Preview: Love & Ballet By Pacific Northwest Ballet Opens Tonight

(L-R) Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Leah Merchant and corps de ballet dancer Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied’s Appassionata. PNB presents Appassionata as part of LOVE & BALLET, June 1 – 10, 2018. Photo © Angela Sterling.

Pacific Northwest Ballet bids adieu to its 45th season with Love & Ballet, a program of three audience favorites.

From apparent to abstract, love reveals its diverse faces in this four-pack of contemporary hits. Water is thematic in Christopher Wheeldon’s undulating Tide Harmonic, as well as his divine After the Rain pas de deuxAppassionata, Benjamin Millepied’s tempestuous and tender work for three couples, makes a welcome return, as does Justin Peck’s delightful Year of the Rabbit to the music of Sufjan Stevens.

The 2013 world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Tide Harmonic was his first creation for Pacific Northwest Ballet and the fifth Wheeldon ballet to enter the Company’s repertory. Tide Harmonic is the culmination of a long relationship between the choreographer and the artists of PNB. “As a choreographer, said PNB’S Artistic Director, Peter Boal, “his sense of musicality and invention coupled with his knowledge of tradition and design are unparalleled.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Joshua Grant and principal dancer Maria Chapman in Christopher Wheeldon’s Tide Harmonic, which PNB is presenting as part of LOVE & BALLET, June 1 – 10, 2018. (Photo © Angela Sterling)

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Joshua Grant and principal dancer Maria Chapman in Christopher Wheeldon’s Tide Harmonic, which PNB is presenting as part of LOVE & BALLET, June 1 – 10, 2018. (Photo © Angela Sterling)

Choreographed for four couples, Tide Harmonic is set to a score of the same name by British composer Joby Talbot. Conceived as a dance work, the score has been specially arranged for Wheeldon’s ballet. Talbot describes the music as a kind of water symphony. But rather than constructing a poetic or narrative program inspired by man’s relationship with water, it focuses on the substance itself, the forces that act upon it, and the energy that flows through and from it.

In 2008, PNB premiered Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux. It is the second half of a two-part work, the first of which features an ensemble of three couples dancing to Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa. The following pas de deux is performed to Pärt’s spare and tender duet for piano and violin, Spiegel im Spiegel. The ballerina is dressed in pink and her partner is bare-chested. In a series of unfolding partnering movements, the dancers explore the shifting emotions of their relationship.

Benjamin Millepied’s Appassionata was choreographed for Paris Opera Ballet and premiered at PNB in February 2016 with the title La nuit s’achève (“The night ends”). For PNB’s staging, Millepied has renamed the ballet Appassionata in reference to Beethoven’s iconic, late-classical piano sonata.

Sonata No. 23 in F minor is one of three celebrated sonatas from Beethoven’s middle period. The music is some of his most technically challenging, and the mood is tempestuous. The sonata was composed just after he came to terms with his inevitable hearing loss in 1803. The title Appassionata (meaning “passionate” in Italian) was not given to the work during Beethoven’s lifetime, but was a label added by the publisher of a four-hand arrangement in 1838. Appassionata is the second work by Benjamin Millepied to enter PNB’S repertory.

Justin Peck’s acclaimed Year of the Rabbit, a collaboration with American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, was premiered in 2016 by PNB. Set to Stevens’ Enjoy Your Rabbit, an electronica album and song cycle, it is based on the Chinese zodiac. The ballet features a new orchestration of the score by Michael Atkinson, created specifically for the ballet. Year of the Rabbit is an elaboration of Peck’s Tales of a Chinese Zodiac, which was created in 2010 for the New York Choreographic Institute.

An hour before each performance, ticketholders are invited to Ballet Talk in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall to join Audience Education Manager Doug Fullington for a 30-minute introduction to each performance. This includes discussions of choreography, music, history, design and the process of bringing ballet to the stage. And it’s free for ticketholders.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit, which PNB is presenting as part of LOVE & BALLET, June 1 – 10, 2018. (Photo © Angela Sterling.)

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit, which PNB is presenting as part of LOVE & BALLET, June 1 – 10, 2018. (Photo © Angela Sterling.)

After each performance, ticketholders have the opportunity to Meet The Artists Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall for a Q&A with Artistic Director Peter Boal and PNB dancers. Again, it’s free for ticketholders.

TICKET INFORMATION: PNB’s Love & Ballet runs for seven performances only, June 1 through 10 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $37. For more information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at PNB.org.

Other PNB News
Pacific Northwest Ballet travels to Paris to perform at the Les Etés de la Danse Festival June 25–July 7.  Every summer, when most Parisian theaters close their doors for a well-deserved rest, Les Etés de la Danse brings together dance-lovers and first-time spectators to enjoy the talents of the world’s greatest dance companies.

The two-week festival will devote its first week to a multi-company celebration of Jerome Robbins, including PNB dancing Opus 19/The Dreamer. PNB is exclusively featured in the second week performing alternating programs of nine signature works.

Before PNB departs for the City of Light, the Company will preview its Paris repertory in their studio June-19-21. Tickets are $25 each for the June 19 and 20 sessions, $35 for the June 21 session, or $75 subscription when purchasing all three: Call the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424.

The line-up for Love & Ballet

Tide Harmonic
Music: Joby Talbot (Tide Harmonic, 2009; arr. 2013)
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Costume Design: Holly Hynes
Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli
Running Time: 18 minutes
Premiere: May 31, 2013; Pacific Northwest Ballet (40th Anniversary Season) 

After the Rain pas de deux©
Music: Arvo Pärt (Spiegel im Spiegel, 1978)
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Staging: Damian Smith
Costume Design: Holly Hynes
Lighting Design: Mark Stanley
Running Time: 8 minutes
Premiere: January 22, 2005; New York City Ballet
PNB Premiere: September 20, 2008
The 2008 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux was generously underwritten by Ernest & Diane Burgess.

Appassionata
Music: Ludwig van Beethoven (Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, “Appassionata,” c. 1804-1806)
Choreography: Benjamin Millepied
Staging: Sebastien Marcovici and Janie Taylor
Scenic and Lighting Design: Lucy Carter
Costume Design: Alessandro Sartori
Lighting Supervision: Emma Jones
Running Time: 24 minutes
Premiere: February 5, 2016; Paris Opera Ballet (originally titled La nuit s’achève)
PNB Premiere: September 23, 2016 (renamed Appassionata)
The 2016 PNB premiere of Benjamin Millepied’s Appassionata was generously underwritten by Jeffrey & Susan Brotman.

Year of the Rabbit
Music: Sufjan Stevens (Enjoy Your Rabbit, 2002), orchestration by Michael P. Atkinson
Choreography: Justin Peck
Staging: Craig Hall and Janie Taylor
Costume Design: Justin Peck
Lighting Design: Brandon Stirling Baker
Running Time: 30 minutes
Premiere: October 5, 2012; New York City Ballet
PNB Premiere: March 18, 2016
Principal support for the 2016 PNB premiere of Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit was provided by Marcella McCaffray and Bob Benson, with additional support from Gilla Kaplan.

About The Artists
Christopher Wheeldon trained at the Royal Ballet School and joined the Royal Ballet in 1991. In 1993, he joined New York City Ballet (NYCB) and was promoted to soloist in 1998. He served as NYCB’s first-ever artist in residence (2000-2001) and was named the company’s first Resident Choreographer in 2001. In 2007, he founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and was appointed an associate artist for London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre. In 2011, Mr. Wheeldon premiered his full-length ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, featuring a new score by Joby Talbot, at the Royal Ballet (jointly commissioned with National Ballet of Canada.) In 2014, he directed and choreographed the musical An American in Paris, which premiered at Paris’ Chatelet Theatre and on Broadway at the Palace Theatre in 2015. The production went on to win Mr. Wheeldon the 2015 Tony Award for Best Choreography and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Choreography and Direction. His other awards include the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, the American Choreography Award, a Dance Magazine Award, and the London Critics Circle Award for Polyphonia. In 2013, his Cinderella and The Winter’s Tale won the Benois De La Danse. In 2016, Mr. Wheeldon was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, and also premiered his new production of Nutcracker with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

Benjamin Millepied is a world-renowned choreographer, dancer, and rising filmmaker. His ballets are in the repertory of major dance companies around the world, including New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Mariinsky Ballet, Ballet de Geneve, Lyon Opera Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet, among others. His collaborators include composers and artists such as Nico Muhly, David Lang, Christopher Wool, Barbara Kruger, Paul Cox, Rodarte, Theirry Escaich, and Santiago Calatrava. In 2010, Mr. Millepied was made Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture, and choreographed and starred in the award-winning film Black Swan. During the same year that he co-founded The Amoveo Company, 2012, he also founded the Los Angeles Dance Project. Since then, he has directed a number of short films in collaboration with various artists, including Mark Bradford, Philip Glass, IO Echo, Lil Buck, Zeds Dead, Forest Swords, and others. In January 2013, the Paris Opera Ballet announced Mr. Millepied’s appointment as its new director. In February 2016, he resigned from his position to embark on new projects.

Justin Peck has been hailed as an important new voice in 21st-century choreography. He is currently a soloist and the resident choreographer of New York City Ballet. Mr. Peck, originally from San Diego, California, moved to New York at the age of 15 to attend the School of American Ballet. In 2006, he was invited by ballet master-in-chief Peter Martins to become a member of NYCB. Mr. Peck had his choreographic debut in 2009 and has been fervently creating since then. He has been commissioned by NYCB, the New York Choreographic Institute, the School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet, the New World Symphony, L.A. Dance Project, New York City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, the Nantucket Atheneum Dance Festival, The Guggenheim Museum, and more. He has collaborated with the likes of Sufjan Stevens, Shepard Fairey, Bryce Dessner, Prabal Gurung, Sterling Ruby, Mary Katrantzou, and Karl Jensen. In 2014, Mr. Peck was appointed Resident Choreographer of NYCB, making him the second choreographer in the history of the institution to hold this position (following Mr. Wheeldon). Mr. Peck choreographed the 2018 Broadway revival of Carousel, directed by Jack O’Brien. He is currently serving as a member of the four-person interim leadership team for New York City Ballet. Debonair, created in 2014, was Mr. Peck’s first work for Pacific Northwest Ballet.

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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