Review: PNB ‘Director’s Choice’ a tasteful menu, served slightly out of order

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Director’s Choice” program features works by David Dawson, Jessica Lang and William Forsythe. “Director’s Choice” runs through March 26.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Director’s Choice” program is a lovely evening of dance that’s presented in the wrong order, like a dinner where all the food is good, but dessert for some reason comes first — which surely makes the meal more memorable, but feels a bit off-balance.

There’s a reason David Dawson’s “Empire Noir” opened the evening: It features a massive set piece — a dark, looming shape, like the prow of a ship — that clearly takes time to assemble, more time than an intermission would allow. But I wished its final, flung-to-the-winds arabesque could have been the evening’s end note; it’s a powerful work whose exhausted dancers found sharp-edged poetry.

Dawson, whose floaty, electric “A Million Kisses to My Skin” was performed by PNB in 2012 and 2014, fills “Empire Noir” with arabesque; a shape that both mirrors the set and seems to suggest a bird in flight (particularly in a long, beautifully airborne lift). Another frequently repeated shape is quirkier: arms extended out to the side with fingers of one hand pointing up, the other hand pointing down. Slouchy, hippy walks alternate with breathless runs, whipping turns, spiraling lifts; by its end (how can they dance so hard for so long?), that last, lingering arabesque seems like an emphatic punctuation mark. The audience, on opening night, roared approval.

Dance review

‘Director’s Choice’

Through March 26 at Pacific Northwest Ballet, McCaw Hall, Seattle; $30-$187 (206-441-2424 or pnb.org).

Jessica Lang’s elegant “Her Door to the Sky,” the evening’s closer, might have benefited from an earlier slot. It’s a gentle, lyrical work inspired by the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe and set to a Benjamin Britten score. Bradon McDonald’s costumes — long, Martha Graham-esque dresses for the women, buttoned shirts/pants for the men — feature splashes of earth-toned color, swirling around the dancers; Nicole Pearce’s lighting design (which darkens middance, as if the Southwest sun is setting) plays with those colors and changes them, creating a dance of its own.

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