Artistic Director’s Notebook: Bacchus, One Thousand Pieces

Dear Friends,

We all have our harrowing stories from mid-March of 2020. Naturally, mine involves PNB. On the morning of March 12th Executive Director Ellen Walker informed me all theaters on Seattle Center campus had been asked to suspend any further activity. I told her I needed twelve more hours. That night we were scheduled to take the stage for the dress rehearsal of David Dawson’s Empire Noir and Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces – the latter, a 70-minute, two-part odyssey comprised of 35 sections, performed by 24 dancers and 47 musicians. One dancer recites a poem suspended by a rope high above the stage, two others spin massive shards of glass while five more enter through a curtain of steam and slip, spin, and slide through onstage water. We had worked for six weeks to revive this breathtaking work. It had only been performed once with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and PNB was proud to be the next home for Alejandro’s monumental reflection on Marc Chagall’s America Windows.

PNB Company Dancers bowing at the 2020 dress rehearsal of Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces.

The Windows, housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, were presented as a gift from the artist in 1977 to celebrate the US Bicentennial. If you know the wall of luminous blue panels filled with birds, buildings, and air-born figures, you may not see the direct connection to Alejandro’s choreography, but upon closer reflection and with clever lighting by Michael Korsch, the steam curtains become panes of glass and the endlessly twisting bodies mimic Chagall’s subjects, but in the extended realm of movement. Alejandro used Chagall’s art as a launching point and found endless innovation in playing with form, juxtaposition, and interaction. Though we were able to run and film the dress rehearsal before retreating to our homes, PNB has never performed the complete One Thousand Pieces for a live audience. In fact, this work which debuted in 2012, has not been performed since. How grateful we are to finally bring this piece to the stage with you in the audience.

Our gratitude to Pablo Piantino and Jessica Tong for their work to restage One Thousand Pieces for these performances. We also welcome Ana Lopez and Alejandro Cerrudo back to PNB for final touches, essential coaching, and singular insights.

Opening the program is the return of Bacchus, a delightful work created for PNB in 2019 by choreographer Mathew Neenan. Matt was in studio working alongside PNB Rehearsal Director Anne Dabrowski to revive this winning work. The playful costumes by Mark Zappone and the transporting music of Oliver Davis blend with Matt’s witty and poignant choreography to create a perfect bouquet.

Works like One Thousand Pieces and Bacchus are part of our signature repertory at PNB. We aspire to bring you a vibrant array of works from treasured classics to contemporary discoveries. There’s more of both later in the season, and during this run, Associate Artistic Director Kiyon Ross and I will take the stage to tell you a bit more about the 2024/25 season. We know many of you are subscribers and others may be considering a subscription for next season. I encourage you to renew or make a point of committing to PNB.

On March 12th, 2020, we did head to our homes after last hugs, tearful goodbyes, and fearful thoughts about the uncertainty of tomorrow. We faced an abyss of profound emptiness – without art and without direct human interaction. We knew health and safety were our priorities. And four years later, in safer times, we appreciate the arts, dance, and the unmatched joy of coming together to share the experience. How lucky we are to have each other and to have PNB.

Kind regards,

Photo credits: Featured photo – Angelica Generosa and James Yoichi Moore in Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces, photo © Angela Sterling. PNB Company Dancers bowing at the 2020 dress rehearsal of Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces, photo © Lindsay Thomas. Elizabeth Murphy and Dylan Wald in Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces, photo © Angela Sterling. Leta Biasucci and Lucien Postlewaite in Matthew Neenan’s Bacchus, photo © Angela Sterling.