PNB celebrates Balanchine's legacy

By Faith Elder - Staff Reporter



The Pacific Northwest Ballet hopes to educate audiences on the fundamentals of Balanchine with Themes & Variations.

George Balanchine is considered the most influential choreographer in ballet, working with the New York City Ballet until his death in 1983. Trained in Russian ballet, Balanchine's style has greatly influenced American ballet's unique style.

According to PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal's in a re- cent press announcement, Balanchine's works are the foundation to strong dancers.

"Balanchine's choreography has long been a backbone of PNB programs, starting in the company's earliest days with staging by Janet Reed and Melissa Hayden," he said.

But besides influencing PNB students, much of Balanchine's style has inspired and been incorporated into new works by young choreographers.

"Balanchine's aesthetic in- habits the work of many who followed him," said Boal.

The Themes & Variations program aims to explore this influence, celebrating both Balanchine and those who he influenced.

The program includes four pieces: Jose Limon's The Moor's Pavane, Price Suddarth's Signature, and Balanchine's Tarantella as well as Theme and Variations.

"Each of the four works on this program succeeds on its own, but seen together we admire the tremendous variation choreographers bring to dance," said Boal. "All four are unique and stand in stark contrast to the others, and yet common denominators of music and movement on a bare stage unite."

Limon's The Moor's Pavane is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, using the play's characters but under more vague names (the character of Iago is called His Friend). The piece includes only four characters: The Moor, The Moor's Wife, The Friend, and The Friends. After being angered by The Moor, The Friend chooses to punish him by making him jeal- ous and suspicious of The Moor's Wife, leading to their tragic ends.

The Moor's Pavane was first created for the Jose Limon Dance

Company in 1949. Considered a modern masterpiece, Limon's choreography utilizes a challenging gravity-driven technique to bridge the gap into modern dance. The choreography also includes a renaissance court dance (the pa- vane) to illustrate the passions of the characters and build tension.

Price Surddarth's Signature, first premiered at the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2015, explores the beauty of individuality beyond tangible differences. The piece's intended message, as stated by Surddarth's program notes, is to celebrate the unimitatable singularity of people, making each individual matchless.

Playing to the theme of Balanchine, Boal said, "Signature takes Balanchine's principles and extends them – adding reach, testing partnering, playing with pat- terns, and finding new ground."

Balanchine's Tarantella pas de deux, only a short eight minutes long, is an energetic piece.

The short length and high energy is meant to be reminiscent of a musical solo, giving the per- former a small window of time to complete something complex.

The piece's complexity is increased by its intended performers, as Balanchine originally choreographed Tarantella for two specific dancers with the New York City Ballet. This makes the performance particularly difficult as succeeding artists must have the same talents and skills as the original.

The final piece, Theme and Variation, is the ballet that first brought fame to Balanchine's choreography in 1947. Using a repeated gesture, Balanchine creates a recognizable visual theme to mirror musical themes. By breaking these, the piece remains interesting to audiences and as a sense of organic growth.

Reminiscent of other works by Balanchine, Theme and Variation is extremely difficult due to the speed, directional changes, and length (the piece is 26 minutes long). But despite the effort required, Theme and Variation is

the epitome of Balanchine, pulling from the grand Petipa style.

Themes & Variations runs May 31-June 9 at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.

Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sundaymatineesbeginat2p.m.

Tickets start at $30, available both online and at the PNB Box Office.

McCaw Hall is located at 321 Mercer St. Seattle.

For more information and tickets, visit https://www.pnb. org/season/themes-variations/.

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