HER STORY Performances in Seattle | November 3-12 | PNB
Her Story2018-02-02T10:14:20+00:00

HER STORY Program Notes

 Jessica Lang’s Her Door to the Sky

Music: Benjamin Britten (Simple Symphony, Op. 4, 1933-1934)
Choreography: Jessica Lang
Scenic Design: Jessica Lang
Costume Design: Bradon McDonald
Lighting Design: Nicole Pearce
Duration: 21 minutes
Premiere: August 24, 2016 (Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, Massachusetts)

Jessica Lang’s Her Door to the Sky was commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Her Door to the Sky premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, August 24, 2016. Major support is provided by Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, with additional support from Aya Stark Hamilton, Deidra Wager, and Leslie & Tachi Yamada.

2017 marks the centennial celebration of legendary American painter Georgia O’Keeffe’s first solo exhibition in New York. Her Door to the Sky is inspired by O’Keeffe’s Patio Door series that she painted between 1946 and 1956.

Notes by Jessica Lang.

Twyla Tharp’s Afternoon Ball

Music: Vladimir Martynov (Autumn Ball of the Elves, 1994)
Choreography: Twyla Tharp © Twyla Tharp
Staging: John Jay Selya
Scenic and Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli
Costume Design: Mark Zappone
Duration: 19 minutes
Premiere: September 25, 2008; Pacific Northwest Ballet

The 2008 world premiere of Twyla Tharp’s Afternoon BallTM was generously underwritten by Peter & Peggy Horvitz.

Vladimir Martynov’s Autumn Ball of the Elves, for string orchestra, represents a Russian mix of minimalism and post-romanticism that can also be heard in the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. (Both composers abandoned academic compositional styles following religious conversions and developed individual voices influenced by personal interests and convictions.) In Autumn Ball of the Elves, Martynov applies a theme and variations structure to a minimalist palette.

Notes by Doug Fullington.

Crystal Pite’s Plot Point

Music: Bernard Herrmann (from Psycho, 1960), with additional soundtrack by Owen Belton
Choreography: Crystal Pite
Staging: Sandra Marin Garcia
Scenic Design: Jay Gower Taylor
Costume Design: Nancy Bryant
Lighting Design: Alan Brodie
Duration: 32 minutes
Premiere: April 22, 2010; Nederlands Dans Theater
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: November 3, 2017

The 2017 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Crystal Pite’s Plot Point is generously underwritten by Jeffrey & Susan Brotman.

“Most human beings believe that they are the single and active protagonists of their own existence; that their existence operates through continuous time within a consistent, causally interconnected reality: and that inside this reality events happen for explainable and meaningful reasons… Classical (story) design is a mirror of the human mind.”

—Robert McKee, STORY

“At first glance, mimesis (representation, replication) seems to be a stylizing of reality in which the ordinary features of our world are brought into focus by a certain exaggeration, the relationship of the imitation to the object it imitates being something like the relationship of dancing to walking.”

—Michael Davis

INT. JONES LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

As party guests mingle behind her, Mrs. Smith peers out of the window into the darkened garden.

EXT. JONES HOUSE

A shadowy female figure pauses and looks back at Mrs. Smith before disappearing behind a hedge.

INT. JONES LIVING ROOM

MRS. SMITH
(shivering, to herself)

That shadow… I think it was me.

Plot Point was instigated by the opportunity to work with a live orchestra. Faced with the task of choosing music, I gravitated to film scores: music that is built to support action. A film score makes space for dialogue and provides the moving image with emotional tone and tension, making it also excellent music for dance. I am a fan of Bernard Herrmann, so choosing the composer was relatively easy. I eventually settled on his hauntingly beautiful score for Hitchcock’s Psycho.

With cinematic music as my starting-off point, my thoughts turned to the structures of screenplay, and the techniques of story. For Plot Point, I wasn’t compelled to deliver a specific narrative. I was more intrigued by the subject of screenwriting itself, and by our insatiable need for story.

EXT. FOREST CLEARING – NIGHT

Uneven footsteps and ragged breathing announce Fernando’s entrance. He limps into the clearing and desperately searches for a way out. The thugs are gaining on him.

THUG #1 (O.S.)
(chortling)

You’re surrounded, Lard-ass.

I started by doing what I’m told a screenwriter should never do: I worked on a storyboard before I had a story. I sketched some random narrative fragments, first on paper, then inside a maquette. I configured tiny anonymous model people in recognizable environments that evoked familiar relationships and storylines.

Each tableau inside the maquette was a strange and evocative telling. The model itself had more power than I expected: it framed a familiar piece of story that represented the whole—the meta-story. I decided to scale up the model for the stage, as is, keeping the elements (a forest, two street lamps, a door and windows) as two-dimensional and simple as possible. Similarly, each performer in the piece is represented by another dancer who performs a distilled and stylized rendering of his or her counterpart. These models, along with the décor, are presented as a sketch of what the fleshed-out story will become: a kind of onstage storyboard. A storyboard condenses a screenplay into a series of framed actions. I’m trying to translate that idea into live action—to present the nuts and bolts of narrative—the plot points—with stop-motion choreography.

INT. JONES KITCHEN – NIGHT

Mrs. Jones cuts a piece of leftover birthday cake with an enormous knife. Her hand shakes.

Because I am a choreographer, I always look to the human body for information about what I’m doing. I have to ask the question: “Why do this as a dance?” or “What can a dancer do to deliver this idea that no one else can?” In Plot Point, I think it’s the purity and exactitude in the model, and the unity between the character and her model that need the mastery of dancers. If the configurations and gestures of the models sketch out the essential plot points of a narrative, their corresponding characters embody the emotional tone and tension of those moments. The characters literally flesh it out. In order to explore and demonstrate the connection between model, character, story, and body, I need to deliver this idea through heightened physical extremes and subtleties: the abandon and articulations of a dancer.

One of my challenges in working with narrative elements, but not delivering a story with a beginning-middle-end, is finding a way to get the audience to invest in what they are seeing—to actually care if the limping man gets away, or to worry that Mrs. Jones might stab herself with that kitchen knife. Part of me wants to use tropes to evoke powerful storylines (love, betrayal, revenge, pursuit, rescue, etc.) that the viewer already knows so that we can just skip to the part where they start caring and not have to bother with all that character development and exposition. But I don’t think it actually works that way. If I want to earn a response from people, I know I’m going to have to dig in and do the work.

This is where I think the expression of the body comes in. In dance we have direct access to raw emotion and tension through a wordless language that is deeply, perhaps even unconsciously, understood by the viewer. If “screenplay” means using the moving image to deliver a story in the most efficient and compelling way possible, maybe “screenplay” is a dance-able concept.

EXT. STREET – NIGHT

As a distant city clock strikes twelve, Mrs. Smith backs away from Mr. Jones.

MR. JONES
(softly)

Don’t go.

Psycho is a movie about a murder of a defenseless woman. It, in turn, has inspired hundreds of films in the slasher genre. I am wondering: what is the point of Psycho? It is a beautifully made film, hailed as a masterpiece that changed audience expectations forever. It has become its own trope. Ultimately, a story presents reality at a level of remove, providing us enough detachment to allow for reflection… It would be nice to think that watching a murder on stage or in a film inspires us to lead a more reflective and sensitive life, but I’m not so sure. In the case of Psycho, is the violence portrayed anything more than thrilling entertainment? Does it make us better humans? Does it hold up a mirror to our own personal darkness—does it makes us wonder at our own capacity for evil or our ability to survive it? Psycho is hailed as a major breakthrough in cinema but I hate the slasher genre it inspired. These images live in our systems. The shower scene from Psycho—even though I have never been able to watch it—lives in my mind beside all the other images my brain has consumed during my lifetime. That unwatched scene is in my system. Like countless other people over two or three generations, I think of it sometimes when I’m in the shower. That is the power of storytelling, for better or for worse.

INT. JONES BASEMENT – NIGHT

Thunder and a flash of lightning reveal Fernando closing the lid on a briefcase full of cash. A second flash reveals Celia nearby. She is hunched over the lifeless body of Thug #2.

FERNANDO
Dead yet?

Celia nods.

-Crystal Pite
Den Haag, April 2010 (revised 2017)

HER STORY celebrates 3 female choreographers' work including Twyla Tharp, Jessica Lang, and one Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere by Crystal Pite!

Afternoon Ball © Angela Sterling

HER STORY November 3-12

HER STORY stages the American premiere of Plot Point created by Crystal Pite, “an international dance phenomenon” (Toronto Star), familiar to PNB audiences for her spellbinding Emergence. Set to music from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Plot Point contrasts figures presented in familiar narratives with counterparts of fierce physicality. The program also returns Twyla Tharp’s gritty Afternoon Ball and Jessica Lang’s gloriously hued Her Door to the Sky.

Audience Advisory: Plot Point contains violent themes.

“A gorgeous reminder that these dancers can do anything.”

“Mysterious and fascinating, demanding and rewarding.”

“There were moments during the performance when I simply couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“A terrific piece of dance-theater: Intelligent, original, fun to watch and, yes, suspenseful.”

“A mesmerizing work, and one to see again!”

“A work of complexity and fragmentation that makes our minds race and heartbeats quicken.”

Tickets Start at $30!

Buy in advance for HER STORY and find tickets starting at just $30 for the following performances:
Saturday, November 4 at 2 PM
Thursday, November 9 at 7:30 PM
Friday, November 10 at 7:30 PM

Click here for details and to discover other great offers!

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Events

Friday Preview

October 27th | The Phelps Center

PNB’s popular Friday Previews are hour-long studio rehearsals hosted by Artistic Director Peter Boal and PNB artistic staff, featuring Company dancers in excerpts from upcoming ballets.

Learn More and Buy Tickets

PNB Conversations & Dress Rehearsal

November 2nd | McCaw Hall

PNB Conversations offers in-depth interviews with choreographers, stagers, designers, dancers, and other artists during the hour preceding dress rehearsal reveal the creative process involved in the development of a ballet.

Learn More and Buy Tickets

Ballet Talk

Free for Ticketholders

Join PNB Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington or guest speakers for an engaging 30-minute introduction to each performance, including discussions of choreography, music, history, design, and the process of bringing ballet to the stage.

Learn More
Listen to our Past Podcasts

Meet the Artist

Free for Ticketholders

Ever want to ask what it’s like to dance a masterpiece, participate in the creation of a new work, or wear pointe shoes? Here’s your chance. Skip the post-show traffic and join Artistic Director Peter Boal or a member of PNB’s artistic staff with PNB Company dancers for a lively question-and-answer session following each performance.

Learn More

Running Time

Approximately two hours, including two 20-minute intermissions.

2017-18 Season

Casting

Friday, November 3 at 7:30 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Ricard
Generosa
Biasucci
Macy
Iliesiu

Tisserand, J.
Thomson
Davis
Wald
Pertl

Afternoon Ball

Griffiths
Postlewaite
Generosa*

Tisserand, L.
Pertl*

Plot Point

Biasucci*
Cardea*
Cruz, K.*
Davis*
Dec*
Pantastico*
Griffiths*
Lin-Yee*
Love Suddarth*
Merchant*
Moore*
Pertl*
Postlewaite*
Terada*

*First time in role.

Saturday, November 4 at 2:00 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Ricard
Generosa
Biasucci
Macy
Iliesiu

Tisserand, J.
Thomson
Davis
Wald
Pertl

Afternoon Ball

Griffiths
Postlewaite
Generosa

Tisserand, L.
Pertl

Plot Point

Biasucci
Cardea
Cruz, K.
Davis
Dec
Pantastico
Griffiths
Lin-Yee
Love Suddarth
Merchant
Moore
Pertl
Postlewaite
Terada

Saturday, November 4 at 7:30 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Murphy
Pantastico
Mamon*
Merchant
Pasch

Suddarth
Thomson
Poppe
Loch
Grant

Afternoon Ball

Thomson*
Cardea*
Biasucci*

Iliesiu*
Wald*

Plot Point

Biasucci
Cardea
Cruz, K.
Davis
Dec
Pantastico
Griffiths
Lin-Yee
Love Suddarth
Merchant
Moore
Pertl
Postlewaite
Terada

Thursday, November 9 at 7:30 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Murphy
Abeo
Mamon
Merchant
Pasch

Suddarth
Thomson
Basso*
Loch
Grant

Afternoon Ball

Thomson
Cardea
Biasucci

Iliesiu
Wald

Plot Point

Biasucci
Cardea
Cruz
Davis
Dec
Griffiths
Lin-Yee
Love
Merchant
Moore
Pertl
Postlewaite
Ryan*
Terada

*First time in role.

Friday, November 10 at 7:30 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Ricard
Generosa
Biasucci
Love
Iliesiu

Tisserand, J.
Thomson
Davis
Wald
Pertl

Afternoon Ball

Poppe*
Loch*
Generosa

Iliesiu
Wald

Plot Point

Biasucci
Davis
Ryan
Grant*
Griffiths
Lin-Yee
Loch*
Love
Macy*
Murphy*
Poppe*
Suddarth*
Terada
Thomson*

Saturday, November 11 at 7:30 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Murphy
Abeo
Mamon
Merchant
Pasch

Suddarth
Thomson
Poppe
Loch
Grant

Afternoon Ball

Griffiths
Postlewaite
Generosa

Tisserand, L.
Pertl

Plot Point

Biasucci
Davis
Grant
Griffiths
Lin-Yee
Loch
Love
Macy
Murphy
Poppe
Ryan
Suddarth
Terada
Thomson

Sunday, November 12 at 1:00 PM

Her Door to the Sky

Ricard
Generosa
Biasucci
Love
Iliesiu

Tisserand, J.
Thomson
Davis
Wald
Pertl

Afternoon Ball

Griffiths
Postlewaite
Generosa

Tisserand, L.
Pertl

Plot Point

Biasucci
Davis
Grant
Griffiths
Lin-Yee
Loch
Love
Macy
Murphy
Poppe
Ryan
Suddarth
Terada
Thomson

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Major Sponsor

Deidra Wager

Supporting Sponsor

  Denise Littlefield Sobel

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