Jacob’s Pillow Presents Pacific Northwest BalletBECKET, Mass. - Seattle-based Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), one of the most prominent ballet companies in the United States under the artistic direction of former New York City Ballet star Peter Boal, will perform an exclusive program of the work of Ulysses Dove, August 19-23, in the Ted Shawn Theatre.
Lauded as one of the most innovative contemporary choreographers of the past 50 years, Ulysses Dove created work combining his distinct sense of speed and attack with sensuality, emotion, and power. Dove, a dancer with Alvin Ailey who became an internationally recognized choreographer, died in 1996 of an AIDS-related illness at the age of 49. He was mourned by many as the loss of a major choreographic talent.
Pacific Northwest Ballet will perform three works choreographed by Dove: Vespers, Red Angels, and Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven. Founded in 1972 and called “a company of rare abilities” by Clement Crisp of London’s Financial Times, PNB is one of the largest ballet companies in the United States. In July 2005, Peter Boal became Artistic Director, succeeding Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, who had served as Artistic Directors since 1977. The company of fifty-one dancers presents more than 100 full-length and mixed repertory ballet performances each year. The company has toured Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and throughout the United States, and was last seen at Jacob’s Pillow in 2006.
”Peter Boal has guided Pacific Northwest Ballet to new heights,” comments Ella Baff, Executive Director of Jacob’s Pillow. “As a former super-star of the New York City Ballet, he understands the highest standards of artistry and knows about dance-making of consequence. The work of the late Ulysses Dove should continue to be seen by new audiences and the program Peter is bringing to the Pillow is a stunner.”
“Having spent many hours in the studio with Ulysses Dove, I am especially proud to bring his work to the stage,” comments Peter Boal, Artistic Director of PNB. “Jacob’s Pillow was an important place for Ulysses and we are honored to return to the Pillow with a program of his work.”
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Dove graduated from Bennington College in 1970 with a degree in dance. After quickly becoming a standout principal dancer with Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dove was urged by Ailey to turn to choreography. After creating the 1980 solo Inside for Judith Jamison, he left the Ailey company to begin a freelance choreographic career creating significant works for American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, and others. Known for his definitive punchy movement style, other signature works by Dove include Night Shade (1982), Bad Blood (1984), and Episodes (1987).
Many Pillow connections are revealed in this exclusive program. In 1992, Ulysses Dove returned to the stage to partner Carmen de Lavallade in John Butler's Portrait of Billie as part of the Pillow’s Season Opening Gala. The Pillow has presented his work throughout the past 20 years: Dayton Contemporary Dance Company performed Vespers in 1990 and RhythMEK performed Episodes in the Doris Duke Theatre in 2000. Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, a work originally created for the Royal Swedish Ballet, was also performed at the Pillow by the company’s chamber troupe Stockholm 59° North in 1997 and 2000. Before becoming artistic director of PNB, Peter Boal performed with New York City Ballet for 22 years and was part of the original cast of Dove’s Red Angels, along with Darci Kistler, Wendy Whelan, and Albert Evans. Boal himself performed in the Ted Shawn Theatre in 2004 with Peter Boal and Company, before returning to the Pillow as director of PNB in 2006.
Vespers was premiered in 1986 by Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and is full of drama, energy, and strong gestural phrases. The work is known to be inspired by Dove’s grandmother's churchgoing and the way in which she “released" her own mother's spirit after death. Six women dance barefoot in black gowns and explode across the stage, abandoning and returning to a set of chairs. Mikel Rouse's percussive score matches the dancers' drive in this ballet with stark lighting by William Grant III.
The Royal Swedish Ballet premiered the elegiac Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven in 1993 and performed the American premiere of the work in 1996, as part of “For the Love of Dove,” a tribute held one week after the choreographer’s death. The work is set to Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, by Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. It is comprised of three sections: love, friendship, and letting the spirits go, and dancers move with a somber fluidity suggesting sorrow and loss. This work is performed en pointe.
Red Angels is a choreographic counterpoint to the gentle Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven. Set to Maxwell's Demon by Richard Einhorn, a score for a five-string electric violin, this abstract ballet for four dancers highlights power and athleticism. Red Angels was commissioned by the New York City Ballet as part of its 1994 Diamond Project. Dove described the work, "I wanted to deal with aspects of the Balanchine esthetic I find appealing: the speed, legginess, the formality.” Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times commented on Red Angels, “Dove takes the audience into a different world, alienated but hot with sublimated passion.”