Artistic Director’s Notebook: Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance

CONTEMPORARY 4 at Pacific Northwest Ballet March 18-27

Ten works for solo piano by five composers accompany the contrasting dances for four couples in Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance, choreographed for Pacific Northwest Ballet. Although the composers chosen lived during a span covering more than a hundred years, Gibson sees in their works a common respect for the expression of melody. He has devised a series of solos, duets, and pas de trois for his dancers, set to music chosen for variety and for affinity to the dance impulse. The Piano Dance offers a sharp contrast to Gibson’s earlier works for the Company, in which he favored large-scale orchestral scores and required big ensembles. This new creation demonstrates his wish to convey the clarity of ballet performance in a setting of intimate and brilliant miniatures.

Paul Gibson, former principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, joined PNB in 1994 as a soloist and was promoted to the rank of principal mid-season in 1996. Upon retirement from the Company in June 2004, he was immediately named Ballet Master.

Originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, Mr. Gibson trained with Allegheny Ballet Academy and later with summer programs at the School of American Ballet. He won a scholarship to San Francisco Ballet School and joined that company in 1988. His six-year tenure at SFB included leading roles in a varied repertory, ranging from Russian classics to the innovative works of Mark Morris, William Forsythe, Helgi Tomasson, James Kudelka, and Jiri Kylian. During his performing career with PNB, Mr. Gibson was known for his numerous roles in the Balanchine repertory, including Agon, The Four Temperaments, Chaconne, Mozartiana, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as his mastery of contemporary pieces by a variety of choreographers, such as Nacho Duato, José Limón, Kevin O’ Day, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and the works of PNB Founding Artistic Director Kent Stowell.

Mr. Gibson’s choreographic work includes four world premieres for PNB: Sense of Doubt (2006), Rush (2002), Diversions (1998), and The Piano Dance (2005), which was awarded the Choo San Goh Award for Choreography, and works for PNB School’s Professional Division in the Annual School Performance. After the premiere of Rush, Mikko Nissinen (artistic director of Boston Ballet) nominated Mr. Gibson to participate in the New York Choreographic Institute, where he created a new ballet, titled E.R.A.R., that premiered in PNB’s 2004 Choreographers’ Showcase. Other works include ballets for San Francisco Ballet School, the San Francisco Ballet Choreographic Workshop, and Allegheny Ballet Company.

Featured photo: Former PNB principal dancer Louise Nadeau in Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance, photo © Angela Sterling.