Franz Joseph Haydn (Sonate no V “Sitio” from Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze, Hoboken XX, 1B, 1786-1787; Allegro from string quartets Opus 9, no 6 in A major, 1769), Ludwig van Beethoven (String quartet no. 9 in C major, Op. 59, 1808, from Andante con moto quasi allegretto), Franz Schubert (Presto from string quartet Der Tod und das Mädchen, 1824, arranged for orchestra by Andy Stein)


Spenser Theberge


Alexander Ekman


Ana Maria Lucaciu

Scenic and Costume Design

Alexander Ekman

Lighting Design

Tom Visser


27 minutes


16 dancers


February 25, 2010; Nederlands Dans Theater 2 (The Hague, The Netherlands)

Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere

November 2, 2018

The 2018 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Alexander Ekman’s Cacti is generously underwritten by Susan Brotman.

Program Notes

In Cacti, Alexander Ekman turns his keen eye upon the scene that birthed him: contemporary dance itself. A gleeful and knowing parody of the art form’s greater excesses, Cacti is an affectionate, pointed, and often hilarious deconstruction of the affectations of dance.

Sixteen dancers stand, seemingly trapped, on oversized Scrabble tiles. While a string quartet plays and spoken recordings give tongue-in-cheek narration of the action, the dancers run, fall, writhe, and try to escape their invisible prisons; eventually—and this is the important bit—they each acquire a cactus. But what does it all mean?

Ekman has written: “This work is about how we observe art and how we often feel the need to analyze and ‘understand’ art. I believe that there is no right way and that everyone can interpret and experience art the way they want. Perhaps it’s just a feeling that you can’t explain or perhaps it’s very obvious what the message is.

Cacti was created during a period of my life where I was very confused and upset every time someone would write about my work. I did not find it fair that one person was going to sit there and sort of decide for everyone what the work was about. I have stopped reading my reviews, but still question this unfair system mankind has created.

“While creating Cacti, for the first time I had the chance to create a work with musicians in the studio, which was a new way of working for me. Together with a string quartet, we created a rhythmical game between dancers and musicians which became the score for the work.

Cacti demands high concentration both from dancers and musicians, which makes it very exciting to observe. I have always been fascinated by human capability during highest concentration and our way of acting in a state of emergency.”

Notes courtesy of