PNB In-Studio Showing 7/31

Having just moved to Seattle from the San Francisco Bay Area, the strongest first impression I have of the dance scene in this city is of how friendly and accessible it is!  That’s not meant, in any way, to be a dig at the SF dance scene, which is fabulous, vibrant, and always doing something new and exciting, but rather a comment on how important it seems to be to companies, dancers, and choreographers in Seattle that they are truly embedded in the community here. From Velocity Dance Center’s Strictly Seattle and Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation summer programs–both of which open up many of their classes to the community as well as perform in a variety of public spaces–to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s frequent YouTube videos of dancers in the studio, the big beautiful windows that allow students to easily watch rehearsals, and community events geared at allowing the public greater access to and education around the company’s performances, from On The Boards’ Ambassador Project and NW New Works Festival, to SeattleDances‘ coverage of just about every dance event in the city, it seems that one of the main attributes of this city’s dance scene is its desire to be seen, experienced, and appreciated by as many people as possible and to open up as many opportunities to the artists who live here as it can.

While I’ve been taking classes at both Velocity and PNB (so far!  Please leave comments about where else I should be going!), I hadn’t, in the midst of moving, made it to a performance until last July 31st, when I went to PNB’s studio showing of the program they took to Jacob’s Pillow a week or so ago (yes, I started this post 3 weeks ago–I’ll try in the future to be more timely in posting!).  I heard about this presentation when I was looking for tickets for the Jewels Coaching Series event the company is presenting this fall (and which I’m ridiculously excited about.  Speaking of making dance in the city accessible to the community, how much better can you get than opening the doors to coaching sessions run by the original interpreters of Jewels?!  The first one is tomorrow and I can’t wait!).

Although it seems unfair to comment on the dancers or dancing at an open rehearsal, I do think it’s ok to make a few informal comments about the pieces shown, which were Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or less, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Before After, and Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement.  The company also took David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to my Skin to the Pillow.  Except for the Stroman, these pieces will appear in November’s Director’s Choice program at McCaw Hall.  It will be interesting to see what I think of them on a large stage rather than up close and personal (and it was very very close.  The dancers were just about on top of the audience).  

TAKE FIVE…More or less:

  • The piece is set, in part, to Dave Brubek’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk” and “Strange Meadow Lark,” which, for this dance viewer at least, immediately bring Lar Lubovitch’s Elemental Brubeck  to mind–it must be the time spent in San Francisco (where it was created on SFB) and New York.  And, as I just love that piece, it was going to be hard for Stroman’s work to match up.
  • But, getting past my own prejudices, the piece was fun and flirty–if probably not at its best in a studio smashed up against the audience.  Stroman is a Broadway choreographer, and it shows, as she builds on a variety of theatrical dance forms (overtures of Fosse, moments of tap) and seems to have encouraged the dancers to really “play it up” facially.  It was too bad it was mostly to themselves in the mirror rather than actually to the audience.
  • Definitely not my favorite piece ever, but I’d be interested to see it on a real stage if PNB were to bring it back in a year or two.

Before After

  • Oh how I loved this!  I said I wouldn’t comment on the dancers, but let’s just say they were WONDERFUL.  Committed, clear, dedicated to the intensity of the work–I would make an effort to see this cast again.
  • Ochoa’s meditation on a failed or failing relationship (the idea of Before After seems to imply not only the space between what was and what is, but also what comes before the after, the fleeting moment of the present, the final moments before an ending) is an intense, exhausting (for dancer, certainly, but for the viewer too) study in movements that draw two people together before pushing them apart.  The idea may not be new, but the execution was fabulous and the counterbalance of needing to be so closely attuned to one another physically, so very together, while coming apart at the seams emotionally was breathtaking.


  • This piece was the most in flux– the stager was in the room actively taking notes as the dancers performed.  It was clearly only recently put together, but it held promise.  I’ll largely reserve judgement and say that it’s a well-assembled piece, but, unlike Before After, felt a bit like a modern dance performed by ballet dancers.  I hope that by the time it hits the McCaw stage, a better sense of weightedness and connection with the material is found.
  • That said, I very much enjoyed both the central duet and trio and look forward to seeing how the work develops as the dancers continue to settle into it.

In all, this was a great event and a fabulous way for a newcomer to the Seattle ballet scene to start to get to know the company dancers and rep (the fact that my companion for the evening is a true PNB expert helped too!).  I would end with an anecdote that Peter Boal told about meeting Nacho Duato, but he said it was off the record, and I wouldn’t want to get on anybody’s bad side my first month here!  Find me at drinks after a Jewels coaching session and maybe I’ll share…


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