Artistic Director’s Notebook: The Veil Between Worlds, Khepri, …throes of increasing wonder

Dear Friends,

Turning 50 never felt so good. PNB’s celebratory season has brought us so many treasured moments, with a few more just around the corner. What is your 50th anniversary highlight? It might be the monumental first sounds of Carmina Burana, the awe of Crystal Pite’s ode to nature in The Seasons’ Canon, Giselle’s mad scene, Puck’s zany antics in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or the joy of witnessing well-deserved dancer promotions and debuts. Perhaps your favorite moment awaits with WORLDS TO COME, the final program of our season.

Each of these three works makes an onstage debut. Edwaard Liang’s The Veil Between Worlds, originally created for our 2020/21 Digital Season, is now performed for live audiences for the first time. Ed was inspired by connections and barriers that exist between people and how intersections can facilitate stronger understanding. Choreography, music, and flowing silks create tides of movement and emotion. Mark Zappone’s costumes embrace dancers in earth tones, while Reed Nakayama’s luminous lightscapes create surreal atmospheres.

At writing, I haven’t seen any of Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s or Kiyon Ross’s new creations. Annabelle is inspired by Scarabs and all of their mystical powers. (Scarabs are brightly colored beetles revered by many throughout history. Worth a Google search.) Her work is always bold and often unexpected. Annabelle’s musical choices are intriguing, and she has assembled a great team of collaborators along with two stellar casts. Kiyon intends to present PNB with a gift for this milestone season. As you might imagine, his work will be bursting with unbridled energy, bright colors, and the uplifting power of dance. I loved watching Kiyon retreating to his office after early rehearsals, drenched in sweat and smiling ear to ear. I’ve caught a few glimpses of the vibrant color palette created by costume designer Pauline Smith. The piece is fueled by Cristina Spinei’s pulsing score, generously funded by Charles and Joan Gross Foundation, which supports original compositions for dance. All in all, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this program. Make room for another highlight.

So, what’s my favorite moment from the past year? On Saturday, April 15, we celebrated PNB alumni, reaching out to former staff and artists from the past 50 years – they showed up en masse with cheers, hugs, brunches, drinks, selfies, and standing ovations for one another and for a remarkable performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I spoke with many individuals who helped create the company, school, and culture we know and admire today. Some sewed costumes, built sets, and called lighting cues, while others taught or played concerti, and quite a few performed 32 fouettés. Collectively, these individuals brought us to the proud place we now occupy. The shared reverence for PNB was beautiful to witness. At the close of the performance, after the final bows, 24 tiny bugs emerged with a spectacular cake as the orchestra started to play “Happy Birthday.” The cast was joined onstage by Executive Director Ellen Walker, Associate Artistic Director Kiyon Ross, Founding Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, and me. With a house full of admiration, we shared a moment to remember. Thanks for being part of our story and celebrating with us.

Kind regards,

Peter Boal

Photo Credits: Featured Image: Leta Biasucci and Lucien Postlewaite in Edwaard Liang’s The Veil Between Worlds, photo © Lindsay Thomas.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa in rehearsal for Khepri, photo © Lindsay Thomas.