Artistic Director’s Notebook: Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia


Music: György Ligeti (Desordre from Études pour piano, premier livre, 1985; Arc-en-ciel from Études pour piano, premier livre, 1985; No. 4 Tempo di Valse from Musica Ricercata, 1951-53; Invention, 1948; No. 8 Vivace energico from Musica Ricercata, 1951-53; No. 2 Hopp ide tisztan from Three Wedding Dances, 1950; No. 7 Cantabile molto legato, 1951-53; No. 3 Allegro con spirito from Musica Ricercata, 1951-53; No. 2 Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale from Musica Ricercata, 1951-53; Capriccio No. 2 – Allegro robust, 1947)
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Staging: Jason Fowler
Costume Design: Holly Hynes
Lighting Design: Mark Stanley
Premiere: January 4, 2001; New York City Ballet
PNB Premiere: March 15, 2007

“Wheeldon [is] regarded as one of the hottest classical choreographers of his generation…his work has a uniquely transatlantic quality: romantic and unsettling, lush and cerebral, modern yet steeped in an understanding of the past.” – The Guardian

“Romantic with comic twists” is how Christopher Wheeldon describes his ballet, Polyphonia (meaning “many voices”), set to ten eclectic piano pieces by György Ligeti. Overhead horizontal lifts, rolls and pushes off the floor contrast with classical ballet steps. The first of two key duets for the leading principal couple evokes sea creatures swimming, while the second looks like a strange plant growing and closing in on itself. The last horizontal lifts and fade-out arrest the movement, frame it, and let it dissolve like a film. Polyphonia won England’s Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2003 and was the first ballet by Christopher Wheeldon to be taken into Pacific Northwest Ballet’s repertory.

Sep. 23-Oct. 2, 2011
Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

PNB Company dancers in Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. Photo © Angela Sterling.