PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET HONORS ONE OF BALLET’S MOST INFLUENTIAL COMPOSERS IN
Featuring the PNB premieres of Jerome Robbins’ Circus Polka and Molissa Fenley’s State of Darkness –
plus the return of George Balanchine’s Rubies and Symphony in Three Movements
May 31 – June 10 at McCaw Hall
SEATTLE, WA — Happy 125th Birthday, Stravinsky! Pacific Northwest Ballet proudly presents STRAVINSKY 125, a tribute to one of the greatest composers for dance of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), May 31–June 10 at McCaw Hall. The vibrant mixed repertory program features the PNB premieres of Jerome Robbins’ charming Circus Polka, set to Stravinsky’s Circus Polka for Wind Symphony, and Molissa Fenley’s dynamic solo, State of Darkness, set to Stravinsky’s legendary The Rite of Spring. Also on the program are two works by master choreographer and Stravinsky’s friend and frequent collaborator George Balanchine — the jazzy Rubies, set to Capriccio for piano and orchestra, and Symphony in Three Movements, a large-scale ballet that showcases the extraordinary talent of PNB dancers and the PNB Orchestra.
“Stravinsky and Balanchine have given the world many treasured ballets and their histories are forever joined. From Apollon Musagète for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes to the studios of the New York City Ballet, they share the description of being among the finest artists of the 20th century.” – PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal
Plus! Special Opening Night Musical Prelude – In observance of Igor Stravinsky’s 125th birthday, the PNB Orchestra will perform Stravinsky’s Greeting Prelude on opening night of STRAVINSKY 125. This setting of “Happy Birthday” was composed in 1955 for the 80th birthday of Pierre Monteaux, conductor of the premiere of The Rite of Spring, among other Stravinsky works.
STRAVINSKY 125 runs May 31, June 1-2 and 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:00 p.m. matinee on June 2 and a 1:00 p.m. matinee on June 10 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street.
Tickets range in price from $18 to $145 and may be purchased:
- By calling the PNB Box Office at (206) 441-2424 (Mon.-Fri. 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
- In person at the PNB Box Office, 301 Mercer Street (Mon.-Fri. 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
- Online at www.pnb.org
- *90 minutes prior to each performance at McCaw Hall at 321 Mercer Street
- Discounts of up to 40% available for groups of 10 or more by calling (206) 441-2416 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Stravinsky’s Circus Polka was composed precisely for the circus—for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1942. The circus impresarios wanted to do a ballet for elephants. I telephoned [Stravinsky], not giving away the whole story. ‘What kind of music?’ he asked. ‘A polka,’ I said. ‘For whom?’ he wanted to know. ‘Elephants.’ ‘How old?’ ‘Young!’ ‘Okay, if they are very young, I’ll do it.’” — George Balanchine
Balanchine’s 1942 ballet for “Fifty Elephants and Fifty Beautiful Girls” was performed 425 times. Thirty years later, in 1972, Jerome Robbins created a new ballet to Stravinsky’s raucous Circus Polka for Wind Symphony, this time for 48 young dance students and a Ringmaster (performed by Robbins in the original cast). Robbins’ short 4-minute ballet ends with a floor pattern that spells out the composer's initials, I.S., the perfect opening for Pacific Northwest Ballet’s celebration of Igor Stravinsky’s 125th birthday.
Circus Polka premiered at New York City Ballet in 1972 and the original cast included 48 students from the School of American Ballet. PNB’s production of Circus Polka, featuring PNB School students, is staged by former New York City Ballet principal dancer and current Robbins Trust repetiteur Judith Fugate.
More about Molissa Fenley’s State of Darkness — pnb premiere!
"One day, when I was finishing the last pages of l'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) in St. Petersburg, I had a fleeting vision which came to me as a complete surprise, my mind at the moment being full of other things. I saw in my imagination a solemn pagan rite. Sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the God of Spring. I heard and I wrote what I heard. I am the vessel through which Le sacre passed." — Igor Stravinsky
Choreographer and performer Molissa Fenley’s intensely dynamic solo, State of Darkness (1988) is set to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Commissioned by the American Dance Festival in North Carolina in 1988, State of Darkness was first performed by Fenley herself, who received a New York Dance and Performance Award (The Bessies) in choreography for her work. Peter Boal received a Bessie Performance award for his revival performance of State of Darkness in 2000.
“Just when I thought Molissa Fenley’s dancing in her modern solos couldn’t be beat, Peter Boal’s tour de force in State of Darkness nailed me to my chair. It was a triple whammy: Fenley’s gripping choreography set to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, plus Boal’s powerhouse performance.” — Sharon McDaniel, The Palm Beach Post
Ms. Fenley comments about choreographing and performing in State of Darkness: “I called the work State of Darkness for precisely the reason that I didn’t follow the original scenario of The Rite of Spring. I followed an inner, intuitive voice that understood the music. I knew there was the possibility for one person to take on the varying states of the music. State of Darkness – which had many passages choreographed around the idea of fear, entering into the shadows, delighting in an animal presence, shifting from being extremely powerful to being totally out of control – is a dialogue with the music, a very direct give and take from score to choreography. The dance was choreographed with belief in the ‘rightness’ of it, belief in the truth of the body in music. Yes, I would pray to ‘my buddy, Igor’ that I would make it through each performance, able to withstand and transcend the stamina and endurance necessary. One friend said to me before a performance, ‘I can’t believe that you have to climb that mountain each time,’ but I was addicted to it, to the challenge and great reward. At the last crash of the music, where, in The Rite of Spring scenario, the Chosen One is killed, this modern woman steps out into the light: intact, strong and alive.”
Molissa Fenley was born in Las Vegas and grew up in Nigeria and Spain. She received a degree in dance from Mills College in 1975 and then moved to New York City and formed Molissa Fenley and Dancers in 1977. Her 30-year career of choreographing and presenting her work has developed in cycles. From 1977–1987, she focused on group works performed by her and an ensemble of dancers. During the next ten years, her work shifted to solo performances created in collaboration with contemporary visual artists and composers. Now, in a third cycle, she is once again exploring the dynamics of ensemble work.
More about George Balanchine’s Rubies
“Rubies, set to Stravinsky, seems in a different world: spiky-edge crimson costumes, shimmying hips, twisting wrists, lightning-quick kicks. Jonathan Porretta was a marvel of controlled wildness; watching him fling himself around the stage, you sensed what a joy it must be to perform Balanchine. Kaori Nakamura was his deft partner, pursing her lips at the end of their playful pas de deux like a perfect Jazz Age ingenue. Ariana Lallone led the ensemble, with her supreme, queenly confidence. Her movements seemed to put an emphatic stamp on the music, punctuating it with her long arms and legs…” —Moira Macdonald, The Seattle Times
Rubies, set to Stravinsky’s 1929 Capriccio for piano and orchestra, is the American heart of George Balanchine’s three-act Jewels and a Stravinsky/Balanchine masterwork. Choreographed in 1967 for Patricia McBride and Edward Villella, two of the most vivacious dancers in American dance history, plus a supporting female lead and a corps of twelve, Rubies effuses glam wit and jazzy chic. Clive Barnes, dance critic for The New York Times, called Rubies “Balanchine’s most sophisticated vein of choreography…the dances pour out of him.”
Former PNB Director of Education Jeanie Thomas wrote, “’Capriciousness’ [referring to the title of Stravinsky’s score] might also be said to characterize Balanchine’s choreography, which is half elegant, half street-smart. With its jutting hips, flexed feet, show biz kicks and witty counter-rhythms, Rubies is a many-faceted example of the exuberantly distorted classicism that Balanchine invented to render Stravinsky’s musical idiom three-dimensionally.”
PNB first performed Rubies on February 3, 1988, with Magali Messac, Hugh Bigney and Colleen Neary performing the roles originated by Patricia McBride, Edward Villella and Patricia Neary. It has since been performed at home and on tour, including performances at the Kennedy Center in 1992 and in Melbourne, Australia, in 1995. The Company last performed Rubies in Seattle last June, during the PNB premiere of the three-movement, evening-length Jewels. This production of Rubies is staged for PNB by Elyse Borne, former New York City Ballet soloist. Ms. Borne has been staging Balanchine ballets for the George Balanchine Trust since 1994.
More about George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements
“Choreographers combine movements, and the ones I arranged for this music follow no story line or narrative. They try to catch the music and do not, I hope, lean on it, using it instead for support and time frame."— George Balanchine
Vibrant, startling, and athletic, Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements has been called “the most raw and unleashed ballet Balanchine has done” and “one of the most exciting works in the international repertory.” A large ensemble ballet that devours the stage, Symphony in Three Movements contains jazz-flavored movements and bursts of choreographic ferocity that mirror Stravinsky’s impressions of World War II that are the basis for the score.
Symphony in Three Movements premiered on opening night of New York City Ballet’s 1972 Stravinsky Festival with an original cast that included Sara Leland, Marnee Morris, Lynda Yourth, Helgi Tomasson, Edward Villella and Robert Weiss. The work received its PNB premiere in 2005 on the Company’s first repertory program under the direction of Peter Boal and featured PNB principal dancers Patricia Barker, Carrie Imler, Carla Körbes, Kaori Nakamura, Noelani Pantastico, Jonathan Porretta, Jeffrey Stanton and Batkhurel Bold.
In his review of PNB’s opening night premiere performance, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s dance critic R.M. Campbell, wrote, “PNB has several Balanchine/Stravinsky ballets in its repertory, but nonetheless, this is a major addition. Symphony in Three Movements is all about sharp thrusts and angles, wit and edgy rhythms, just like the music. It propels itself across the stage in all manner of being, expanding and contracting like the heart, pumping without cease.” Moira Macdonald, in her review for The Seattle Times, said, “...the evening’s closer, Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, was a wonder — a big, busy ballet involving nearly the entire company, performed at breakneck speed ... Dancers flew through the air in the ballet’s signature move: a simple, soaring jump, with both legs tucked up.”
PNB’s production of Symphony in Three Movements is staged by former New York City Ballet soloist Susan Pilarre. Ms. Pilarre has been staging Balanchine ballets since 1980.
More About Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was one of the most authoritative composers of the twentieth century, both in the West and in his native land. A quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian, Stravinsky was born and raised near St. Petersburg and entered law school in 1901, at the age of nineteen. That year he also gave his first piano recital and began studying piano and composition with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1910, Stravinsky came to the attention of Serge Diaghilev, who asked him to orchestra two pieces by Chopin for the ballet Les Sylphides, and then to compose an original ballet. The result, Firebird, projected both Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and the young composer to worldwide acclaim. Stravinsky went on to master musical styles ranging from Romanticism to Neoclassicism to Serialism and was regarded as one of the great musical innovators of his age. His broad oeuvre ranges from symphonies to piano miniatures.
Stravinsky’s ballets for the Ballets Russes also included Petrushka, choreographed by Michel Fokine, The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, and Apollon Musagète (later called Apollo), choreographed by George Balanchine. The composer’s long artistic relationship with Balanchine resulted in several commissioned ballet scores – Jeu de Cartes (1936), Orpheus (1947) and Agon (1953-1957) – and many ballets choreographed to existing works.
Stravinsky also achieved fame as a pianist and conductor, often conducting the premieres of his own works. With the help of his protégé Robert Craft, he wrote a theoretical work entitled Poetics of Music. In it, he famously claimed that music was incapable of “expressing anything but itself.” Craft also transcribed several interviews with the composer. Stravinsky was named by Time magazine as one of the most influential people of the twentieth century.
About Pacific Northwest Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet, one of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States, was founded in 1972. On July 1, 2005, Peter Boal assumed the role of Artistic Director, succeeding Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, Co-Artistic Directors of PNB since 1977. The Company of forty-four dancers presents over 100 performances each year of full-length and mixed repertory ballets at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall and on tour. The Company has toured to Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and throughout the United States with celebrated appearances in Washington D.C. and New York City.
Founded in 1974, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, under the direction of Francia Russell since 1977 and now under Mr. Boal's direction, is nationally recognized as setting the standard for ballet training offering a complete professional curriculum to over 900 students. The School and Company also provide comprehensive dance education to the greater Seattle area reaching over 10,000 adults and children each year through DanceChance, Discover Dance, Eyes on Dance and other outreach programs and activities.
This production of STRAVINSKY 125 is generously sponsored by Moss Adams LLP and PONCHO with additional support from Harkness Foundation for Dance and Mario’s. The Seattle premiere of Circus Polka is generously underwritten by Marcella McCaffray. The Seattle premiere of State of Darkness is generously underwritten by Lyndall Boal. Pacific Northwest Ballet's 2006-2007 Season is sponsored by ArtsFund, Microsoft, Northwest Danish Foundation and scan|design by Inger & Jens Bruun Foundation, and supported in part by Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, PONCHO, 4Culture - King County Lodging Tax, Washington State Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts.