PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET
A digital season for the Pacific Northwest Ballet was unveiled with their Rep 1 this month. Available for five days the virtual experience was something to behold. During this time of the lockdown/pandemic, the return of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in any format was most welcome.
I have been in a unique position during this trying time. I have not only been on a virtual tour with a personal favorite band conducting virtual interviews but I have also conducted my own virtual interviews during this time. Nearly eighty virtual interviews later, I have seen things from both sides as a consumer and as a virtual content provider.
We all know the live experience cannot be replaced. That is a given. However, virtual concerts and events have evolved over the last several months. Initially used as a means to stay connected to the fanbase they are now vital revenue streams where a ticket to view is not uncommon at all.
Live streams in real time as well as pre-recorded live events are available nearly every day of the week now. With the future still questionable into 2021, any sort of live event has had to rethink how they go about their business to quite frankly survive during this pandemic.
Rep 1 was divided into Act I and Act II. With the pandemic affecting my sense of time, it was so refreshing to see something, anything related to the Pacific Northwest Ballet. It felt like it had been an eternity since I had watched anything on the elite level of what the Pacific Northwest Ballet does on a regular basis. The experience was more emotional than I thought it would be. This has happened to me during a few other streams I have reviewed and/or been a part of so I shouldn’t have been surprised but I was. It’s a reminder of what once was and the uncertainty of what may be (or not) to come.
With eleven different pieces performed, there was something for every ballet fan. In the digital format, the viewpoints are much different than being in McCaw Hall. There are relatively up close angles that I normally would not be able to see. Much like the dress rehearsal footage that was presented earlier this year, it’s amazing how different the experience feels when the audience can see things from a variety of angles.
It’s good and bad. It reminds me more of seeing a film production when there are multiple angles versus the one angle you have from your seat when you see a live performance. But, again, I personally was happy to see anything from the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
The extras that were included really added to the overall presentation of Rep 1. The interviews, additional dance footage, and notes were greatly appreciated. It was clearly evident that every possibility was factored into how to present Rep 1. I’m sure, like everyone else, there will be tweaks and upgrades and changes as the season continues and new ideas arise regarding the digital presentation of this season.
I personally love live streams that are in real time. They’re the closest thing to being there. Is that realistic for future digital Pacific Northwest Ballet performances? I don’t know. Probably not. They always have a different cast for every performance which would mean they would have to livestream all of the shows (versus live streaming opening night for example and then just making that available for subsequent viewership dates). There’s also the unions, dancer availability (some aren’t participating it looks like or at least for now they’re not), technicians to work the livestream cameras and equipment, and every other department that helps bring the shows to life at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. And above all else - safety during this pandemic.
Overall, Rep 1 was an emotional reminder of just how great the Pacific Northwest Ballet is and also just how needed it is in these unprecedented times.
Mark D. Sugiyama
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