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PNB Sharpens Its Contemporary Edge
Anna Waller,
March 19th, 2014

Photo © Anglea Sterling

 After intermission, Jonathan Porretta gave a truly unforgettable performance of Fenley's State of Darkness.  To be clear, State of Darkness is a solo to Rite of Spring, the 35-minute piece of Stravinsky that caused the riot back in 1913.  Fenley notes in the program that when she first danced the work herself in 1988, doing the work as a solo was regarded as an "arrogant" move, and one that Nijinsky had originally envisioned himself (what a thought!).  Taking on a large, historied score, is no easy task as a solo performer, but Fenley's structure lays the ground for a surprisingly satisfying solo - although one that depends entirely on its performer for success.  Poretta danced with godlike perfection, directing his powerful physique through the tight choreography for the full 35 minutes.  While jumps and large movement came in and out of the piece, more of the dance didn't travel far.  As is for self-preservation, much of the choreography comprised of smaller movements - textural body shudders, clean gesture, and sometimes just a vibrant stillness.  Poretta's strong presence kept these moments interesting, even when the score quiets two-thirds of the way through, exactly where the mind might start to wander.  The sheer physical feat of the dance was impressive enough on its own: after more than a half hour of dancing, Poretta still landed on perfect balance, and the leaps near the end were driven by a visceral quality that somehow highlighted his poise. State of Darkness has an implicit narrative of endurance, and it's a victory when he ends, standing on two feet as simply as he began.

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