Monday, March 18, 2019

Pacific Northwest Ballet "DIRECTOR'S CHOICE" - Event Review 3/15/19

Director's Choice

Pacific Northwest Ballet

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloists Ezra Thomson and Dylan Wald, and corps de ballet dancer Christopher D’Ariano, with guest vocalist Alicia Walter in Robyn Mineko Williams’ The Trees The Trees. PNB is performing The Trees The Trees as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 15 – 24, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.


With the weather feeling near spring like on Friday evening, a far cry from the inches of snow we had just a month ago, I was looking forward to catching the opening night of "Director's Choice" from the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Two world premiere pieces as well as a PNB premiere piece, my first recent experience with the PNB of today was a similar program in early November called, "All Premiere", which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I know for some of you skeptics our there that have been supporting Eclectic Arts since the beginning (in 2011), you thought this recent "arts thing" was a phase. Surely Mark will go back to covering bands with a dollop of craft beer, television, and film to keep things interesting. I have to honestly tell you I've been not only enjoying my PNB experiences thus far but also the education and appreciation I'm developing for the art form of ballet has increased tenfold.

There is a timeless beauty about the ballet, regardless if it's a perennial favorite or a contemporary premiere. The work, dedication, and yes - art - that goes into the craft has been eye opening to watch and educate myself about. "Director's Choice" continued the tradition of Eclectic Arts digging deeper into the world of ballet.

The program started with the world premiere of, "Bacchus". Music by Oliver Davis, Choreography by Matthew Neenan, Costume Design by Mark Zappone, Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli, and Conducted by Doug Fullington.  This opening piece was very fluid in it's choreography and music as they intertwined throughout the performance. I found myself looking for the story that was being told, the interpretation of the movement and music. I looked for the portions where the dancers worked in unison, studying their movement and seeing just how their bodies told the story.

The choreography meshed so well with the music (and me being a musician) that the performance was over before it even seemed to begin. Such a piece of tranquility and questioning, it left me ready for more.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Matthew Neenan’s Bacchus. PNB is performing Bacchus as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 15 – 24, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

"The Trees The Trees" was up next - also a world premiere piece. Music by Kyle Vegter, Choreography by Robyn Mineko Williams, Words by Heather Christie, Scenic and Lighting Design by Randall G. Chiarelli, Costume Design by Branimira Ivanova, with Conducting by Emil de Cou and Vocals by Alicia Walter. This piece intrigued me but also left me knowing I have a lot more to learn about modern ballet and dance.

The distinct vocals of Alicia Walter and the set and lighting design really set the tone for the piece. Again, I found myself mesmerized by the choreography but, unlike "Bacchus", I found it harder to understand the story being presented.

Much like the poetry the piece is based on, there is always room for interpretation. However, I was more puzzled than anything else by the end of "The Trees The Trees". I still enjoyed it but, again, I found myself knowing I have more to learn about interpreting modern ballet.

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Ezra Thomson and principal dancer Noelani Pantastico in Robyn Mineko Williams’ The Trees The Trees. PNB is performingThe Trees The Trees as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 15 – 24, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

After the second intermission, we were treated to the final piece, "In the Countenance of Kings". Music by Sufjan Stevens, orchestrated by Michael P. Atkinson, Choreography by Justin Peck, Staging by Felipe Diaz, Costume Design by Ellen Warren, Lighting Design by Brandon Stirling Baker, and Conducted by Emil du Cou. This PNB premiere was the most intriguing of the three for me (and others I heard after the show was over).

From solo, duo, and multiple ballet dancers, the piece ran the gamut of fun and whimsical to thought provoking and discussion worthy by the end. There were definitely moments where all the pieces worked together so well - music, choreography, lighting, scene, and costumes - I was left in awe. By the end, I felt very satisfied with this piece the most of the evening's performances.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jerome Tisserand and soloist Elle Macy in Justin Peck’s In the Countenance of Kings. PNB is performing In the Countenance of Kings as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 15 – 24, 2019. Photo © Angela Sterling.

It should be stated that the lighting design for each piece of "Director's Choice" makes a significant impact on the story telling aspect of the performances. The more performances I attend, the more I am noticing the subtle nuances of the lighting and what it does for the presentation.

Overall, all three pieces were uniquely their own and also showed that modern ballet concepts are alive and well. There is always the bridge between the classic and the modern (and beyond) where needs must be met to keep the art form growing, expanding, and yet retaining its roots.

"Director's Choice" showed very creative and interesting concepts of ballet. I hope the choreographers and everyone involved continue to push the envelope and seek to express their ideas in new and fantastic ways.

For those of you still on the fence about attending a Pacific Northwest Ballet performance, the fence is no place to sit. Get off it and go grab a seat at McCaw Hall. Your time will be grandly well spent.

See you at the ballet!
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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Special Thanks: Gary for the credentials - thank you very much for the opportunity (and the press room chocolate)!

Director's Choice continues through March 24th, 2019. Buy tickets here: TICKETS!


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