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American Stories: June 3-4, June 9-12

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June 3 – 12, 2016

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

321 Mercer Street, Seattle Center

Seattle, WA 98109

Seven performances only!

  • June 3-4, 9-11 at 7:30 pm

  • June 4 at 2:00 pm

  • June 12 at 1:00 pm

SEATTLE, WA – For AMERICAN STORIES, the final program of its 44th season, Pacific Northwest Ballet presents a triple-bill featuring three of the world’s greatest choreographers – George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Twyla Tharp – and their distinctive takes on the American landscape. Balanchine’s homage to American folk dancing, Square Dance, is joined by Robbins’ Fancy Free (the inspiration for the musical On the Town) and, back by popular demand, Tharp’s made-for-PNB Waiting at the Station, featuring music by the late, great jazz legend Allen Toussaint. AMERICAN STORIES runs for seven performances only, June 3 through 12 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $30. For more information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at PNB.org.

The line-up for AMERICAN STORIES will include:

Fancy Free

Music: Leonard Bernstein (1944; "Big Stuff" recording sung by Dee Dee Bridgewater)

Choreography: Jerome Robbins

Staging: Judith Fugate

Scenic Design: Oliver Smith

Costume Design: Kermit Love

Costume Design Supervisor: Holly Hynes

Original Lighting Design: Ronald Bates

Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli

Running Time: 29 minutes

Premiere: April 18, 1944; Ballet Theatre (New York)

PNB Premiere: September 21, 2006

Imagine New York on a hot summer night in 1944. Three sailors on shore leave pick up two girls and a fight breaks out over which sailor is to be left without a partner. In the bar, they stage a competition, each dancing to win the favor of a girl. When the girls are unable to choose between them, the fight resumes and the girls slip away. The sailors make up, but suddenly a third girl passes their way…. Have they learned their lesson?

When Jerome Robbins’ first ballet, Fancy Free, premiered in New York on April 18, 1944, it proved to be one of the most exciting evenings in the history of ballet in America, marking the emergence of three new American talents: choreographer Jerome Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, and designer Oliver Smith. That same year, the ballet was transformed into the Broadway musical On the Town and established Robbins, Bernstein, and Smith as formidable talents in American theater. Robbins danced in the Fancy Free premiere with Janet Reed, one of American ballet’s favorite soubrettes, who went on to join New York City Ballet and later became Founding Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. [Notes by Doug Fullington.]

Square Dance

Music: Antonio Vivaldi (L’estro Armonica, Op. 3, No. 10, RV 580 and No. 12, RV 265) and Arcangelo Corelli (Sarabanda, Badinerie e Giga, i.e., Sonatas for Violin and Continuo, Op. 5, No. 9 [Giga] and No. 11 [Gavotta])

Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

Staging: Peter Boal

Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli

Running Time: 25 minutes

Premiere: November 21, 1957; New York City Ballet; revised May 20, 1976

PNB Premiere: March 5, 1981; restaged September 20, 2007

Balanchine’s Square Dance combines classical ballet, 17th-century court dance, and American country dancing. In the original 1957 production, the musicians were on stage and a square dance caller was brought in to call out the steps. Balanchine revived Square Dance in 1976, dispensing with the caller, putting the orchestra in the pit, and adding a celebrated solo for the principal male dancer.

Writing about Square Dance, Balanchine explained, “Ballet and other forms of dance of course can be traced back to folk dance. I have always liked watching American folk dances, especially in my trips to the West, and it occurred to me that it would be possible to combine these two different types of dance, the folk and the classic, in one work. To show how close the two really are, we chose old music also based on ancient dances. The spirit and nerve required for superb dancing are close to what we always want in ballet performances, which is one way perhaps of explaining why so many American dancers are so gifted. The invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits are some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet.” [Notes by Marsha Bennion and Doug Fullington.]

Waiting at the Station

Music: Allen Toussaint (“Let’s,” “Bright Mississippi,” “Dolores’ Boyfriend,” “Mother-in-Law,” “Don’t Go To Sleep,” “Fas-Fess,” “I Miss You Baby,” “The Mardi Gras Stomp,” “Waiting at the Station”)

Choreography: Twyla Tharp

Scenic and Costume Design: Santo Loquasto

Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls

Assistant to the Choreographer: Kiyon Gaines

Running Time: 32 minutes

Premiere: September 27, 2013; Pacific Northwest Ballet

Waiting at the Station is a short narrative ballet set to a collection of compositions – both old and new – by R&B artist Allen Toussaint. Scenic and costume designs by Santo Loquasto set the scene in 1940s New Orleans.

The story follows one man as he attempts to connect with his son and pass on his steps before he must surrender to the three gilded Fates that seek him out. The ensemble dances upstage for much of the work. They are a living frieze, providing background rhythm and dramatic tableau as two couples gambol, waltz, spar and swing through a sampling of society’s many small conflicts. After the Father dances his goodbyes and recedes upstage with the three Fates, his Son leads the jazz funeral procession, a celebration of both life and death through music and dance. An epilogue follows, wherein the Father returns briefly to tidy a few loose ends and conduct the finale before boarding his last train.

Apart from her own, Tharp has developed long working relationships with three dance companies over the course of her career; Pacific Northwest Ballet is one of these. After seven years of repertory and two prior commissions, artistic director Peter Boal approached Tharp to create a third piece for the company in 2013: Waiting at the Station anchored an all-Tharp program that included Nine Sinatra Songs and the Seattle premiere of Brief Fling. [Notes courtesy of Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation.]

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Friday, May 20, 6:00 pm

The Phelps Center, 301 Mercer St. at Seattle Center

PNB’s popular Friday Previews are hour-long studio rehearsals hosted by Artistic Director Peter Boal and PNB artistic staff, featuring Company dancers rehearsing excerpts from upcoming ballets. Tickets are $12. These events usually sell out in advance. Friday Previews are sponsored by U.S. Bank.


Tuesday, May 31, 12:00 noon

Central Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Avenue, Seattle

Join PNB for a FREE lunch-hour preview lecture at the Central Seattle Public Library. Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington will offer insights about AMERICAN STORIES, complete with video excerpts.


Thursday, June 2, 2015

Lecture 6:00 pm, Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Dress Rehearsal 7:00 pm, McCaw Hall

Join PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal in conversation with Waiting at the Station stager Kiyon Gaines, during the hour preceding the dress rehearsal. Attend the lecture only or stay for the rehearsal. Tickets are $12 for the lecture, or $30 for the lecture and dress rehearsal. Tickets may be purchased through the PNB Box Office.


Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Join Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington for a 30-minute introduction to each performance, including discussions of choreography, music, history, design and the process of bringing ballet to the stage. One hour before performances. FREE for ticketholders.


Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

Skip the post-show traffic and enjoy a Q&A with Artistic Director Peter Boal and PNB dancers, immediately following each performance. FREE for ticketholders.


Friday, June 10, 7:30 pm

Join members of PNB’s Young Patrons Circle (YPC) in an exclusive lounge for complimentary wine and coffee before the show and at intermission. YPC is PNB’s social and educational group for ballet patrons ages 21 through 39. YPC members save up to 40% off their tickets. For more information, visit PNB.org and search for “YPC.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 2015-2016 season is proudly sponsored by ArtsFund and Microsoft. Season-long sponsorship also provided by 4Culture.

Schedule and programming subject to change. For further information, please visit PNB.org.

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Casting is up on the website for both weeks; please note that as of this evening, the times are not correct for week two: the Friday, June 10 performance is at 7:30pm (not 2pm), and the Sunday, May 12 performance is at 1pm (not 7:30pm), with the Season Encore program later that evening (6:30pm start).


(scroll to the bottom and use the "+" signs to toggle.)

Casting is subject to change.

Role debuts first weekend are:

  • Lesley Rausch, Elle Macy, Margaret Mullin, Seth Orza, Jerome Tisserand, Matthew Renko, and Ezra Thomson in "Fancy Free"
  • Margaret Mullin and Dylan Wald in "Square Dance"
  • Ezra Thomson, Elizabeth Murphy, Joshua Grant, and Sarah Ricard Orza in "Waiting at the Station"

Role debuts second weekend are:

  • Sarah Ricard Orza in "Fancy Free"
  • Kyle Davis in "Square Dance"
  • Cecilia Iliesiu in "Waiting at the Station"

Here is the spreadsheet:

American Stories Weeks 1-2.xlsx

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A press release from PNB:

SEATTLE, WA – In conjunction with its upcoming run of AMERICAN STORIES, Pacific Northwest Ballet has launched the “American Stories Project,” an opportunity for members of the PNB family and greater Seattle community to share their own “American stories.” These personal narratives are currently featured on the PNB blog at www.PNB.org/Stories.

“We all have stories – incredible stories and no two are alike, and yet the intersections and effects of one upon the other make a fascinating tapestry that becomes our community and in turn our country,” said PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal. “AMERICAN STORIES offers three ballets by three choreographers who found inspiration in the American culture. We have taken a cue from them and are looking at our own stories. They come from kids in our school, members of our company, leaders in our community, and friends and family. People tell their own and those of other members of their family. One tells the story of being from an indigenous tribe who lived on this land before it had a name; another tells of a blight in our history when a relative was forced to live in a Japanese internment camp. There are stories of discrimination, acceptance, hardships and joy, citizenship, recognition of marriage, and of earning the right to vote or to change gender. Telling and listening to each other’s stories helps to create a society of understanding and acceptance. Think about your stories and those around you and let’s celebrate our collective American story.”

For AMERICAN STORIES, the final program of its 44th season, PNB presents a triple bill featuring three of the world’s greatest choreographers – George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Twyla Tharp – and their distinctive takes on the American landscape. Balanchine’s homage to American folk dancing, Square Dance, is joined by Robbins’ Fancy Free (the inspiration for the musical On the Town) and, back by popular demand, Tharp’s made-for-PNB Waiting at the Station, featuring music by the late, great jazz legend Allen Toussaint.

In his program notes for the AMERICAN STORIES playbill, Mr. Boal shares some of the “American stories” of these three iconic choreographers, as well as choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s tale about coming to this country: “Laid up on his couch in London with a sprained ankle, the young dancer with the Royal Ballet saw an advertisement on television offering free roundtrip airfare to America for the first batch of customers to buy a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Chris knew there was a hardware store on the corner selling Hoovers and grabbed his crutches. A few months later, he landed in New York and never left. From a Brit in New York to a Tony for An American in Paris.” Excerpts of ten other stories are featured in the AMERICAN STORIES playbill: They are included in their entirety online, along with two dozen others, including submissions from PNB dancers, musicians, and administrative staff, as well as members of the community including choreographer Kate Wallich; former Washington Supreme Court Judge Rosselle Pekelis; and President and CEO of ArtsFund, Mari Horita. All of their stories can be read at www.PNB.org/Stories. Readers are also invited to submit their own stories and photos.

AMERICAN STORIES runs for seven performances only, June 3 through 12 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $30. For tickets or more information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at PNB.org.

This sounds like a fascinating project. The libretto for Seattle Opera's "An American Dream" was based on stories solicited from the community at large, and it was an excellent work.

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There's been a casting update on the PNB site for second weekend "Square Dance": Pantastico has moved from Friday to Thursday, and Biasucci now is cast Friday-Sunday. Their partners haven't been switched, which I think might have been an oversight.

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I saw a remarkable performance of "Fancy Free" this afternoon. Margaret Mullin more than held her own as Red Pocketbook Lady, fending off the sailors' aggressiveness in their first encounter. Purple Dress Lady is a wonderful regular season farewell role for Kylee Kitchens, highlighting her beautiful, long legs. Sarah Pasch as the last-minute Passerby was sassy enough to inspire the sailors to start the cycle all over again.

Jerome Tisserand, Ezra Thomson, and Matthew Renko were full of spirit, combativeness, testosterone, and male entitlement, each expressing it in his own way. (That women were maintaining the country while they were serving was a concept that they hadn't grasped.) It was in the solos that they each brought something unique and poignant: Renko tempering the pyrotechnics with elegance, Thomson capturing the elegance and plaintiveness built into his, and Tisserand shaping the Rhumba solo with perfect timing and nuance.

It reminded me that as beautifully as Astaire danced in his movies, his American male character was often a bit of a jerk, something Robbins built into this ballet, and it's always great to see when the dancers show it.

It's a big afternoon for Thomson, who is about to dance the central role in "Waiting at the Station."

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If Tisserand, Renko, and Thomson were friends of the circumstance of war, Porretta, and Moore were cousins who grew up and enlisted together. In the solos, Porretta, leading off, set the bar.

If their names were Mark, Ben, and Roger Montgomery, they might as well have been Mercutio, Benvolio, and Romeo Montague, before Romeo got serious.

Both Ezra Thomson, who was amazing this afternoon, and James Moore have been cast in the same roles in "Fancy Free" and "Waiting at the Station." I look forward to seeing Moore reprise the role that was made for him. But, first, "Square Dance," with debuts by Margaret Mullin and Dylan Wald.

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I'd never seen Bart Cook dance the solo in "Square Dance" that Balancing created for him, adding it to the ballet that had been performed for decades. But like many Balanchine works, if you've seen them enough, and, especially, if you've seen the dancer in other roles, you can imagine the original dancers pretty clearly.

I've seen many fine performances in decades of viewing this ballet, but none that made me think of Cook. While making it entirely his own, Dylan Wald invoked many of the qualities and phrasing choices that so reminded me of Cook, and for that I will be forever grateful.

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Both the website photo, from which the showcase posters were excerpted, and the cover photo of the program feature some of the company's newest and youngest members: Angelica Generosa, Dylan Wald, Angeli Mamon, Dammiel Cruz, and Madison Sugg, with Cruz and Mamon reprising the famous kiss at the end of WWII:


These weren't just kids with time on their hands for a photo shoot -- although it worked out well for Steven Loch, Angelica Generosa, and Jahna Frantziskonis when, as Peter Boal explained, Twyla Tharp showed up a year early to choreograph "Waiting at the Station and asked for any dancers who weren't busy with rehearsals -- but they are dancing major roles in this rep this weekend.

Wald just hit it out of the park with a one-off performance in "Square Dance," and is in the ensemble of "Waiting at the Station" along with Angelica Generosa and Madison Sugg. Angeli Mamon, Dammiel Cruz, and Wald were in this afternoon's "Square Dance" corps, and Angelica Generosa in this evening's; these are among the greatest corps roles in ballet. They may be in more by next weekend.

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Saturday night Maggie Mullin also did a fine job for her Square Dance debut. She has always impressed me with such clean and concise technique.

Another impression was Jonathon Poretta partnering Laura Tisserand in Waiting at the Station - just amazing. Did they dance the principal couple back in '13?

His Square Dance was incredible tonight (Thursday). He evoked such different feelings in different parts of the ballet. During the quick parts he had a huge smile and during his solo, I thought he had a depth and gravity not seen in the other casts.

He and Noe looked great together. Her arms and hands were so soft and beautiful while doing difficult pointe work. I love seeing the confidence and ease that experienced principals have, and I hope to see them paired together more in the future.

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Yes, the two Principal couples in "Waiting at the Station" in 2013 were Laura Tisserand and Jonathan Porretta and Carrie Imler and Kiyon Gaines.

Watching Mullin, what struck me was how beautiful her arms were in the adagio. Pantastico was very fluid in it too: I thought the adagio was the highlight of her performance last weekend.

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Yes, Thursday's Square Dance was interesting. I thought this cast's corps looked like they were still finding their way into the roles on the whole...but I really liked the petite young brunette lady (Rizzitano...maybe Casciano?) who was at stage left front in the first movement: noticeably attentive to the other cast members and musicality. Pantastico seemed to start a bit tentative, but gathered steam as she went: by the late echappe releve sequence, she was her usual musical self. Porretta was the one person who really looked in fully in command from the beginning (wonderful beats). It's funny though. I'm used to Square Dance the way Hubbe did it: very understated, with glints of light and shading. And everyone I've seen since has emulated that approach unsuccessfully, lacking his stagecraft. I was really surprised to see Porretta approach in such an extroverted fashion...not leaving things unsaid. He was fearless (and I thought the solo worked well), but still chewing on this.

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When I get home, I'll check my program. I remember Angeli Mamom being downstage right for some of "Square Dance." I think Rizzitano was her mirrored shorter front dancer. Casciano is taller. That's the corps cast that I believe had one performance last weekend, which featured many new or new-to-the-company dancers.

The other corps cast had more senior dancers in it, including soloists. Square Dance, like Barocco, is one of the jewels of the neoclassical corps rep. Both bring out the best in their dancers.

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