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Preview: PNB’s 2008–2009 Season
By Rosie Gaynor
Posted September 22, 2008


     None of my favorites is being danced at PNB this season. Which (minus the personal slant) is probably the point of PNB’s programming: 10 of the 16 works being presented this season are new to the company. Who knows which will become new favorites for us?  

     Among them, surely, will be Twyla Tharp’s two new works. They open the season on Thursday. I can’t wait! 

     We got a sneak preview of this amazing woman’s newest pieces last Thursday, at an exciting, well-attended lecture-demonstration (with live music, thank you, Maestro Stewart Kershaw and company) at McCaw Hall. Her courtly Opus 111 expresses a contagious energy and joy I wouldn’t have looked for in Brahms’s pretty-but-used-to-seem-stodgy-to-me String Quintet No. 2 in G major. Afternoon Ball is more Beckett than ballet: weird, interesting, and definitely worthwhile. 

     We saw Opus 111—or, an excerpt of it—on Saturday night, at the company’s major fundraising gala, FIRST LOOK 2008: A Signature Celebration. These season previews really count as celebrations, even if you don’t shell out for the $375–$5,000 swank dinner afterwards. (Standard tickets: $75.) There is an air of festivity, the black-tie crowd is excited for the season to start, there’s a tantalizing glimpse of what lies ahead, and there’s champagne in the lobby during intermission. Plus, Artistic Director Peter Boal officially announces the promotions. The elegant, capable, evocative Lucien Postlewaite now ranks among the principal dancers. Promoted to soloist were the solid and personable Benjamin Griffiths, the stops-at-no-challenge James Moore, Seth Orza (who we’re just getting to know out here in Seattle), and contemporary dynamo Rachel Foster.   

     Four other works were given at Saturday night’s gala. Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, a premiere for the company, got the evening off to a fun start. Part musical comedy with a dash of cartoon, it gives the dancers a chance to show what accomplished, timing-sensitive actors they are.  

     An excerpt from Balanchine’s Jewels (a pas de trois from Emeralds) followed, then Opus 111, and then a look at the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. I feel so lucky to have seen the last piece. I remember reading about the premiere in the New York Times three-and-a-half years ago, thinking it would be ages before I’d get a chance to see it. Yet here it is, at PNB already, with the exquisite Carla Körbes and quietly powerful Batkhurel Bold matching perfectly the NYT’s account of its original performers: “With her sinewy lightness and his muscular solidity, this looked like a pas de deux of air and earth.” The lifts in this piece are innovative—some almost hidden, as though Bold were merely standing next to Körbes—but what really got to me was the ending, where Körbes is in a backbend and Bold slips tenderly, quietly, simply into the space between her and the stage floor.  

     Symphony in C closed the evening. It always takes me a while to warm up to this Balanchine technical extravaganza for 50+ dancers. (Partly this is because I confuse the name with his Symphony in Three Movements, a different extravagant piece that I could watch every night for the rest of my life.) However, our dancers are so good and they have the benefit of being staged by Francia Russell and so Symphony in C is undeniably pretty. Did I mention the gorgeous white tutus? By the time the third movement starts up, I’m over the disappointment and hooked again. Lucky for me, it’s not too late: the exciting whirlwind fourth movement is still to follow. When 50 or so dancers are moving in unison to Balanchine’s steps, it takes your breath away.  

     Saturday night’s preview gave a pretty fair indication of the season to come. It’s balanced; there’s something for everyone. (Personally, I’d swap out the Broadway Rep in March and add in Four Temperaments, Concerto Barocco, and Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven. Or, while we’re dreaming, a whole evening of Rite of Spring: Glen Tetley’s, Molissa Fenley’s, and Nijinsky’s. But then I wouldn’t get to see the Broadway Rep’s West Side Story Suite, and I’m really looking forward to that.) 

     What’s your best bet? A subscription. You’ll see a huge swathe of ballet styles, from Kent Stowell’s lovely Swan Lake (one of his best) to William Forsythe’s loud and controversial One Flat Thing, reproduced. If money’s tight, sign up for the $5 Fridays (in-studio partial rehearsals—very fun—they sell out fast). Then, click on “Special Events” at to see some discounts to full performances of regular season shows—for teens ($5), students (1/2-price rush), folks under 25 ($15), and seniors (1/2-price rush). 

     See you Thursday at opening night! 

PNB’s 20082009 Season

September 25–
October 5, 2008 

November 6–16, 2008

- A Garden
, Mark Morris
- M-Pulse, Kiyon Gaines
- 3 Movements, Benjamin Millepied
- One Flat Thing, reproduced, William Forsythe  

January 29–
February 7, 2009  

March 12–22, 2009

- Carousel (A Dance)
, Christopher Wheeldon
- TAKE FIVE ... More or Less, Susan Stroman
- Slaughter on
Tenth Avenue, George Balanchine
West Side Story Suite, Jerome Robbins  

April 9–19, 2009

Choreography: Kent Stowell (after Petipa/Ivanov)  

May 28–
June 7, 2009 
- Dances at a Gathering
, Jerome Robbins
- After the Rain pas de deux, Christopher Wheeldon

- Symphony in C
, George Balanchine


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