Another reader writes:
Oh fine. Just introduce me to even more interests – how dare you!
Translation: I bought a ticket to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Balanchine centenary production
on February 12th.
The only ballet I’ve enjoyed before (other than The Nutcracker when I was
12) was the PNB’s production of Silver Lining – ballet set to the music of
Jerome Kern, coreographed by our boy Kent Stowell. It got rave reviews
here in Seattle, but was widely panned elsewhere.
But I am going with an open mind, so we’ll see.
Anything I should know/read beforehand?
If it were November, I’d tell you to buy my Balanchine book, but it isn’t written yet, much less published. On the other hand, I see on the Web that you’ll be watching Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Agon, and Divertimento No. 15, all of them major Balanchine ballets that Pacific Northwest dances beautifully, and so I’m tempted to suggest that you not read anything. Just go, look, and be open to surprise.
I’ll add only this caveat: all three of the ballets on your program are “plotless,” meaning they don’t tell a story. But that doesn’t mean they’re abstract–not even Agon, which is set to a very knotty score by Stravinsky. I’ll cheat and give you a little taste from my unfinished book:
Balanchine was the first ballet choreographer to forge a distinctively contemporary movement vocabulary, and among the first to find a visual counterpart to the acerbities and angularities of such composers as Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schoenberg, Webern, and Ives. Yet he was right to shun the reductive label of abstractionist, for his dances, however aggressively modern-looking they may be, are human dramas, peopled by recognizable creatures of flesh and blood who live and die–and love. “Put a man and a girl on the stage and there is already a story,” he said. “A man and two girls, there’s already a plot.”
Keep that in mind and you won’t go far wrong. Have fun–and please write back to tell me how you liked it!