Theater » Dance

A Knight at the Ballet

Patrick Delcroix Creates His First US Work for the Northwest Dance Project

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Being a knight ain't what it used to be. There are no more dragons to slay, damsels to rescue, or infidels to convert to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church by slaughtering them. Nowadays, you get a title (that's Sir Paul McCartney to you)—and a bill.

"They make you pay for it," says French-born choreographer Patrick Delcroix, who's recognized by the French government as a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. "I've got the medal and the invoice to prove it."

The French, being French, don't seem to exhibit any discernable criteria for their honorees beyond choosing lots of opera singers and "let's knight them so they'll come to the party" types like Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, and Kylie Minogue.

But in Delcroix's case, the guy is actually true dance royalty. Called the "fastest dancer on the planet" by the LA Times for his kinetic, isometric style, he has created or restaged 40 works for 25 companies around the world.

Despite the title, however, Delcroix seldom works in France. "The French don't appreciate you if you go away," he says (which, ironically, is the opposite of Portland, where we don't appreciate local artists until they leave). Instead, he's spent 17 years with the Nederlands Dans Theater.

And he's never created a piece for a US company. For that particular honor, he recently came to Northwest Dance Project's airy studio on North Mississippi where, in just seven years, the contemporary ballet company has fostered the creation and premiere of 100 new works. The latest will be Delcroix's Harmonie Défigurée, which combines lyrical romance with choreography that looks like sex and tag-team wrestling.

The new work runs two nights only and features a thumping electronic score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and some very hot bodies.

Delcroix himself can't stay for the premiere, but he wouldn't have been able to show off his medal anyway, because he can only wear it at official diplomatic functions. What's more, he adds, "You have to give it back when you die."

Since he's not jousting or trying to defeat the Rabbit of Caerbannog with the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, the fastest dancer on the planet should still have the medal for a long time.

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