Jessica Lang's "Her Door to the Sky" Brings Desert Colors to the Pacific Northwest

February 23, 2017

Jessica Lang is equally comfortable creating work for high-profile ballet companies and her own contemporary troupe. Her latest work for Pacific Northwest Ballet, Her Door to the Sky, premiered at Jacob’s Pillow last August, but will have its West Coast run March 17–26. The ballet uses Georgia O’Keeffe’s patio-door series of paintings as its inspiration. “It took O’Keeffe 13 years to buy her home and fix it up, all because she saw that door,” Lang says. “I was attracted to its significance and the idea of home. I also wanted to choose a subject besides her flowers. She stopped painting them because she was offended by critics’ obsession with linking the images to her sexuality.”

PNB principal Elizabeth Murphy. Photo by Hayim Heron, Courtesy PNB.

Like much of Lang’s choreography, this work features a dramatic set piece. The drop is reminiscent of O’Keeffe’s doorways, with square cutouts through which the dancers sometimes appear. Lang chose to use Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony because of its “feeling of expansive space. I felt it was necessary to capture the inspiration of light and color in O’Keeffe’s work,” she says. The costumes, designed by Bradon McDonald, are also drenched in color, reflecting a Southwestern sunrise.

Lang won’t reveal whether Her Door to the Sky is about O’Keeffe in a biographical sense. “Maybe,” she says. “It has a female focus, but who that person is, what you see, is up to you.”