It’s a cliché that diamonds are forever. This cliché applies to the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Of course, it’s George Balanchine’s “Diamonds” that the company brings that timeless elegance to during their week-long residency at The David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Conducted by former New York principal dancer Peter Boal, the company’s first New York season in six years celebrates its 50th anniversary with works by Balanchine, Alejandro Cerrudo, Ulysses Dove, Crystal Pite and Twyla Tharp. In this mixed repertoire program, Pacific Northwest Ballet explores what makes a work timeless in a dazzling array of choreographic styles.
Diamonds, which first appeared as the third act in Balanchine’s Jewels in 1967, is inspired by Balanchine’s youth in St. Petersburg, the Mariinsky Theater and the Imperial Ballet, where he trained. The play, which eschews gimmicks — no superfluous production aspects or “gotcha” stunts — stays as pure as the gem it’s named after, and Pacific Northwest Ballet really lets it shine. Crisp white costumes with glittering jewels sparkle as the dancers join forces and then flow across the sage like so many uncut gems do.
Homage to Marius Petipa’s “Swan Lake” and “Raymonda” run through every moment of the “Diamonds” ensemble and particularly in his pas de deux. While the work’s simple sophistication requires the dancers to find ways to energize it, an effort that is occasionally inconsistent in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performance, it is nonetheless startling. Elegant and guileless, this is a must-see for anyone who has once seen a ballet dancer and longed to see themselves.
Recognizing so many outstanding choreographers in an iconic city like New York, the company’s repertoire program revolves around legacy and tradition, Boal explained during a brief pause. This thought is central to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s performance of Twyla Tharp’s Waiting at the Station. Tharp created Waiting at the Station while she was artist-in-residence with Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2013. Less than a decade later, this narrative ballet traces the journey of a man trying to connect with his son, before he must surrender to the three gilded fates is already a classic.
The set, magically assembled in the space of just a 15-minute intermission, transports 1940s New Orleans, where the ballet takes place, to 2022 New York City. A collection of R&B compositions by the artist Allen Toussaint composes a work that is a true emotional journey – and after the more reserved “Diamonds” a welcome shock to the system. Tharp, whose “crossover ballets” fuse Broadway-esque panache with the artistry of movement, is as sharp as ever here. Style exudes from every step and nothing, not even the seemingly impossible, is off limits.
“Waiting at the Station” requires almost constant movement from its dancers. Even in a moment of relative silence, dancers are carried across the stage as if they were floating. From feet to face, nothing really stops. Pacific Northwest Ballet comes to life with this piece, especially James Yochi Moore and Kyle Davis who live in their characters as father and son. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and brutally human.
Calling something a “classic,” like a diamond, means guaranteeing its meaning forever. The Pacific Northwest Ballet is quite classical by this definition.
Tickets range from $40 to $130. In celebration of The Joyce’s 40th anniversary and PNB’s 50th anniversary, most $40 and $50 tickets will be offered to the audience. Vaccination and mask requirement in the theater.