In spring of 1965, a New York Times critic wrote enthusiastically about the young English cellist Jacqueline du Pré: “She played like an angel.” Listening to a recording of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1, interpreted by du Pré, Marco Goecke was inspired to create Place a Chill for Pacific Northwest Ballet. The cello concerto was du Pré’s last recording before she had to stop playing in public because of an incurable illess, during which she continuously lost control over her movement and body, dying in a wheelchair at the age of forty-two in 1987. The quivering, shaking, and fluttering movements of Goecke’s choreography might, at a first glimpse, look like a loss of body control, but in fact they are exactly the opposite—they are the result of a very precise and detailed rehearsal process, a sophisticated elaboration of every single movement. If they rarely show the symmetrical formations that are so characteristic of classical and neoclassical ballet, they do create another kind of order—an organic and dynamic order where nothing is left to chance. But the order which appears in Goecke’s choreography does not try to compete with the heavenly or angelic hierarchies evoked by the music, which in Seattle will be performed live by the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra. Rather, he builds up an antithetical world—a world in which darkness, evil, and the opacity of filthy materia are predominant. Goecke found an explicit formulation for this when he worked with dancer Ezra Thomson during a rehearsal: “You have to show up like the devil in person.” However, Place a Chill does not argue for a sharp dualism between the two worlds. The threatening destructiveness of earthly life and the angelic sphere are not independent from each other; they interact and are inseparably connected. It is the communication between the two spheres that produces the tension that moves the choreography.
Notes by Nadja Kadel.