Contemporary 4: A Review

By Christopher Heide

The Pacific Northwest Ballet presented a master class marriage of modern and classical technique into the uniquely wonderful Contemporary 4 show. Comprised of four separate mini-ballets, the show was designed to merge innovative and groundbreaking choreography with elements of formal technique. The result was invigorating and a pure delight to experience.

The first of the four pieces was called "Pacific" and was choreographed by Mark Morris. Lively visual elements, such as the costumes of the dancers that invoked both a Pacific Islander and Asian influence, helped create an authentic island atmosphere. Even the choreography seemed to match the cultural influences of those geographic areas.

The second piece was titled "Place a Chill" and was created by Marco Goecke, after he listened to Camille Saint-Saens’ "Cello Concerto No. 1." Goecke’s detailed choreography was unusually memorable and performed with a consistent enthusiastic intensity. 

According to PNB, “The quivering, shaking and fluttering movements of Goecke’s choreography might, at first glimpse, look like a loss of body control, but in fact they are exactly the opposite- they are the result of a very precise and detailed rehearsal process, a sophisticated elaboration of every movement. If they rarely show the symmetrical formations that are so characteristic of classical and neoclassical ballet, they do create another kind of order- an organic and dynamic order where nothing is left to chance.”

The third piece was the undoubted highlight of the evening. Entitled "The Piano Dance," choreographer Paul Gibson assembled a beautiful arrangement of piano solos to accompany his contrasting dances. According to PNB, “Gibson devised a series of solos, duets, and pas de trios for his dancers, set to music chosen for variety and for affinity to the dance impulse.” More than anything, "The Piano Dance" was beautiful, simple, moving and brilliantly executed. The simple music and reliance on a smaller number of dancers, gave this piece a more polished, intimate feel.

The final piece of the night was called "Concerto DSCH" and was choreographed by Alexi Ratmansky. The choreography was whimsical and playful, as well as emotional and haunting. The entire dance was performed with an aura of child-like tenacity and camaraderie. The choreography of this modernly whimsical ballet was elaborate, nuanced and entirely sophisticated. It was an energetic number, well executed by all performers.

Throughout the evening, a few dancers managed to stand out from the pack with their brilliant and powerful performances. Whether relying heavily on emotion or focusing on perfect technical execution, Lucien Postlewaite, Josh Spell, Rachel Foster, Lesley Rausch and many other veteran dancers contributed artistically inspired performances during this innovative show. Surely, this was a show to not be missed!