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Annual School Show

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Some notes -- brief and belated

In the demonstrations for levels 1-6, it’s very easy to see when certain skills are introduced in the curriculum. Overall, very clean shapes (with occasionally glitches!) and clear improvement with action over time, but flow is the most difficult aspect of the work to teach. The Dance Chance students performed in a separate group, and showed excellent verve and presence -- they got the fact that this is a performing art, which is sometimes a tricky element for neophytes. The “Men’s Group” had some pretty young “men” in it, but was impressively large, from level I through 8. There were over 50 students listed in the program, which is incredibly heartening. There was the usual situation where zeal sometimes wins out over clarity of shape, but they were all game to try, and there are some beautiful men in the upper levels. Women start working on point in level 7, and they’ve made a great transition to that challenge as a group. The emphasis is still on ensemble work, which gives them the additional strength of numbers, but also helps modulate their flow. The level 5 students from the Eastside school (in Bellevue, a major bedroom community bordering on economic independence across Lake Washington from Seattle) did a character work with lots of heel/toe action -- I’m wondering if there’s any relationship to the big Eastern European immigrant communities on that side of the lake.

Peter Boal made “Ballet Ruse” for the level 8 students -- a big pastiche of vintage clichés including several quotes from works in the PNB repertory. There’s a pair of stagehands (Slaughter on Fifth Avenue); a diva and her attendant, with another diva right behind her (Variations Serieuse) who wind up sitting in the audience in the side boxes (Slaughter again); and pair of fangirls (The Concert). There’s a ballet in a ballet (Variations Serieuse again) with an agitated swan-like solo (Ballet Trockadero), and a Bluebird-like pair (surely you don’t need this reference) -- the male bird leaves the female for one of the divas, and the abandoned bird goes off with a stagehand. There’s a big romp at the end and a photo finish with one of the corps girls running on and doing a belly slide to get into place for the final chord. Boal made a ballet that makes his student cast look great, with a wonderful ensemble vibe -- I haven’t really seen any of his choreography up to now, but this worked exactly right.

The PD women did the opening of Balanchine’s Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fee -- a nice clean performance, especially from Towa Shinagawa in the main role and Sarah Chin and Ashley Davis as her demis. But the big finish for that group was Price Suddarth’s piece -- a full-out ballet to Bach for a main couple, two demi couples and a mixed ensemble. Suddarth has done excellent work here -- he’s got a good command of the classical vocabulary, nice pointe work for the women and substantial partnering all round. He moves his ensemble around with authority and gets them on and off stage cleanly (no small victory!) There are contemporary or modern dance elements throughout, but they are in service of a mainstream treatment -- it sits inside that tradition, rather than using the tools and vocabulary of ballet to create something outside. The score is a pastiche of Bach excerpts, with the addition of a section done entirely to metronomes (well actually, pretending to dance to metronomes -- it’s almost impossible to get five metronomes to start simultaneously, but it’s a great device) and he handles the propulsion of the baroque music really well. This work could easily go into the repertory of a small ballet company without much tweaking.

This is the second year that the Seattle Youth Symphony has performed for the PNB school show -- they’re an excellent student orchestra, and it’s a great synergy to have them (and their enthusiastic following) in the house. They did a lovely job with the Mozart score for Boal’s work, and the two PD ballets. McCaw Hall is filled to the rafters for these school shows with the warmest of audiences, families and friends, and it’s always big fun to be in the theater for this show.

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Did the program list where the graduating PD students will be next year?

(let me get my glasses for the small print)

Of the Level 7 and 8 students, Megan Kennedy is going to Pittsburgh as a "trainee", Ken Mankin is going to Ballet Austin Academy, Parisa Mehregan is going to Ballet Victoria, and Rebecca Wexler is going to the NYC branch of the Joffrey School. Enrico Hippolyto and Madison Sugg will be PDs at PNB. Of the PDs, Dylan Cobb, Ashley Davis and Alyssa Harrington are going to Los Angeles Ballet; Madeline DeVries is going to Dresden Semioper, Kiara Felder is going to Atlanta Ballet; Megan Hearn is going to Ballet Idaho; Alyssa Leger is going to Boston Ballet II; Jordan Veit is going to Ballet West II; and Jahna Frantzkonis and Elle Macy are joining PNB (though I think in the middle of the season).

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Thank you so much!

Last year the apprentice contracts started around PD student/corps/apprentice indentured servitude "Nutcracker" time, so it makes sense that Franzkonis and Macy remain PD students until then. Congratulations to them both! I saw Frantziskonis dance Butterfly with Jordan Veit in the beautiful opening divertissement -- a ballet in itself -- in Bruce Wells' "Snow White," and she was gorgeous in it. If "Breaking Pointe" gets renewed, maybe we'll see Veit in it next season.

I haven't seen the program in a few years, but I remember when most, if not all, of the L7 and 8 students were listed as going to college. Seven going on to high professional training or training positions is great.

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I haven't seen the program in a few years, but I remember when most, if not all, of the L7 and 8 students were listed as going to college. Seven going on to high professional training or training positions is great.

Well, if I'm reading it correctly, they've got 14 students from levels 7 and 8 moving along -- two are becoming PDs at PNB, six are headed to more training elsewhere, five are going to specific colleges and one doesn't have anything listed. Which is indeed a difference from past years.

Alongside that, there's almost a full page of kids going to various summer programs. Around 50 list the sessions at PNBs two schools, but easily twice that are going elsewhere. The school has become a very big operation!

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