. It was a deeply affecting performance that pulled no punches like CLEAR BLUE SKY, but conversely showed the sublimation of grief through art and communion, versus obsession and isolation as with Budraitis’ boxed-in narrator. These two pieces played well together, but it will be exciting to see the fully realized and polished version of the New Animals Tre, which is scheduled to premier on October 4 this year at TheLab@Inscape.
Read Jeremy Buben’s review of week one of the Northwest New Works Festival on Vanguard Seattle.
Read my full review of week two of On the Boards’ New Works Festival on Seattle Arts News.