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Theme & Variations: May 31-June 1 and June 6-9

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From the press release:





Featuring works by



May 31 – June 9, 2019

Marion Oliver McCaw Hall

321 Mercer Street at Seattle Center

Seattle, WA 98109


Seven performances only!

May 31 and June 1 at 7:30 pm

June 1 at 2:00 pm

June 6 – 8 at 7:30 pm

June 9 at 1:00 pm


Seattle, WA – Pacific Northwest Ballet’s final production of its 2018/2019 season, THEMES & VARIATIONS, promises a mixed bill of intriguing variety. George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations represents the height of classical elegance, while his Tarantella pas de deux dazzles with virtuoso fun. In José Limón’s masterpiece The Moor’s Pavane – a distillation of Shakespeare’s Othello – riveting characterizations cast a powerful spell. The line-up is completed by the return of Price Suddarth’s electric Signature. THEMES & VARIATIONS runs for seven performances only, from May 31 through June 9 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $37 and may be purchased by calling the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at PNB.org.

The line-up for THEMES & VARIATIONS will include:


Music: Barret Anspach (VVLD, 2015)

Choreography: Price Suddarth

Costume Design: Mark Zappone

Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli

Running Time: 30 minutes

Premiere: November 6, 2015, Pacific Northwest Ballet

The 2015 world premiere of Price Suddarth’s Signature was generously underwritten in part by Diedra Wager, Jodi Wong, and Katharyn Alvord Gerlich.

“Why me?” A question all of us have asked ourselves at one time or another: as a dancer, what makes my performance worth watching; as a musician, what makes my melody worth hearing; as a writer, what makes my script worth reading; as a choreographer, what makes my movement worth repeating? When Peter Boal approached me with the unparalleled opportunity to create something on an extraordinary company of remarkable individuals (that is, once the excitement wore off), I felt it my responsibility to identify what attribute or skill I might offer that could set my work apart. The inner dialogue of the “why me?” arose.

My ultimate discovery? Nothing. No thing sets me apart. It’s not about what we can do or what we possess—that possible “it” factor; there will always be someone else out there who is stronger, faster, better. Instead, the most beautiful thing about each individual is just that—we are individual. The most beautiful thing we each have to offer is that we are 100% irreplaceable, distinctively singular, and utterly unmatched. Signature celebrates this notion—the idea of the nothing that is inimitable, the nothing that makes each individual matchless. [Notes by Price Suddarth.]



Music: Louis Moreau Gottschalk (Grande Tarantelle, Op. 67, c.1866), reconstructed and orchestrated by Hershy Kay

Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

Staging: Peter Boal

Costume Design: Mark Zappone

Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli

Running Time: 8 minutes

Premiere: January 7, 1964, New York City Ballet

PNB Premiere: January 31, 1985

The 2019 production of George Balanchine’s Tarantella is generously supported by Marcella McCaffray.

George Balanchine created Tarantella in 1964 for New York City Ballet principal dancers Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. In his book, Balanchine’s Stories of the Great Ballets, the choreographer had this to say about the charming work: “This pas de deux is one of a long series of short ballets I have made for the gifts of specific dancers. The music is for solo piano and orchestra, based on the Grande Tarantelle of the New Orleans pianist-composer Louis Gottschalk, who dazzled Europe and the United States with his recitals a hundred years ago. This work, which I asked Hershy Kay to orchestrate for us, is thought to be the first work for piano and orchestra ever composed by an American. It is a dazzling display piece, full of speed and high spirits. So, I hope, is the dance, which is ‘Neapolitan,’ if you like, and ‘demi-caractère.’ The costumes are inspired by Italy, anyhow, and there are tambourines.”

Created for a particular pair of dancers, Tarantella continues to challenge artists of succeeding generations, whose virtuosity it delightfully showcases. [Notes by Jeanie Thomas.]

The Moor’s Pavane

(Variations on the theme of Othello)

Music: Henry Purcell (The Gordian Knot Untied, Abdelazer, or The Moor’s Revenge), arranged by Simon Sadoff

Choreography: José Limón

Direction and Staging: Alice Condodina

Costume Design: Pauline Lawrence

Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli

Running Time: 24 minutes

Premiere: August 17, 1949, José Limón Dance Company

PNB Premiere: November 12, 1986 

The Moor’s Pavane, José Limón’s dance meditation on Othello, was created in 1949 for the Limón company and has been cited by critics the world over as his masterpiece, and won the Dance Magazine Award for outstanding creation in the field of American modern dance. As the historic barriers between modern dance and classical ballet have gradually given way, The Moor’s Pavane has been added to the repertories of ballet companies around the world, whose dancers have taken up the challenge of mastering a gravity-driven technique in essential ways so different from their own.

As a distillation of Shakespeare’s great tragedy, The Moor’s Pavane is an ideal vehicle for that technique. As critic Deborah Jowitt observed: “That…awareness of the pull of gravity made [Limón]—and his dances—look powerful: the struggle of muscles became a metaphor for the struggle of souls.” Here there are four, their individual natures and the emotional drama between them conveyed wholly through abstract movement: the noble Othello (called “The Moor”), the innocent Desdemona (called “The Moor’s Wife”), the treacherous Iago (called “His Friend”), and his sensuous spouse Emilia (called “The Friend’s Wife”), who unwittingly provides the evidence with which Iago goads Othello to tragedy. Within the stately measures of a Renaissance court dance, the pavane, their various passions smolder, erupt, and move them towards the inevitable conclusion, ironically contrasting ceremoniousness and violence to the terrible final moment.

Through his subjects and the distinctive technique that would embody them, Limón’s imagination was drawn to heroic figures and their conflicts. He wrote: “I try to compose works that are involved with man’s basic tragedy and the grandeur of his spirit. I want to dig beneath empty formalisms, displays of technical virtuosity, and the slick surface; to probe the human entity for the powerful, often crude, beauty of the gesture that speaks of man’s humanity.” [Notes by Jeanie Thomas.]

Theme and Variations

Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Suite No. 3 in G Major, 1884; last movement)

Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

Staging: Judith Fugate

Scenic Design: Charlene Hall

Costume Design: Mark Zappone

Lighting Design: Randall G. Chiarelli

Running Time: 26 minutes

Premiere: November 26, 1947, Ballet Theatre (New York)

PNB Premiere: October 16, 1985

The 2019 production of George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations is generously supported by David & Cheryl Hadley.

George Balanchine choreographed Theme and Variations in 1947 for Ballet Theatre, which had been founded eight years earlier. It is this work which Lincoln Kirstein credited with finally establishing Balanchine’s reputation—fifteen years after his arrival in the U. S. and a year before the birth of New York City Ballet.

A celebration of the grand Petipa style that Balanchine knew so well, Theme and Variations is unmistakably imperial in its ancestry—with its hierarchical cast consisting of ballerina, premier danseur, soloists, and corps de ballet; its undisguised use of the most rudimentary classical steps, signaled by the battement tendu that opens the work and recurs as a “theme” gesture throughout the increasingly complicated variations; its brilliant, courtly atmosphere that culminates in the stirring processional polonaise; and its deliberate evocation of that most regal of ballets, The Sleeping Beauty. But Theme and Variations is also classicism pushed to the limit, a flowering of everything Balanchine had learned from Petipa refracted through his own 20th century sensibility. With its quicksilver speed, vigor of attack, playful changes of direction, and unexpected musical accents, the ballet is a glorious example of Balanchine’s genius for apprehending the essence of a style together with its potential for organic evolution. A daunting challenge for the dancers, it was singled out by Mikhail Baryshnikov as the most difficult ballet he ever danced.

When PNB Founding Artistic Director Francia Russell traveled to Leningrad in 1988 to stage the Soviet Union’s first authorized version ever of a Balanchine ballet, it is most fitting that Theme and Variations was the work she chose. [Notes (excerpted) by Jeanie Thomas.]



Friday, May 17, 5:00 pm

The Phelps Center, 301 Mercer St., Seattle

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. All Friday Previews begin at 5:00 pm. Tickets are $15. These events usually sell out in advance..


Thursday, May 30, 5:30 pm

Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

PNB Conversations offer in-depth discussions with choreographers, stagers, designers, dancers, and other artists discussing the creative process involved in putting our repertory on stage. Attend the Conversations event only or stay for the dress rehearsal. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased through the PNB Box Office. The Conversations portion of this event will be live-captioned.


Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall.

Join PNB Audience Education Manager Doug Fullington for an informal 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 curtain. FREE for ticketholders.


Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at McCaw Hall

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 chanche! 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, immediately following each performance. FREE for ticketholders.


Friday, June 7

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 on their subscriptions and additional tickets. For more info, visit PNB.org/YPC.

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On 5/16/2019 at 12:02 AM, Helene said:

Here's a video of an interview with rehearsal footage of Angelica Generosa and Kyle Davis rehearsing "Tarantella":


At the Friday Preview tonight we saw this couple rehearse Tarantella.  It was very exciting!  Angelica began the attitude turn series with an effortless double attitude front.  It looked like she just went up en pointe and balanced and it just magically happened!  Like the ballerina in the jewelry box!  Incredible!  Both of them had so much flair and panache; it was such a treat to see it up close in the studio.

We were spoiled by seeing another cast, who actually went first.  It was Leta Biasucci and Price Suddarth.  They were very good too, but I suspect both new to the role.  This particular Friday Preview falls earlier in the rehearsal schedule because of Memorial Day, so this couple probably has not had as much time.  Angelica is a veteran, having already performed this piece in Season Encore last year with Matthew Renko.


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I remember seeing Biasucci and Suddarth in the Neopolitan variation from Stowell's section of Swan Lake, and wishing that they would get a go at Tarantella -- I imagine they will bring the goods when they get to the stage.


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Casting for first weekend is up here:


The downloadable spreadsheet:

Theme 2019 05 23.xlsx

Most of the opening night cast for Price Suddarth's "Signature" is returning, with three debuts.  Most of the first Saturday night cast is new, with two dancers returning.

For the other three ballets, the casts are all new except for two returnees:  Angelica Generosa, who danced "Tarantella" once with Matthew Renko at Season Encores, and Lucien Postlewaite in "Theme and Variations."

Jonathan Porretta makes his last debut as The Moor in "The Moor's Pavane" and Rachel Foster makes her last two debuts in "Signature" and as "The Moor's Wife" at the first Saturday evening performance (June 1).

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This is one where no matter how you slice it, you can't go wrong   

If I had to pick one, it would be Thursday, June 6, because it's a combination of Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta in "The Moor's Pavane," both amazing dramatic dancers and both retiring on June 9 :(, and Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand in Theme.  Because it's been a while since PNB has done Theme, all but Lucien Postlewaite (with Leta Biasucci) are making their debuts.  Rausch is PNB's senior ballerina and on a multi-season tear, and Jerome Tisserand is an elegant dancer and partner; I'd go out of my way to watch either of them in anything (and have).  More important, for me, their partnership is magic, more than the sum of its individually splendid parts.

But that's like Solomon offering to split the baby.

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What she said -- it's a great program for seeing a wide swath of the company in one show.  I'm angling to see Foster and Porretta, because they're retiring, but I also want to catch Angelica Generosa, who is on her way up -- she's had some really wonderful performances this year (including a lovely debut in Sleeping Beauty).

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It was a lovely, strong, and clean debut by a young dancer.  I make the age distinction because, since the ballet hasn't been performed in full since Boal's early years, nearly all of the leads, demis, and corps are making their debuts with this program, including Lesley Rausch, who is one of the two senior ballerinas in the company; this run has been her first chance.  If Generosa had any nerves, they didn't show.  She and Kyle Davis were superb and nicely matched in T&V and in Tarantella.

It's a brilliant foundation for the future, which will start as soon as next weekend:  what I think is Generosa's biggest strength is that she keeps thinking and growing her parts within a run.  When I've seen her both weekends in a work, regardless of whether it's a debut or a part she's done before, each performance is different and has something else to say.

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On 5/30/2019 at 12:17 PM, mille-feuille said:

Thank you, Helene and sandik! My friend's bought tickets -- here's hoping she gets hooked! :)

What day is she going?  Sat/Sun the Signature first cast is dancing.  

Saturday Angelica Generosa and Kyle Davis are dancing Tarantella.  Sunday AG and KD Dance T&V and Leta Biasucci + Price Suddarth dance Tarantella.  Those would be my my suggestions for someone new to ballet, but I didn’t know until I saw opening night and second evening.  

Thursdays the $29 Beer and Ballet tix are always a sweet deal!

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7 hours ago, seattle_dancer said:

What day is she going?  Sat/Sun the Signature first cast is dancing.  

Saturday Angelica Generosa and Kyle Davis are dancing Tarantella.  Sunday AG and KD Dance T&V and Leta Biasucci + Price Suddarth dance Tarantella.  Those would be my my suggestions for someone new to ballet, but I didn’t know until I saw opening night and second evening.  

Thursdays the $29 Beer and Ballet tix are always a sweet deal!

She ended up choosing Sunday matinee. Thank you for the input! I'm glad she'll see one of your recommended casts. :)

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