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Saturday, February 4, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Dance Review

Going out on lovely limbs for some romantic turns

Seattle Times arts critic

A man and a woman, in jeans and T-shirts, hang suspended by ropes and harnesses on a bare stage, their feet just touching the floor. The orchestra plays a slow, luscious Arvo Pärt score, with the notes seeming to hang in the air like the dancers — time, indicated by a tolling bell at the beginning of the dance, seems to have stopped. The dancers reach for each other, skimming slowly across the floor as if running through water, twisting in airborne pirouettes, soaring as if reaching for heaven together.

Susan Marshall's devastatingly beautiful seven-minute "Kiss," one of four new-to-Seattle ballets presented in Pacific Northwest Ballet's repertory evening "Valentine," seems to depict heaven on Earth — that heaven of being in love. And it does so by combining the two primary components of dance, music and movement, and subtracting a crucial third one: gravity. Aerial dances are not unusual in the modern-dance world (Pilobolus did one at Meany Hall, earlier this winter), but they're rare in ballet.

PNB's Mara Vinson and James Moore, on opening night, imbued "Kiss" with a quiet longing and beautiful long-lined stretch. Other than the pointed toes, "Kiss" is a far cry from classical ballet, but its presence in the PNB repertory is a welcome symbol of adventure, and Vinson and Moore fearlessly demonstrated readiness for it.

"Valentine," as a whole, was a gift bag filled with unexpected and very different treasures. Twyla Tharp's romantic yet whimsical ballroom rhapsody "Nine Sinatra Songs," already a modern-dance classic, was beautifully performed by seven couples, gowned and tuxedo'd in Oscar de la Renta and swooping across the floor to familiar Sinatra tunes.

Chalnessa Eames and Anton Pankevitch climbed playfully all over each other in "One for My Baby." Their dance showed a lovely lightness and wit, particularly Eames' little what-the-heck shrug after a lyrical back bend. Likewise, Carrie Imler and Jonathan Porretta romped through "Somethin' Stupid," a couple bursting over with the joy of the moment. (At one point, he happily spun her like a top.)

"Red Angels," a powerful contemporary ballet by Ulysses Dove, has a controlled wildness to it that perfectly fits its electric-violin score. The four dancers, in red unitards, march toward the audience as if ready to attack, then zing into motion as if plucked like the strings of the violin: razor-sharp, swinging arabesques; angular arm movements, lightning-quick steps. At the end the dancers march away into the red light, raising their arms like angel wings as they fade into the shadows.

Richard Tanner's "Ancient Airs and Dances," a gentle, relaxed neoclassical ballet set to Respighi, made a fitting curtain-raiser for an adventurous, satisfying evening.


Thursday night, McCaw Hall, Seattle

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

"Valentine" 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Feb. 11, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Feb. 12, Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $20-$134 (206-441-2424 or


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