Pacific Northwest Ballet kicks off 2010/11 season with 'Director's Choice' program
This season, PNB mixes it up with short contemporary works and longer, classical standards such as "Giselle" and "Cinderella." The season gets under way Sept. 24.
Seattle Times arts writer
'Director's Choice'7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Oct. 3, McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $27-$165 (206-441-2424 or www.pnb.org).
Pacific Northwest Ballet's 2010/11 season, which begins Friday, strikes an unusual balance: three programs of short works with a decidedly contemporary bent, alongside three full-length classical ballets filled with tutus and grand pas de deux.
The season-opening "Director's Choice" rep lets artistic director Peter Boal show off some favorite works.
"I love this program. I love its contemporary feel," he said. The evening includes two dances by Jiri Kylian, master choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater: "Petite Mort," which made its PNB premiere last season, and the local premiere of "Sechs Tänze (Six Dances)." Both are set to a Mozart score.
"It's just plain funny — just hysterical," said Boal of "Six Dances," created in 1986. "But that's not really why I chose it. I chose it because it's so unbelievably musical, as is everything Kylian does. It's so tightly choreographed, and it takes such precision and timing, as all good comedy does."
"Director's Choice" also includes Nacho Duato's "Jardí Tancat," a popular staple in PNB's repertory since 1996 — "it's the kind of work you can actually see a dozen times and see something new," said Boal. And he's proud of another company premiere on the program: Jerome Robbins' 1983 "Glass Pieces," set to Philip Glass' music, which Boal performed as a young dancer working with Robbins at New York City Ballet.
That work stemmed, Boal said, from "a brief phase in Robbins' choreography when he was intrigued by minimalist composers." It came at a crucial moment in NYCB's history. "[George] Balanchine had died two weeks before the premiere," Boal said. "People just didn't think they would see any invention in classical ballet, certainly not at NYCB, without Balanchine." Robbins premiered two very different works that season, "Glass Pieces" and "I'm Old Fashioned," both to acclaim.
"Despite the fact that the audience at that point was stunned by Balanchine's death," said Boal, "it was sort of a turning point to realize that we have Jerome Robbins, and there are other choreographers that will work here" — that ballet would, nonetheless, go on.
The PNB season will continue with a program of Twyla Tharp works in November, followed by the annual holiday run of "Nutcracker," the return of Kent Stowell's "Cinderella" in February, a mixed-rep contemporary evening in March (including premieres of work by Marco Goecke and Alexei Ratmansky), and Balanchine's "Midsummer Night's Dream" in April.
And the year will close on a classical note, with PNB's first production of the great romantic tragedy "Giselle." Boal will stage the work, based on 19th-century choreography by Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa, reconstructed by dance historians Doug Fullington and Marian Smith.
Boal, who has staged several shorter works for the company but never a full-length ballet, looks forward to the challenge. "As you know, I like to stretch dancers in so many ways, and some people think of that as stretching them in some forward, new direction — can they sing? Can they make us laugh? Can they tap? Can they do the table dances? But this is actually looking back and saying, what about really pure romantic classical ballet?"
He, Smith and Fullington will begin the process this month, with one couple to work out the dances on — "we'll start with little bits, chip away at it" — with an eye toward the June premiere.
It's been a challenging financial period for PNB, as with every other arts organization in town, and the upcoming season reflects that: Each rep this year will have seven performances rather than the usual eight (starting Fridays, not Thursdays), and the company is now 46 dancers strong, down from 48 last year. But Boal is upbeat, preferring to focus on the company's positive news — such as the arrival next year of newly appointed music director Emil de Cou — and on last season's well-received (and well-attended) new production of Balanchine's "Coppélia."
"We actually had an upswing at the end of last year, not huge but enough to put us in a positive place. We ended the year with a small surplus," Boal said. "We were able to shore up a bit, put some reserves in place for the next storm. We're just economically sound, going forward, doing our best, saving every dollar everywhere and trying never to sacrifice what's going on onstage."
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