June 20, 2021
It has been “a season unlike any other,” says Artistic Director Peter Boal in his introduction to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Season Encore. But, while it has been difficult, he notes that it hasn’t been without its plusses, the company now having subscribers in every US state and 36 countries around the world. It has also produced no fewer than 17 new works for the digital stage, some of which will transfer to the live theatre as soon as audiences return.
The good news for anyone not able to get to Seattle is that, while PNB will be back on stage at McCaw Hall in September of 2021, a companion digital season is planned so that we can all continue watching the company.
The programme opens with Happening, a film made in 2020 with choreography by Leah Terada and Miles Pertl that takes the dancers out and about in the city.
This final digital performance of the 2020-2021 season is really all about paying tribute to seven dancers who have decided the time has come to move on, however: corps dancers Nancy Casciano and Angeli Kiana Mamon-Urrea (the latter the first female to come through the Dance Chance programme), soloists Leah Merchant and Steven Loch, and principals Laura and Jerome Tisserand, and William Lin-Yee. The comments from Boal and from their fellow performers about are warm and heartfelt, and sometimes very full of emotion.
The streaming also gives us the chance to enjoy snippets of them in action. Among them is a new dance film featuring Leah Merchant with choreography by Christopher D’Ariano which moves from stage to beach. Husband and wife Jerome and Laura Tisserand, who are joining Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, feature in a silky neoclassical duet from Edwaard Liang’s The Veil Between Worlds, premiered only recently. As they move as one, the dance has a sensuous, quiet elegance.
Jerome Tisserand also features in Salt of the Earth, a celebratory farewell to William Lin-Yee, in which they are joined by Ryan Cardea and Ezra Thomson. Choreographed by Thomson, the eleven-minute, three-part ballet is a little gem.
Full of energy and fun, it’s like a bunch of best friends (which is what it is, after all) simply enjoying each other’s company as they take it in turns to dance to a self-made accompaniment of clicking fingers, rhythmic clapping, slapping thighs and even banging on the stage floor. It’s great fun and could easily become a gala favourite. It ends with Tisserand and Lin-Yee playing the piano for each other while the other dances freely, ending with big smiles and friendly fist bumps. Lovely.
A separate film, A School Celebration, marks the year in the Pacific Northwest Ballet School and honours the accomplishments of the upper-level students. An address from Peter Boal is followed by student speakers, and pre-recorded performances by the School’s Level VII, Level VIII, and Professional Division students. These include featured solos from this year’s New Voices choreography class (a programme to cultivate the next generation of female choreographers), of which I loved the way Amy Montgomery was transported Alice-like from lounge to sunny outdoors and back again in her Tinted Daydream.
There are also excerpts from George Balanchine’s Divertimento No.15; and the world premiere of PNB principal dancer Dylan Wald’s ballet, Unprecedented Serenade, filmed by Noel Pederson and danced by the entire class of Professional Division students. As it flips from studio to lawn to football field, it’s full of the optimism of youth. It’s incredibly uplifting and reminds us that there is a bright future.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Season Encore is available to June 22, 2021. Visit www.pnb.org for details.
A School Celebration will be available from June 22-July 3.