Performance Picks

PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET

PNB's current triple bill may be a tribute to the work of George Balanchine, but it's also a whirlwind tour through the development of ballet in the 20th century, from mannerly classicism to a joint-cracking extension of those original conventions. "Divertimento No. 15" matches the clarity of the Mozart score with a series of crystalline solos and duets that each feature a special quality: speedy footwork, silky turns, or bold strides. At the other end of the program is "Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet," which roars through a dictionary of styles in its four sections, from delicate romance to sweeping folk dance. In the middle is "Agon" (pictured, with Patricia Barker and Olivier Wevers), one of a trio of Balanchine's collaborations with composer Igor Stravinsky that turned classical ballet on its head, eliminating most of the etiquette to get down to the basics of strength, speed, extension, and timing. Barker attacks the principal female role like an extreme athlete, daring physics to stop her. As she winds herself around her partner in the duet, her deadpan attitude contrasts with her physical voracity. Several others match her zest, especially Paul Gibson in the first trio, who dances like a Katzenjammer Kid, laughing up his sleeve at us if we don't get the joke. And in "Brahms-Schoenberg," Stanko Milov and Ariana Lallone relish every clicked heel and flashing glance in the gyspy-flavored finale. McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., 206-292-ARTS. $16-$125. 7:30 p.m. Thurs. Feb. 12-Sat. Feb. 14. Also 1 p.m. Sun. Feb. 15. SANDRA KURTZ

SEATTLE CHAMBER PLAYERS

Glenn Gould once described the Fifth Symphony of Jan Sibelius, musical icon of Finland, as "passionate yet antisensual," a fair description of just about any music from Northern Europe. What inspires so many Baltic-region composers?Gorecki, Pärt, Rautavaara, Ruders, Saariaho, Vasks, to mention just the best-known names?to combine austerity and profound, humane expressiveness so captivatingly? The climate? The landscape? Lutheran rectitude? The freedom that comes from being outside the musico-historical mainstream? The Seattle Chamber Players, and lots of guest artists including the choir Seattle Pro Musica, will examine the question in their lavish Icebreaker II festival this weekend. The three main concerts are surrounded by three days of symposia in Benaroya Hall's Soundbridge; see www. seattlechamberplayers.org for full details. Benaroya Recital Hall, Third and Union, 206-286-5052. $12-$20. 8 p.m. Fri. Feb. 13; 2 p.m. Sat. Feb. 14; 7 p.m. Sun. Feb. 15. GAVIN BORCHERT

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