A cross-country go to from a serious American ballet firm is sort of at all times of curiosity; after a lot pandemic upheaval, it deserves appreciation simply as a logistical feat. For the primary time in six years, Pacific Northwest Ballet, from Seattle, has made its method to New York with a full-fledged season, which initially was scheduled for June 2020. The firm even introduced its orchestra.
Presented by the Joyce Theater Foundation on the David H. Koch Theater, the engagement contains two blended repertory applications. The first of those, on Thursday (following a particular opening-night Joyce gala program on Wednesday) featured Ulysses Dove’s “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven: Odes to Love and Loss,” Crystal Pite’s “Plot Point” and the New York premiere of Twyla Tharp’s “Waiting at the Station.”
While introducing New York audiences to some fabulous West Coast dancers, the two-and-a-half-hour night (together with two lengthy intermissions) felt oddly anticlimactic. Maybe it had to do with the sparse crowd on Thursday. Or perhaps it was simply the selection of repertory, a lot of which appeared chosen to raise or lighten our collective temper, however didn’t fairly do the trick.
The most arresting and emotionally resonant work got here first, Dove’s prayerlike ballet for six dancers, to Arvo Pärt’s spacious and somber “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.” Created for the Royal Swedish Ballet in 1993, within the thick of the AIDS epidemic, “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven” depicts a sequence of relationships marked by longing, inside a framework of communal ritual. Dove would die from AIDS-related problems simply three years later, and it’s exhausting to watch this work with out wishing we’d had extra time with him.
The dancers — three males and three girls, all in white unitards — start in a circle on the middle of the stage, linking palms round a shiny white highlight. They repeatedly disperse from this association, into different swimming pools of sunshine, and flock again to it, their basis.
Against the echo of tolling bells, angular poses and plunging pliés conjure their very own pressing rhythm. And as a lot because the dancers attain out for each other — with a splayed hand taking pictures ahead, or bourrées contracting backward — we additionally see their wholeness as people. At the intersection of two corridors of sunshine, Jonathan Batista pirouettes with breathtaking equanimity. Juliet Prine delivers each transfer with exact assurance, and Amanda Morgan’s lengthy limbs bloom out from her middle, speaking each freedom and devotion. When, ultimately, the dancers discover themselves every in separate spotlights, they’re remoted however nonetheless collectively.
“Plot Point” (2010) swings in a distinct course, a intentionally exaggerated extrapolation of movie noir, whose 14 spectacular dancers comprise a double forged of “real life” characters and their shadowy “replicas.” Set to Bernard Herrmann’s rating for Hitchcock’s “Psycho” (with further sound by Owen Belton), the work accentuates the comedy of horror, in scene after scene of over-the-top battle and intrigue, at instances resembling stop-motion animation. It’s fleetingly humorous and — thanks largely to the stark, evocative set by Jay Gower Taylor — visually good-looking. But for all its meandering and doubling again, little appears to lie beneath its trendy surfaces.
“Waiting at the Station,” choreographed for the corporate in 2013, doubles down on a extra healthful type of enjoyable, bringing us to Forties New Orleans by way of colourful costumes and units by Santo Loquasto and a soulful medley of music by the R&B artist Allen Toussaint. Though you may not realize it with out this system notes, the ballet tells the story of a father (James Yoichi Moore) imparting dance steps to his son (Kuu Sakuragi) earlier than he dies. Both dancers nail their roles with polish and charisma; their solos and interactions are the ballet’s highlights.
With a lot of rollicking ensemble work, “Waiting” plateaus on a type of relentlessly jolly word, even in its funeral scene. Sometimes leaning into loss, as Dove’s work does, feels more true.
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Through Sunday at David H. Koch Theater; joyce.org.