The thrill of spectacle

Review of Contemporary Classics by Emma K., age 16

Dance is one of the most versatile and mesmerizing art forms. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Contemporary Classics is a truly spectacular testament to this fact. Dancers from PNB’s troupe of forty-five perform four separate pieces, each more unique and stunning than the last.

The first piece, Agon, recently marked its 50th anniversary. First performed by the New York City Ballet, it was choreographed by George Balanchine and set to music by legendary composer Igor Stravinsky. Agon is made up of four sections, each set against a plain blue background. Dressed in simple black and white, the dancers accomplish tremendously complex physical feats while managing to make them look effortless. The real thrill of Agon is the duet of Louise Nadeau and Oliver Wevers. Formerly, the choreography has been abrupt, sharp, and synchronized. Now, the lighting and music soften while the dancers’ motions are fluid and beautifully formed. While there is no obvious story to be followed, the piece is full of emotion and easily draws the audience in.

PNB principal dancer Mara Vinson in Kiss. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Kiss, the second piece, is hauntingly beautiful and gives the audience a sense of defying gravity with endless motion. Mara Vinson and James Moore are suspended in the air by harnesses. Manipulating the ropes holding them aloft, they swing above the stage, separating from and returning to each other. Dramatic lighting and evocative music by Arvo Part add to the raw human emotion brought to life by Susan Marshall’s choreography. The performance is hypnotizing.

The third piece in the series, Caught, is nothing short of stunning. Choreographed by David Parson, the piece is meant to be a series of ‘snapshots’ examining flight. On a dark stage, the shirtless Jonathan Porretta leaps about the stage, while a strobe light catches him only when he is airborne. The effect is brief flashes of light that make it appear as though the dance is taking place almost entirely in the air. Every few moments, a spotlight shines on Porretta when he returns to a neutral stance center stage – as if he has been there the whole time. Robert Fripp’s music – solely performed by electric guitars – admirably adds to the novelty of this performance.

Finally, In the Upper Room– choreographed by Twyla Tharp in 1986 – is a delightful mix of color and light. A fog machine runs throughout the performance, giving it a cloud-like quality. Dancers begin the piece in pajamas and throughout the presentation change costumes until they are all in red. The choreography plays with the arts of running, flight, and unity. Music by Philip Glass compliments the growth of this piece, as it seems to begin in the light of morning and end in the dark of night.

On opening night, the audience was thrilled by the performances and the curtain calls lasted several minutes. Contemporary Classics is a fascinating and thrilling study of modern ballet, not to be missed.

Emma K.
November 1st, 2007

Contemporary Classics
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Through November 11th
More info and show times:
PNB’s Ticket Office: 206-441-2424
Ticket Office Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. – show time, weekends 90 minutes before show time

Pacific Northwest Ballet is located in McCaw Hall Seattle Opera, 321 Mercer Street, on the north edge of Seattle Center. It is served by buses 1,2,3,4,13,14,15,16,18,45,74 and 82. For bus schedules:

Did you see this show? Leave a comment and tell everybody what you thought!
TeenTix Logo
Sign Up


Create an account | Reset your password