Pacific Northwest Ballet presents an all-Balanchine evening
Pacific Northwest Ballet presents three works by the late master George Balanchine, beginning April 15: "The Four Temperaments," "Square Dance" and "Serenade."
Seattle Times arts writer
'All Balanchine'Pacific Northwest Ballet, 7:30 p.m. April 15-17 and 22-24, 2 p.m. April 17 and 1 p.m. April 25, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $26-$160 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
In the second half of its season, Pacific Northwest Ballet has been effectively mixing things up; offering contrasting evenings of dance that celebrate the art form's range. This week, between the modern-dance energy of last month's "3 By Dove" and the lavish storybook spectacle of June's "Coppélia," is an evening of pure ballet — and pure George Balanchine.
"All Balanchine," opening Thursday, celebrates 75 years of the great choreographer's work in America. It will include three ballets: "The Four Temperaments," "Square Dance" and "Serenade." Each is an example of how Balanchine's ballets were living, fluid things: never set in stone, they would be changed by the choreographer as years went by, remaking them to suit his changing taste or changing dancers.
"The Four Temperaments," originally created in 1946 for Balanchine's New York City Ballet precursor, Ballet Society, was based on the medieval idea of four predominant temperaments: melancholic, sanguinic, phlegmatic, choleric. The ballet's four movements, set to a score by Paul Hindemith, were named for these qualities. Originally, the cast wore elaborate costumes designed by Kurt Seligmann, wound with what looked like crisscrossing bandages and featuring fanciful headdresses, puffed sleeves and tutus. Balanchine felt the costumes obscured the movement (he reportedly snipped away at them on opening night), and got rid of them a few years after the premiere. Instead, the dancers wore the simple practice tights we now associate with the work, long considered one of Balanchine's greatest "black and white ballets."
"Square Dance," created for NYCB in 1957, blends Balanchine's affection for American folk dance with ballet. In its original production, white-clad dancers performed sprightly solos and group dances accompanied by an onstage orchestra and a live square-dance caller, who shouted out such lines as "Now make your feet go wickety-whack! / Hurry up, girls, 'cause here comes Pat!" Balanchine revived the dance in 1976, with the caller removed, the orchestra returned to the pit and a new solo for the principal man.
The ageless "Serenade," Balanchine's first original ballet made in America (set on students in 1934) was tweaked repeatedly over the years. It is a ballet created from change itself: During its creation, Balanchine famously set the work and its various movements for whatever number of students happened to show up that day (it begins with 17 dancers on stage), and incorporated random events — a fall, a late arrival, a hand raised to block the sun — into the choreography.
And it is, ultimately, about transformation. Balanchine's biographer Bernard Taper wrote that "Serenade" is less about its wisp of a plot than about "the classical ballet itself — how the young, inexperienced, unsophisticated dancers we see on stage achieve mastery of the art, and how they are refined and transfigured in the process." The rows of women in blue, their straight-ahead feet suddenly whooshing into first position in unison, become ballerinas before our eyes, as a young choreographer took his first steps on new soil.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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