BWW Review: PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET'S ALL-DIGITAL SEASON OPENER “REP 1” Filmed at McCaw Hall
PNB Digital Rep 1 2020
Ballet lovers everywhere, rejoice! Now, in spite of the pandemic, you can watch the world-class dancers of PNB even if you're not in Seattle. As someone who has had the immense pleasure of attending pre-COVID-19 performances of PNB at Seattle's McCaw Hall, I will admit that I miss being in the theater audience for this, the 48th season. However, as I watched the opener of PNB's first all-digital season on my computer screen while at home, I not only saw some positive aspects of this way of viewing the dancing, but I also liked knowing that people from anywhere on the planet could buy subscriptions and digital tickets at PNB.org (or by calling 206.441.2424) and tune in as well. According to a release from the company in early October, PNB has subscribers in 40 states and seven countries. Note: You can watch on your TV rather than your computer if you prefer. Here's a link to "Digital Viewing Tips": https://www.pnb.org/season/digital-help/
The title of the digital season is "Dance Happens Everywhere", which PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal explains in a charming speech at the beginning of the video refers to the admirable manner in which PNB has adapted to the unforeseen demands of COVID-19 protocols. Rehearsed in the studio with dancers wearing masks, and filmed live without masks at the Seattle Center Studios at McCaw Hall, the six-rep program features mostly new choreography along with some old favorites. Solos, pas de deux, and socially distanced dance works are what's on the menu. There is not a full orchestra, but musicians such as a solo pianist wore masks while playing live for the filming.
Rep 1, viewable from October 15th to October 19th 2020, features recorded applause, which we are advised was by "viewers like you". The effect is surprisingly effective. And the applause is well-deserved. First on the bill, which is a mix of classic and contemporary works that celebrate the company's versatility, is an excerpt from Jerome Robbins' "Dances at a Gathering" to the music of Chopin. The solo is ably performed by principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite. This piece is a great example of having the proverbial best seat in the house while viewing the video. The videographer and video editor were able to give us appropriate close-ups as well as views of the entire stage.
Next up are excerpts from "F O I L" by Eva Stone. In the first excerpt, three women are under a huge chandelier and wearing voluminous skirts. They perform with bare backs to the audience the entire time, including the bow. You really have to see this to understand how mesmerizing the result is! The second excerpt involves one woman in the center with other dancers in the shadows on either side, each holding lights. Again you have to see this one to get the full, marvelous effect. Fortunately, digital ticket holders/subscribers can view each of the six reps in the PNB digital season as many times as they wish while that program is up. I did go back and watch "F O I L" again to make sure I was getting it right. What a treat!
Following that was an excerpt from "One Body", which was a PNB premiere in 2003, with choreography by Albert Evan to the music of John Kennedy. The featured performer was corps de ballet dancer Christopher D'Ariano, who shows great promise.
For lovers of the classics, excerpts from "Swan Lake" are a satisfying next offering with superb dancing including the fouettés, with doubles tossed in, by soloist Angelica Generosa.
Balanchine aficionados get their due next with excerpts from "Rubies", "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" from the ballet "Jewels". I was reminded once again of Mr. B's true genius and the breadth of his talent.
That was the end of Act I. The video for Act II required clicking anew, meaning that you could in effect take an intermission. The first piece in Act II is a quirky, moody, and often witty solo danced by principal dancer James Moore to music by C.P.E. Bach and The Cramps with choreography by Marco Goecke. I found myself laughing out loud at the end of one section when Moore scooted off stage on his belly!
Jessica Lang's "The Calling", to music by "Anonymous", starts with a man in a huge circular skirt, his torso bare, and his back to audience. This, for me, was too reminiscent of the opening of "F O I L" in Act 1. Was that done on purpose? If so, why? I'm not sure. The rest of piece, for me, was not particularly compelling, with very little movement. However, the ending when the dancer sinks to his knees and lies on his back is excellent.
An excerpt from "The Trees The Trees" by Robyn Mineko Williams to the music of Kyle Veger with words by Heather Christle and featuring soloists Elle Macy and Dylan Wald was to my taste one too many offerings in a contemporary vein. That said, however, it is well performed.
An excerpt from "Red Angels" was the closer, with choreography by Ulysses Dove to magnificent music by Richard Einhorn. Principal dancers William Lin-Yee and Lucien Postlewaite are joined by corps de ballet dancers Cecilia Iliesiu and Amanda Morgan, and all do a superb job. Notably, throughout the program dancers of all ranks performed. I found that to be an excellent choice given the fact that pandemic restrictions mean that a full corps de ballet on stage is not possible right now.
After the bows, PNB's concertmaster Michael Jinsoo Lim speaks on the video to tell us that his wife, Melia Watras, composed a solo for him that is an homage to "Swan Lake". He plays it on his violin as the credits for the performance roll. He is still in view below them. That is a clever and welcome touch, and yet another indication that PNB is meeting the challenges of a digital season with admirable aplomb.
From This Author Sondra Forsyth
Sondra Forsyth is a member of Dance Critics Association. A former ballerina, she founded Ballet Ambassadors in New York City and was the Artistic Director
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