SEATTLE (March 22, 2021) - Pandemic protocols have not stopped the Pacific Northwest Ballet from producing new dance works, and an international internet audience has responded, with ticket-buyers tuning in from all 50 states and 36 countries.
Following the fall premieres from choreographers Jessica Lang and Penny Saunders, the company is back with brand-new creations from Spectrum Dance Theater artistic director (and Doris Duke Artist Award winner) Donald Byrd and PNB resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Joining the Rep 4 program line-up is an encore presentation of Alexei Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
PNB's Rep 4 launches on Thursday, April 1 (no foolin'), and the program is streamable for five days, through April 5. Digital performance tickets are $29, or $39 for Digital Performance Plus. The latter provides access to additional videos, including a new work by Margarita Armas, a rising young choreographer who has previously created works for Miami City Ballet and for Dance Lab New York in partnership with the Joyce Theater Foundation. (See "Ticket Information and Bonus Content" below.) For more information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424 or online at PNB.org.
And the sky is not cloudy all day (World Premiere)
Music: John Adams ("Rag the Bone", "Judah to Ocean", "Toot Nipple", "Dogjam", and "Pavane: She's so Fine" from John's Book of Alleged Dances, 1994)
Choreography: Donald Byrd
Costume Design: Doris Black
Lighting Design: Reed Nakayama
[Donald Byrd, March 2021]: Little boys of my generation played "cowboys and Indians." Because of what I saw on TV and in movies, I wanted to be like the men depicted in those visual narratives. For many boys, I think, the West and the Western frontier, as myth, pulled at and subsumed all notions of boyhood and masculinity. I wanted to live in and be the hero of a John Ford or Audie Murphy movie. As a boy, the racial implications of that want had not dawned on me.
In 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner, in his essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," used the term "frontier" as a model for understanding American culture. Turner thought of the frontier as "the meeting point between savagery and civilization" and argued that this point was the foundation for American identity and politics. Americans' notions of nationalism, democracy, and individualism, as well as a rejection of European ideals, Turner believed, were a result of the frontier. Thus he concluded that America was only unique because of its interaction with the frontier (and the West as it expanded) and therefore "to the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics."
But I think it was the manifestations in popular culture of these notions of the West and the frontier that promulgated the myth of the West. Beginning with Western novels of Zane Grey and the works of painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer Frederic Sackrider Remington, American men and boys became increasingly captivated and enthralled by these images of the West. But perhaps the most potent influence was Hollywood and its machinery of dream and myth-making. Through movies, in particular the early films of John Ford and his Stagecoach (1939), and later in television shows (Zane Grey Theater, Rawhide, Wagon Train), the myth of the West was solidified and indelibly inscribed the images of a strong and rugged Western (white) man in the imagination of the boys and men of the late-nineteenth and early- and mid-twentieth centuries.
My new work for Pacific Northwest Ballet, And the sky is not cloudy all day, with its John Adams score so reminiscent of Aaron Copland's dance scores for Martha Graham, Eugene Loring, and Agnes de Mille, is a kind of "nostalgia" for something that never was. But it is also a boyhood dream, a boy's playtime. Ultimately, however, it does ask us to consider the myth of the West and its unreality& Yet if only for one brief moment, it also allows us to accept its contradictions.
Pictures at an Exhibition
Music: Modest Mussorgsky (1874)
Choreography: Alexei Ratmansky
Staging: Wendy Whelan
Costume Design: Adeline André
Lighting Design: Mark Stanley
Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington, using Wassily Kandinsky's Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles (1913)
Piano Soloist: Allan Dameron
Premiere: October 2, 2014, New York City Ballet
PNB Premiere: June 2, 2017
Running Time: 35 minutes
PNB's digital performance of Pictures at an Exhibition is an archival recording from 2017.
Writing in the New York Times after the ballet's premiere, critic Alastair Macaulay stated, "Pictures at an Exhibition is surely the most casually diverse work Mr. Ratmansky has created, but it gathers unstoppable momentum. The 10 dancers started out in informal home-theater mood, almost as if they were playing charades. Some dances, including the first solo, had a wild, improvisatory, part-stumbling, part-inspired quality. (The tailor-made nature of the ballet's solos reflects one of Mr. Ratmansky's greatest gifts: Dancers are vividly, individually, intimately revealed.) In certain numbers, the dancers - here on all fours, there gesturing - seemed to enact or refer to private stories. Other sections shifted toward a classicism of long lines and academic steps. Some ensembles were largely about camaraderie; others about geometry, harmony, meter."
Dance writer Michael Popkin, in danceviewtimes, wrote: "Not just a rendition in dance of Mussorgsky's famous work of the same name, the ballet was also functionally a tribute and apotheosis for NYCB's retiring star, Wendy Whelan." (Pictures at PNB marked Whelan's first project as a répétiteur, or stager, the individual who teaches an existing ballet to a new cast. In addition to Whelan, Ratmansky's team of collaborators includes renowned projection designer Wendall K. Harrington, whose visual musings on Wassily Kandinsky's watercolor, Color Study. Squares with Concentric Circles, provide animated counterpoint to the dancers' moves. Fashion designer Adeline André's costumes echo Kandinsky's colors and shapes, while Mark Stanley's lighting joins all of these components to create a unified whole.)
Popkin continued: "The ballet tracks the score's scenario, its action unfolding as a suite of dances before vibrantly colored backdrops. In this 1874 composition, Mussorgsky commemorates the premature death of a friend, the painter Viktor Hartmann, in a tone poem depicting a stroll through a gallery of his pictures. The music, in 16 short sections, alternates tone pictures of some canvasses with a repeating march - labeled 'Promenade' - that recurs in different musical meters and lets you imagine that you're strolling from picture to picture. As the promenades segue from conventional to elevated over the course of the entire piece, the composer's emotion becomes evident: The work is increasingly shot through with his love for his friend and the artistic resolution of his grief." [Excerpted notes by Doug Fullington.]
World Premiere (title TBA)
Choreography: Alejandro Cerrudo
Additional credits to come
Alejandro Cerrudo is a Chicago-based choreographer born in Madrid, Spain. His professional career includes work with the Czech National Ballet, the Victor Ullate Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater 2, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC). Cerrudo became HSDC's first-ever resident choreographer in 2008 and held that position until 2018. His body of work has been performed by more than 20 professional dance companies around the world. In March 2012, upon receiving the Joyce Theater Foundation's second Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance, Cerrudo was invited by Pacific Northwest Ballet to choreograph his first work for the company, Memory Glow.
Additional honors include an award from the Boomerang Fund for Artists (2011) and the Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work from the Prince Charitable Trusts (2012) for his acclaimed major work, One Thousand Pieces. In 2014, he was awarded the USA Donnelley Fellowship by United States Artists.
Mr. Cerrudo was one of four choreographers invited by Wendy Whelan to create and perform original duets for her program Restless Creature. In 2017, Cerrudo was invited by Daniil Simkin to choreograph a site-specific performance for the Guggenheim Rotunda, a Works & Process Rotunda Project commission featuring Simkin, with original costumes by Dior. Cerrudo's Sleeping Beauty, created for Ballet Theater Basel in 2016, was nominated as Production of the Year in Switzerland by Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
This new work is the fifth Cerrudo ballet to enter PNB's repertory, following Memory Glow (world premiere 2014), Little mortal jump (PNB premiere 2016), Silent Ghost (PNB premiere 2018), and One Thousand Pieces, which was only performed once for a small but supportive audience at its March 2020 dress rehearsal, before PNB was temporarily shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, Artistic Director Peter Boal announced that Mr. Cerrudo had been appointed as PNB's first resident choreographer.
TICKET INFORMATION / BONUS CONTENT
Pacific Northwest Ballet's digital presentation of Rep 4 runs April 1-5. Tickets to Rep 4 and the rest of PNB's digital season may be purchased through the PNB Box Office, 206.441.2424, or online at PNB.org.
Ticket-buyers will receive an email prior to the program with a link and password, as well as helpful information to assist in viewing the digital content. Rep 4 and bonus content will be available for a five-day viewing window beginning at 10 a.m. (Pacific) on Thursday, April 1. Digital content can only be viewed during the allotted time period; no extensions or exceptions will be granted. For additional information, please contact the PNB Box Office.
All patrons of PNB's basic Digital Performance ($29) will also receive, in addition to the Rep 4 program line-up:
" Five Minute Call - A peek backstage at the artists, musicians, and crew preparing for the performances
" Ballet Talk - Doug Fullington's informative introduction to the performance, discussing choreography, music, history, and design
" Meet the Artist - Peter Boal with company dancers in a lively conversation about the work
Additionally, season subscribers and patrons of the Digital Performance Plus ($39) will receive access to the debut of a new work by Margarita Armas featuring PNB company dancers and PNB Company Pianist Christina Siemens, and a conversation with Mr. Cerrudo and PNB School New Voices students.
Pacific Northwest Ballet's 2020-2021 digital season is proudly sponsored by Browne Family Vineyards, ArtsFund, Microsoft, and Peter & Peggy Horvitz. Special thanks also to 4Culture, National Endowment for the Arts, the Shubert Foundation, City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, and the Wallace Foundation. The 2017 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's Pictures at an Exhibition was generously underwritten by Patty Edwards.
All performances were filmed at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, the two world premieres using the added capabilities of the Seattle Center Studios. In early 2020, Seattle Center launched a recording studio for virtual events on the stage of McCaw Hall. The studio utilizes theatrical equipment paired with video technology to capture and livestream performances, lectures, and events. For more information about Seattle Center Studios, visit seattlecenter.com/connect/sc-studios.
Courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Ballet