PNB Presents Crystal Pite’s <em>Emergence</em> For Their Spring Program

Pacific Northwest Ballet is high on the emotional power of dance. In their latest program, Emergence from Crystal Pite, two audience favorites are paired with PNB’s premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU.

One of those favorites, Alejandro Cerrudo’s cinematic Little mortal jump, is playful, potent, and poignant, while the second, Crystal Pite’s mesmerizing Emergence, offers a stunning vision of hive intelligence. Interposed between the two favorites is the powerful premiere of, RAkU, PNB’s first work by Possokhov. It’s a tale of desire and loyalty, as seen through character portrayals and through design layered with digital projections.

Little mortal jump, resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s 10th piece, was initially created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. It’s a bubbling blend of different styles and genres that develops into a fluid and cohesive whole. As a dance, it combines the technicality of movement, theatricality of the stage, and dark humor inherent in relationships. Cerrudo wants the audience to forget what they did today, and what they will do tomorrow. Little mortal jump is layered with unexpected twists and turns. This work is a step in the evolution of Cerrudo’s choreographic style, “I challenge myself to create more complex works and to do things that I haven’t done before.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Little mortal jump" (photo by Angela Sterling) on

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Little mortal jump” part of “Emergence” by Crystal Pite (photo by Angela Sterling)

PNB’s premiere of RAkU, a stunning work by choreographer Yuri Possokhov, tells a story of love and separation, desire and jealousy, violence and grief, Based on the true story of the burning of Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion in 1950, RAkU is set in a much earlier time and in a style similar to Noh Theater.

Rather than being actors or “representers” in the Western sense, Noh performers are simply storytellers who use their visual appearances and their movements to suggest the essence of their tale rather than to enact it. Noh (能 Nō), derived from the Sino-Japanese word for “skill” or “talent”, is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama. It dates back to the 14th century, and is the oldest major theatre art that is still being regularly performed today.

RAkU tells the story of a princess, her warrior husband, and a monk. Possokhov’s imaginative approach, along with a commissioned score, and dramatic projection-based scenery combine to form a perfectly artistic whole.

Despite its Japanese story and setting, RAkU contains no traditional Japanese dance or music. The commissioned score by Shinji Eshima is symphonic and uses no Japanese instruments, but it conveys a Japanese feeling. One section even incorporates a Buddhist chant.

Possokhov is more interested in tone, aesthetics, and visual inventiveness than in reenacting history. Combining folk-based steps and butoh (a post-World War II Japanese dance form utilizing extremely slow movements) with classically-based movement, he makes every emotion in the ballet visual and vivid. FYI: RAkU contains themes of sexual violence.

Described as “a riveting; dark-hued work,” Crystal Pite’s Emergence was inspired by Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software by American popular science theorist Steven Johnson. She explores the parallels between the social organization of bees and the hierarchical nature of classical ballet companies by casting a swarming, scurrying group of dancers, insect-like, in an eerily subterranean universe,

Pite was interested in individual expression and in collective problem solving through movement, often favoring the visual and kinesthetic appeal of the eccentric over the mundane and the grotesque over the beautiful. Pite rarely works with dancers en pointe and was attracted not only to the dancers’ ease of movement but also to the potential for a creature-like effect.

Emergence runs April 13-22 at McCaw Hall, and is the sixth of seven programs in PNB’s 2017-1918 season.

Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Join Audience Education Manager Doug Fullington for a 30-minute introduction to each performance, including discussions of choreography, music, history, design and the process of bringing ballet to the stage. One hour before performances. FREE for ticketholders.

Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Skip the post-show traffic and enjoy a Q&A with Artistic Director Peter Boal and PNB dancers, immediately following each performance. FREE for ticketholders.

PNB’s EMERGENCE runs for seven performances only, April 13-22 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall; running time is approximately two hours and 25 minutes including two intermissions; tickets range from Tickets ($37-$187) may be purchased through the PNB Box Office 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, Seattle, and online at; discounts available for groups of 10 or more, please call Group Sales Manager Julie Jamieson at 206.441.2416, email or use PNB’s online contact form at; .subject to availability, half-price rush tickets for students and senior citizens (65+) may be purchased in-person with ID, from 90 minutes prior to show time at the McCaw Hall box office.

Alejandro Cerrudo (Little mortal jump) was born in Madrid, Spain, and trained at the Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza de Madrid. His professional career began in 1998 and included work with Victor Ullate Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, and Nederlands Dans Theater 2. Mr. Cerrudo joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2005, was named choreographic fellow in 2008, and became the company’s first resident choreographer in 2009. His thirteen works for Hubbard Street include collaborations with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Nederlands Dans Theatre. In March 2012, PNB invited Mr. Cerrudo to choreograph his first work for the company, Memory Glow, upon receiving the Joyce Theater Foundation’s second Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance. Additional honors include an award from the Boomerang Fund for Artists (2011) and a Prince Prize, from the Prince Charitable Trusts (2012), for his first full-length, One Thousand Pieces. Mr. Cerrudo is one of four choreographers invited by New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan to create and perform original duets for “Restless Creature,” and in 2014, he was announced the 2014 USA Donnelley Fellow by United States Artists.

Little mortal jump
Music: Beirut (“A Call to Arms” and “La Banlieue”), Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire (“Beware”), Alexandre Desplat (“See How They Fall—Dans Les Champs De Ble” and “A Self-made Hero—Theme de Heroes”), Philip Glass (“Glassworks/Analog: Orange Mountain Music Archive: Closing”), Max Richter (“The Haunted Ocean 5” and “November”), Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan (“Fawn”)
Choreography: Alejandro Cerrudo
Staging: Pablo Piantino
Scenic Design: Alejandro Cerrudo
Costume Design: Branimira Ivanova
Lighting Design: Michael Korsch
Running Time: 26 minutes
Premiere: March 15, 2012; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

PNB Premiere: March 18, 2016

The 2016 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump was generously underwritten by Jeffrey & Susan Brotman. The 2018 production is generously supported by Peter & Peggy Horvitz.

Shinji Eshima (Composer, RAkU), born in Berkeley and a graduate of Stanford and Juilliard, is a double-bassist in the SF Ballet Orchestra (SFBO) and San Francisco Opera Orchestra. He is a faculty member at San Francisco State University and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His compositions include music for theater, film, chamber music, opera, and Buddhist hymns. His first commission for SF Ballet, Possokhov’s RAkU, was recorded by SFBO at Skywalker studio and released on CD and iTunes. In 2011, the city of Berkeley named December 6 as “Shinji Eshima Day” in his honor for his contributions to the arts.

Yuri Possokhov (RAkU) After training at the Moscow Ballet Academy, Possokhov danced with the Bolshoi Ballet for ten years, where he was promoted to principal dancer. In 1992, he joined Royal Danish Ballet as a principal dancer, then joined San Francisco Ballet as a principal dancer in 1994. His final engagement as an SF Ballet principal dancer was in 2006. As a choreographer, Possokhov has created 15 ballets for SF Ballet. In addition he has created works for the Bolshoi Ballet, Georgian National Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, and Oregon Ballet Theatre. He was named SF Ballet Choreographer in Residence in 2006.

RAkU (PNB Premiere)*
Music: Shinji Eshima (2011)
Libretto: Gary Wang
Choreography: Yuri Possokhov
Staging: Quinn Wharton
Scenic and Projection Design: Alexander V. Nichols
Costume Design: Mark Zappone
Lighting Design: Christopher Dennis
Running Time: 36 minutes
Premiere: February 3, 2011; San Francisco Ballet

The 2018 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU is generously supported by Aya Stark Hamilton, Glenn Kawasaki, Sharon Lee, Ms. Jodi Wong, and Leslie & Tachi Yamada.

*Audience advisory: RAkU contains themes of sexual violence.

Crystal Pite is a former company member of Ballet British Columbia and William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt. She made her professional choreographic debut in 1990 with Ballet British Columbia, and has since created more than 40 works for companies including Nederlands Dans Theater (where she has been an Associate Artist since 2008), Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, Cullberg Ballet, Ballett Frankfurt, the National Ballet of Canada, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (where she was Resident Choreographer 2001–04), Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and Louise Lecavalier/Fou glorieux. She is an Associate Dance Artist of Canada’s National Arts Centre and in 2013, was made an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells.

Ms. Pite formed her company Kidd Pivot in 2002. Incorporating movement, original music, text, and rich visual design, Kidd Pivot’s distinct choreographic language is marked by a strong theatrical sensibility and a keen sense of wit and invention. The company has won international acclaim with such works as Dark MattersLost ActionThe You ShowThe Tempest Replica, and Betroffenheit. Ms. Pite’s many awards include the Dora Mavor Moore Award (2009, 2012), a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award (2006), the 2008 Governor General of Canada’s Performing Arts Award, the 2011 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award, the inaugural Lola Award in 2012, Canada Council’s 2012 Jacqueline Lemieux Prize, two Olivier Awards (2015 for Polaris, and 2017 for Betroffenheit, and the 2017 Benois de la Danse for The Seasons’ Canon.

Music: Owen Belton (2009)
Choreography: Crystal Pite
Staging: Hope Muir
Scenic Design: Jay Gower Taylor
Costume Design: Linda Chow
Lighting Design: Alan Brodie
Running Time: 28 minutes
Premiere: March 4, 2009; National Ballet of Canada (Toronto)
PNB Premiere: November 8, 2013

Principal support for the 2013 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Emergence by Crystal Pite was generously provided by Marcella McCaffray.

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Starla Smith

Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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