Performances

Program Notes

La Source

Music: Léo Delibes (excerpts from La Source, 1866, and Le Pas des Fleurs, 1867, arranged as Naila Waltz, c. 1880s)
Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Staging: Peter Boal
Lighting Design: Ronald Bates, recreated by Randall G. Chiarelli
Duration: 24 minutes
Premiere: November 23, 1968; New York City Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: June 2, 2017

© Lindsay Thomas

The 2017 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of George Balanchine’s La Source is generously underwritten by Bob Benson. The works of George Balanchine performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet are made possible in part by The Louise Nadeau Endowed Fund.

George Balanchine loved the music of Léo Delibes, considering him one of the three great composers for ballet, along with Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. Balanchine returned to the music of Delibes throughout his career. La Source is a hybrid work, drawn from several earlier Balanchine ballets and first presented in 1968 as an extended pas de deux for Violette Verdy and John Prinz. The legendary Verdy was a seasoned artist with piquant technique and theatrical flair, while Prinz was just coming into his own as a dancer. In 1969, Balanchine added dances for a second ballerina and eight women from his 1965 Pas de Deux and Divertissement (which itself was an extension of his 1950 Sylvia: Pas de Deux) and a revision of his “Naila Waltz,” choreographed in 1951 as part of Music and Dance, a presentation by the National Orchestral Society at Carnegie Hall.

Reminiscing about La Source, Verdy wrote, “Mr. B’s idea of France in La Source was almost a platonic ideal of the French. It was France through the eyes of an educated person from St. Petersburg who remembered how much France and Russia had in common and how much France brought to Russia with Catherine and the tsar and all the artists that came to St. Petersburg—Petipa, Didelot, the builders, and the constructors. The city is built like a beautiful theater, like Paris is a theater. …For me, dancing La Source was being home once more. The movements Mr. B gave me and that music—they are like family, they are in my genes.”

Notes by Doug Fullington.

Opus 19/The Dreamer

Music: Sergei Prokofiev (Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 19, 1915-1917)
Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Staging: Peter Boal
Costume Design: Ben Benson
Lighting Design: Jennifer Tipton, recreated by Perry Silvey
Duration: 23 minutes
Premiere: June 14, 1979; New York City Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: June 2, 2017

Benjamin Griffiths © Angela Sterling

Benjamin Griffiths © Angela Sterling

The 2017 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer is generously underwritten by Marcella McCaffray.

Jerome Robbins choreographed Opus 19/The Dreamer for Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1979, at the end of the single season the famed Russian dancer was a member of New York City Ballet before becoming artistic director of American Ballet Theatre in 1980. The double title refers both to the ballet’s music—Prokofiev’s first violin concerto, composed on the eve of the October Revolution—and its moody protagonist. The score is haunting, dreamy, and ethereal. The dance recalls the atmosphere of earlier Robbins ballets, Facsimile (1946) and Age of Anxiety (1950), both with music by Leonard Bernstein, which explored the psychology of the human experience and whose companions walked a grey line between reality and imagination. Baryshnikov, who partnered ballerina Patricia McBride at the premiere, has suggested an autobiographical tone for Robbins’ dreamer: “He’s a bit of an outsider, a bit of a loner, a bit of a thinking man; there’s a bit of action, a bit of unrealized romance, which is very much Jerry’s life.”

Peter Boal danced the role of the Dreamer and chose the ballet for his retirement performance at New York City Ballet in June 2005, partnering Wendy Whelan. He remembers, “Jerry and I worked for endless hours on Opus. The ballet was very dear to him and he entrusted it to very few after Misha. During rehearsals, he spoke of the ethnicity of the music and, in turn, the choreography, referring to Russian peasants and Slavic folk dances. The movements were at times grounded and tribal and alternately manic and meditative. I felt I always gave 100% in everything I danced, but for Opus Jerry wanted more—a level of physicality and commitment that was almost beyond human ability.”

Notes by Doug Fullington.

Pictures at an Exhibition

Music: Modest Mussorgsky (1874)
Choreography: Alexei Ratmansky
Staging: Wendy Whelan
Costume Design: Adeline André
Lighting Design: Mark Stanley
Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington, using Wassily Kandinsky’s Color Study. Squares with Concentric Circles (1913)
Duration: 35 minutes
Premiere: October 2, 2014; New York City Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: June 2, 2017

The 2017 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is generously underwritten by Patty Edwards.

Alexei Ratmansky is quickly becoming the most prolific and diverse choreographer working in classical ballet today. From his painstaking reconstructions of 19th-century classics by Marius Petipa to his revitalization of Soviet-era story ballets to his growing repertory set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich to his collection of works made for American Ballet Theatre (ABT, where he is artist in residence), New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and elsewhere, Ratmansky is everywhere. Any given night might see performances of his works by two or three or more companies around the globe. Pacific Northwest Ballet has three of them: Concerto DSCH (from the Shostakovich set), Don Quixote (a Petipa classic), and now Pictures at an Exhibition, an utterly unique dance made for New York City Ballet in 2014 and set to Modest Mussorgsky’s signature work in its original version for solo piano.

Writing in The New York Times after the ballet’s premiere, critic Alastair Macaulay stated, “‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ is surely the most casually diverse work Mr. Ratmansky has created, but it gathers unstoppable momentum. The 10 dancers—five women, five men—started out in informal home-theater mood, almost as if they were playing charades. Some dances, including the first solo (by Sara Mearns), had a wild, improvisatory, part-stumbling, part-inspired quality. (The tailor-made nature of the ballet’s solos reflects one of Mr. Ratmansky’s greatest gifts: Dancers are vividly, individually, intimately revealed.) In certain numbers the dancers—here on all fours, there gesturing—seemed to enact or refer to private stories. Other sections shifted toward a classicism of long lines and academic steps. Some ensembles were largely about camaraderie; others about geometry, harmony, meter.”

Dance writer Michael Popkin explained further: “Not just a rendition in dance of Mussorgsky’s famous work of the same name, the ballet was also functionally a tribute and apotheosis for NYCB’s retiring star, Wendy Whelan” (danceviewtimes). Pictures at PNB marks Whelan’s first project as a répétiteur, or stager, as we refer to the individual who teaches an existing ballet to a new cast. She will have worked with PNB’s dancers for a total of three weeks heading into the Company premiere on June 2. Ratmansky himself, on a brief break from ABT’s New York season, spent two days coaching the ballet after it had been taught.

In addition to Whelan, Ratmansky’s team of collaborators includes renowned projection designer Wendall K. Harrington, whose visual musings on Wassily Kandinsky’s watercolor, Color Study. Squares with Concentric Circles, provide animated counterpoint to the dancers’ moves. Fashion designer Adeline André’s costumes echo Kandinsky’s colors and shapes, while Mark Stanley’s lighting joins all of these components to create a unified whole.

Popkin continues: “The ballet tracks the score’s scenario, its action unfolding as a suite of dances before vibrantly colored backdrops. In this 1874 composition, Mussorgsky commemorates the premature death of a friend, the painter Viktor Hartmann, in a tone poem depicting a stroll through a gallery of his pictures. The music, in 16 short sections, alternates tone pictures of some canvasses with a repeating march—labeled ‘Promenade’—that recurs in different musical meters and lets you imagine that you’re strolling from picture to picture. As the promenades segue from conventional to elevated over the course of the entire piece, the composer’s emotion becomes evident: The work is increasingly shot through with his love for his friend and the artistic resolution of his grief.”

Notes by Doug Fullington.

LA SOURCE IS BALANCHINE AT HIS MOST ELEGANT—A PERFECT APERITIF. You’ll smell the perfume in this sublime work originally created for Violette Verdy. Opus 19 is a darker work by Jerome Robbins originally created for Mikhail Baryshnikov. It is also a work I danced for most of my career, working closely with Robbins in the studio. It’s an emotional and physical marathon with enormous rewards for audience and artist alike. Our final ballet is by Alexei Ratmansky (Don Quixote, Concerto DSCH), a man as humble as he is talented. Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is paired with Wassily Kandinsky’s vivid geometric images; the work showcases dancers as priceless masterpieces —just like this season. You won’t want to miss a bit of it.

-Peter Boal

Events

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PNB’s Lecture Series offers in-depth discussions with choreographers, stagers, designers, dancers, and other artists that reveal much about the creative process involved in the development of a ballet. Guests may attend the lecture only or stay for the dress rehearsal.

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Run Times

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION is approximately 2 hours including two intermissions.

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