I must first write about the closing piece on the program, Crystal Pite’s Emergence, because it was one of the best ballets I’ve seen in a while and I am really excited about it. Emergence, Pite explains in some of the most thought-provoking and cogent program notes I’ve come across, is about the parallels between the complex hierarchies of the ballet world and species like bees and ants in the natural world. Pite cites semiotician Steven Johnson and biologist Thomas D. Seeley, but Emergence made me think most of the works of myrmecologist E.O. Wilson. Wilson is one of my favorite authors, and his application of ant behavior to the understanding of human civilization is fascinating. Pite seemed to me to be working some of his theories out onstage. Emergence was also evocative of Jerome Robbins’s The Cage, about a tribe of matriarchal insects who eat their mates after copulation. It is a tremendous work, and if you had told me that someone was making another bug ballet I would have said good luck; but Emergence was as compelling as The Cage without feeling at all derivative.
Emergence, which was choreographed for National Ballet of Canada in 2009 (PNB acquired it 2013), opens similarly to The Cage with a woman—a wonderful Rachel Foster—writhing spasmodically in a spotlight on an otherwise dark stage. She is attended by Joshua Grant, also excellent, who peels her off of the floor. The two perform a twitchy, eerie pas de deux before disappearing through a hole in the center of the backdrop. The scenery, by Jay Gower Taylor, resembled a hive or a nest, and the central hole from which dancers continually emerged or retreated was a long tube with honeycomb lights at its core.
A swarm of men in black pants with tattooed backs and black headdresses then floods the stage and commences pulsating, sharp movements to the distorted, mechanical score by Owen Belton. With their faces covered in black netting they indeed resembled bees, but the headgear also