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Pacific Northwest Ballet’s <em>Director’s Choice</em> Showcases Energy, Technique and Artistry

In the three-piece rep arranged by Artistic Director Peter Boal, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s springtime Director’s Choice gives its dancers the opportunity to show off their many talents.

March 23, 2017

The performance begins with a PNB premiere and the most dynamic work of the set, Empire Noir, which earns its name as soon as the curtain rises. Graphically, every part is stunning. Using a monochromatic color scheme, set designer John Otto and lighting designer Bert Dalhuysen create a deep, dark stage with a large and dramatically plunging set piece, the singular curve of which is mimicked in the costuming and choreography, all coming together in a visually fascinating display.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Batkhurel Bold and corps de ballet dancer Elle Macy in the American premiere of David Dawson’s “Empire Noir,” which PNB is presenting as part of “Director’s Choice,” March 17 – 26, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.

The frantic piece sizzles with electricity from the start with the deep, resounding drum beats of Greg Haines’ original score and the equally hard-hitting choreography of David Dawson, which in one moment has the dancers slicing through the air with barely-on-time turns or battement arabesques and the next has them calmly walking off the stage. The dancers shine against the thrumming, staccato orchestration with vigorous, impassioned movement that crackles with energy even when they’re standing still.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Karel Cruz and Lesley Rausch in the American premiere of David Dawson’s “Empire Noir,” which PNB is presenting as part of “Director’s Choice,”  March 17 – 26, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.

We are uplifted from the intensity of Empire Noir with an interlude of duets in William Forsythe’s New Suite, which Pacific Northwest Ballet premiered in 2015. Clad in basic but colorful costumes, the couples showcase their technique to classical works from Handel, Berio, and Bach, featuring exquisite violin solos performed by musicians Michael Jinsoo Lim and Emilie Choi.

The program finishes with Jessica Lang’s Her Door to the Sky, which PNB premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August of 2016. Lang claims Georgia O’Keeffe’s Patio Door series as the inspiration; The background of a neutral wall with several windows cut out evokes those works while providing an interactive set for the dancers. Even the costuming and choreography channel that great American artist, as long skirts splashed with bright colors spin out into floral arrangements every time the dancers turn.

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloists Sarah Ricard Orza and Leta Biasucci, and corps de ballet dancer Cecelia Iliesiu in Jessica Lang’s “Her Door to the Sky,” which PNB is presenting as part of “Director’s Choice,” March 17 – 26, 2017. P

The group-work in this piece is phenomenal — from the intricacies of the male dancers lifting a solo ballerina as she dips and dives across the stage or up through the “door to the sky” (the largest opening in the background), to the small details like a quartet of women making their entrance by slowly appearing in the smaller windows below. It’s a gently celebratory finale, complemented by Benjamin Britten’s melodious Simple Symphony.

Director’s Choice is on the McCaw Hall stage through Sunday, March 26. For more information or to buy tickets, visit

Top Image: Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Jessica Lang’s Her Door to the Sky, which PNB is presenting as part of “Director’s Choice,” March 17 – 26, 2017. Photo © Angela Sterling.



Morgan McMurray

Morgan McMurray is a writer and editor based in Seattle. A 2013 graduate of Iowa State University, she has a Bachelor of Arts in English, Journalism, and International Studies.

Read more of her work on her personal blog and at Law Street Media.

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