McCaw Hall, Seattle, WA
June 13, 2015

Dean Speer

Each year, I greatly look forward to PNB School’s Annual Performance for a couple of reasons. One is that I get to enjoy someone else’s work. Another is to see the results of their excellent and methodical training. I always learn something, and importantly, it’s balm for my eyes.

On the rare occasions when I believe that I have seen too much dance, along comes something that sparks and re-energizes and refreshes. A few years ago, this was New York’s STREB dance group and there have been others along the way. This Spring, I was were excited to attend PNB School’s 2015 edition of its recital for Level 5 through its Professional Division, which included a Reader’s Digest version of Le Corsaire reconstructed and staged by Doug Fullington from Stepanov notation.

Scores of well-trained students flooded the stage of McCaw Hall for each of the four levels presented with Level 5 and Level 6 having representatives from each of their two locations.

Not only is the training at PNB School well thought out and executed, the teachers have a gift for showing off their young charges when it comes to making a showcase dance. Particularly excellent choreography came from Meg Potter for Level 6 (Eastside) and Nancy Crowley’s Valse Fanataisie for Level 8.

Accompanied by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, Le Corsaire was a sneak preview of next season’s presentation of this well-known yet still rarely performed in the West ballet. The only thing that I would have like to have seen added – in fact it cried out for it – was the famous and often excerpted pas de deux, which PNB performed as an historically accurate pas de trois a few years ago.

Rich in color and texture, its silly plot lends itself to dancing, dancing, dancing with its many pas d’action, including set pieces for townspeople, pirates and PNB’s first reconstruction from Stepanov notation, Le jardin animé, which comprises a major part of the full ballet.

I found myself thinking how interesting the ballet and dance world has become – how we rush to embrace and laud the new, yet we also attend to heritage works, sometimes with as many or more resources. This was really very much illustrated in only two days – PNB’s New Works program on Friday and the very next day, an old-fashioned and accurately reconstructed Petipa ballet from the late 1800s.

How marvelous this is and how rich we have become in a city, where not all that long ago, the audience for serious dance art was scarce (but with its devoted followers) and now we have the happy circumstance of not being able to attend everything on offer.