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Dance Happens Everywhere: 2020-2021 Digital Season


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PNB has announced its 2021-22 all-digital season which replaces the originally announced in-person season.

If you subscribed to the latter, you'll get access to the digital season automatically; more details and options below in the press release:

Part 1:

DANCE HAPPENS EVERYWHERE: Pacific Northwest Ballet Announces New All-Online Line-Up for 2020-2021 Season.

With performances in McCaw Hall on indefinite hold, PNB’s 48th season – including world premieres by Penny Saunders, Jessica Lang, Donald Byrd, Alejandro Cerrudo, and Edwaard Liang – evolves to an online format, with audiences being treated to a year of on-demand dance from the comfort and safety of home. Digital access to the full season line-up starts at $190.

August 18, 2020, SEATTLE, WA— As the old proverb goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In light of current restrictions on public gatherings and the opportunity to perform in McCaw Hall on hold, Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Director Peter Boal and Executive Director Ellen Walker have announced that the company is shifting gears and moving forward with a fully-digital dance-card of new works and greatest hits for PNB’s 2020-2021 season. The online line-up includes a mix of world premieres from choreographers Donald Byrd, PNB Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, Jessica Lang, Edwaard Liang, and Penny Saunders, and audience favorites such as Roméo et Juliette and Coppélia. (Conspicuously absent is the beloved holiday classic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®Under current COVID conditions, which include restrictions to PNB School’s operations, it is impossible to stage PNB’s most popular production in 2020, but plans are afoot to offer a digital experience of the cherished story ballet this December. Stay tuned for further details.)

Mr. Boal’s plans for the season are predicated on opportunities for artists, artistic ingenuity within COVID-driven confines, access for audiences, and securing a future for PNB. The line-up will feature a combination of high-definition videos of new works rehearsed, performed, and filmed under conditions to ensure the well-being of the artists and production teams; and archival videos of story ballets and works that wouldn’t be possible to perform during the pandemic. Bonus content specially curated for each program will include interviews, additional dance works, and the premiere of a site-specific work created by PNB Company member Amanda Morgan. Programs will be delivered to email inboxes so that patrons will be able to access and enjoy the show in the comfort and safety of their own homes. Subscriptions, starting at $190, are available through the PNB Box Office by calling 206.441.2424 or online at PNB.org. (E-tickets for single programs may also be purchased on an individual basis, beginning Tuesday, September 8. PNB subscribers who have already renewed their subscriptions for the 2020-21 season will automatically receive the digital season and a tax-deductible receipt for the balance, if applicable. See “Subscription Information” and “F.A.Q.s” below for more info.)

“I love to plan a season, which is a good thing because I’ve done so about ten times just in the last few weeks!” stated Mr. Boal. “But on the other side of a myriad number of challenges is a season unlike any we’ve ever imagined, and I hope everyone will join us on this journey down an unfamiliar but exciting new path.” For the opening program, Mr. Boal is showcasing a treasure trove of solos and socially-distanced gems; everything from Odette’s Swan Lake variation to Marco Goecke’s moody masterpiece Mopey. None of the opening program’s offerings will be archival footage: Each work will be rehearsed and performed by PNB dancers days before their release. Elsewhere in the season, PNB will premiere new works by Donald Byrd, PNB Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, Jessica Lang, Edwaard Liang, and Penny Saunders, along with works by George Balanchine, Jean-Christopher Maillot, Susan Marshall, Alexei Ratmansky, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon.

“This season is uniquely challenging,” said Ms. Walker. “The live performance experience is central to our business model and our mission. Producing a season exclusively online requires us to plan everything through the priorities of keeping our workforce safe and creating as much as possible within extremely limited resources. But it’s also an opportunity to reimagine the future of PNB and re-evaluate everything we do. We are learning and growing along the way, and gaining valuable insights into what our community needs from us. The fact remains that performing arts businesses are not sustainable until the return to live performances: 75% of PNB’s budget traditionally comes from ticket sales and tuition for students of PNB School. 25% alone usually comes from The Nutcracker. We are counting on our friends and supporters to invest in what we are able to offer under these acute circumstances.”

“The board is pleased with Peter and Ellen’s decision,” said Aya Hamilton, Chairman of PNB’s Board of Trustees. “We knew early on that the 2020-21 season would provide substantially more challenges to us than the one we just concluded. We feel confident we’ve made the right decision—the smart decision. PNB exists to serve our community and while we do it in a variety of ways, every way is being impacted financially. The board is committed to emerging on the other side of this pandemic in a fiscally solid state so that we may all unite and celebrate together in McCaw Hall and beyond as soon as possible. To do this we ask our community to come along with us for our 2020-21 digital season.”

Subscriptions starting at $190 give patrons access to an entire season of dance. Subscription benefits include additional bonus content (including a site-specific work created by Company member Amanda Morgan), specially curated and commissioned by PNB to inform the “mainstage” presentations. (Previously-renewed 2020-21 subscriptions will be applied toward the digital season.) Subscriptions may be purchased by contacting the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424 or online at PNB.org/DigitalSubscription. All programming and dates are subject to change. For further details, see “SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION” and “F.A.Q.s,” below.

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Here's a link to the six-program season, which is for sale for $190

https://www.pnb.org/season/subscriptions/digital/?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NP21DigitalSeasonAnnouncement-Donors&utm_content=version_A&promo=21498

This is intriguing -- but I wonder if this bodes ill for the many companies still hoping to have an in-person season in spring 2021. PNB has the equipment needed, but I doubt all companies do.

As already announced, Louisville Ballet is planning an all-digital season, and Sarasota Ballet plans digital for fall, although rep and pricing have not yet been announced.

https://www.sarasotaballet.org/fall-digital-season?utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Eblast_1920_SarasotaBalletatHome&utm_content=version_A

 

 

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Part 2 -- Line-up (and check out the bonus material):

(Programming and schedule subject to change: Each program will be available for viewing for approximately five days following its release date.)

 Rep 1 – Release date: October 8, 2020

Dances at a Gathering (Excerpt)

Music: Frederic Chopin

Choreography: Jerome Robbins 

F O I L (Excerpts)

Music: Nadia Boulanger

Choreography: Eva Stone

One Body (PNB Premiere)

Music: John Kennedy

Choreography: Albert Evans 

Swan Lake (Excerpts)

Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Choreography: Kent Stowell

Staging: Francia Russell (after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov)

 Jewels (Excerpts)

MusicGabriel Fauré, Igor Stravinsky, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

ChoreographyGeorge Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

 Mopey

Music: C.P.E. Bach and The Cramps

Choreography: Marco Goecke

 The Calling

Music: Anonymous

Choreography: Jessica Lang

 The Trees The Trees (Excerpt)

Music: Kyle Vegter

Choreography: Robyn Mineko Williams

 Red Angels (Excerpt)

Music: Richard Einhorn

Choreography: Ulysses Dove

Bonus subscription benefits include an interview with Jessica Lang, and the Emmy Award-winning film Two by Dove(See “Subscription Information, below, for more details.)

 

Rep 2 – Release date: November 12, 2020

World Premiere

Choreography: Penny Saunders                    

Waterbaby Bagatelles (Excerpt)

Music: 20th-century bagatelles

Choreography: Twyla Tharp

 Kiss

Music: Arvo Part

Choreography: Susan Marshall

 World Premiere

Music: Clara Schumann and Robert Schumann

Choreography: Jessica Lang

Bonus subscription benefits include Penny Saunders’ film Brown Eyes, an interview with Twyla Tharp by Peter Boal, and the world premiere of a site-specific work choreographed by Amanda Morgan. (See “Subscription Information, below, for more details.)

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® – December, 2020

NOTE: Not part of the 2020-21 Digital Subscription.

Music: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

                Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust

                Costume & Scenic Design: Ian Falconer

A special video presentation of PNB’s holiday classic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, will be available in the coming months. Stay tuned for details.

 

Roméo et Juliette – Release date: February 11, 2021

Music: Sergei Prokofiev

Choreography: Jean-Christophe Maillot

Bonus subscription benefits include Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite, introduced by Justin Peck, choreographer of the new West Side Story movie remake. (See “Subscription Information, below, for more details.)

 

Rep 4 – Release date: April 1, 2021

 World Premiere

Music: John Adams

Choreography: Donald Byrd

 Bound To (PNB Premiere)

Music: Keaton Henson

Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon

World Premiere

Choreography: Alejandro Cerrudo

 Bonus subscription benefits include Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump, and an interview with Mr. Cerrudo. (See “Subscription Information, below, for more details.)

 

Coppélia – Release date: May 6, 2021

Music: Léo Delibes

Choreography: Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Petipa)

 

Bonus subscription benefits include an interview with Alexandra Danilova by Edward Villella (“Live from Lincoln Center,” 1978), interview with designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno, and archival release of George Balanchine’s Serenade introduced by Francia Russell. (See “Subscription Information, below, for more details.)

 

 REP 6 – Release date: June 10, 2021

 Silent Ghost

Music: Dustin Hamman, King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Ólafur Arnalds, and Nils Frahm

Choreography: Alejandro Cerrudo

 Pictures at an Exhibition

Music: Modest Mussorgsky

Choreography: Alexei Ratmansky

 World Premiere

Music: Oliver Davis

Choreography: Edwaard Liang

 Bonus subscription benefits include an interview with Alexei Ratmansky by Wendy Whelan, an archival release of Edwaard Liang’s Distant Cries, and a curator-led tour of Abstract Expressionist work at Seattle Art Museum. (See “Subscription Information, below, for more details.)

Part 3 -- Subscription Information:

Subscriptions to PNB’s digital season start at $190 and may be purchased through the PNB Box Office by calling 206.441.2424 or online at PNB.org/DigitalSubscription.

Subscriptions include on-demand access to six online performance events with a mix of new and archival videos over the course of PNB’s season, plus:

·         Five Minute Call: A peek backstage at the artists preparing for the performance

·         Ballet Talk: An informal introduction to each performance discussing choreography, music and more with Doug Fullington

·         Meet the Artist: Artistic Director Peter Boal with company dancers in a lively conversation about the works

·         Additional interviews with artists, photo essays, links to supplemental music, and access to additional footage of dance works plus an original site-specific work created by rising choreographer Amanda Morgan.

 Single tickets ($29 performance only, or $39 including the added benefits enjoyed by subscriptions) will be available for purchase from the PNB Box Office starting September 8.

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Part 4: FAQ's

What is a digital season?

PNB’s 2020-21 season will showcase a combination of new work, videos of past performances, and conversations with dancers and artists, all streamed online for subscribers. Additional bonus content and opportunities will be available as a subscription benefit.

 

So we won’t be seeing these performances in McCaw Hall at Seattle Center?

Due to current restrictions on public gatherings, PNB is unable to feasibly accommodate audiences in McCaw Hall at this time. Performances will be filmed on stage, then streamed and accessed through a paywall for subscribers. Pending, well, everything, we are hoping to welcome audiences back to McCaw Hall for our 2021-22 season.

 

What about The Nutcracker?

Given the number of dancers, musicians, stagehands, and PNB School students* involved, and current restrictions on public gatherings, it won’t be possible to welcome audiences back to McCaw Hall in 2020 for the region’s most popular holiday tradition, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Patrons who subscribe to PNB’s season will be given first access to purchase a special video presentation of the classic holiday ballet, to be announced.

*Approximately 200 students from PNB School (including 50 Professional Division students) are cast each year in The Nutcracker. PNB School has shifted its program to online instruction for the 2020-21 school year due to COVID restrictions.

 

How will subscribers access these videos?

Emails with access information for digital content will be sent to subscribers prior to each program, which will be available for 24-hour on-demand viewing for several days (specifics to be announced.)

 

How long will videos be accessible?

Each program will be available for on-demand viewing online for approximately 100 hours, Thursday through Monday. Specific details of viewing availability may vary and will be announced.

 

I’d already subscribed thinking we’d be back to normal by September. What do I do now?

Patrons who have already renewed for the 2020-21 season are automatically subscribed to the digital season. Amounts above $190 will be credited as a tax-deductible donation. If they are not interested in the 2020-21 digital season, they may request a refund, or convert the payment into a donation or gift certificate.

 

With no McCaw Hall performances this season, will 2019-20 subscribers be able to keep their seats for the presumptive 2021-22 season?

Subscribers who have renewed for the 2020-21 digital season should be sent an invoice for the 2019-20 seats they had when renewals go out for PNB’s 2021-22 season; however at this time we don’t know what sort of social-distancing measures will be required for theaters in the future, or the number of performances of each program PNB will be able to offer when we return to live performances. We can promise that 2019-20 subscribers will have priority access to seats in McCaw Hall when we are able to offer them again.

 

Are these subscriptions tax-deductible?

Payments in excess of the fair market value of the $190 digital subscription are deductible for federal income tax purposes.ar

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One programming change: at yesterday's Annual Meeting (via Zoom) Peter Boal announced Christopher Wheeldon will create a new work for PNB this season.  I suspected it is replacing Bound To, as my friend in San Francisco was surmising it would need some modifications to be social distancing friendly, and sure enough in Rep 4, this is the case.  

https://www.pnb.org/season/rep4/

"Three unique choreographers share the digital stage to present World Premieres. Resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo will create the first world premiere of his PNB residency. Artistic director of Spectrum Dance Theater, Donald Byrd, has been collaborating with PNB since Capricious Night took the Opera House stage in 1998 and will present his latest creation for PNB. Rounding out the program is a new work from celebrated choreographer Christopher Wheeldon (Bound To, After the Rain)."

At the end of the meeting we were treated to a recording of James Moore in Jessica Lang's The Calling.  He was magnificient!

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I've looked for the answer to this question.......maybe I missed it. As a subscriber to this digital season, will I be able to view the program as many times as I like during the 5 day period or just once?

I have a concern too....not enough of a concern to not be very excited indeed to see some ballet (even this way), but I've been very disappointed with the sound quality of the Met Opera digital streams. The Met video is great, but there is no 5.1 sound. It comes in as stereo, and not very good stereo at that. Clearly they have 5.1 and better sound since that is what is piped in to cinemas for Met Live, but for whatever reason (bandwidth?) they don't stream it.  I have a good surround sound system and watching the recent Met Joyce DiDonato concert was disappointing to me for this reason. For me, sound quality is vital when it comes to opera streaming, but thankfully it is only a "nice to have" for ballet. In ballet, the visual outweighs the audio for me.

Suddenly, another question pops into my head. Will these PNB digital performances have a live orchestra or recorded music?  I've gotta think recorded.

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For Sun Valley, they used some chamber music arrangements.  For example, it was a piano and violin duet that played for Leta Biasucci in the Verdy solo from Emeralds, recorded recently on the McCaw Hall stage.  (Not archival, like the Neenan, for example.)

I think this works beautifully at Vail: it was one of the things I noticed during the streams they made available this summer.  Mark Morris also generally uses chamber music, but he choreographs to a lot of chamber music, not to transcriptions for chamber groups.

My take from the descriptions I've seen is that it's unlimited viewings during the access period for each program.  I didn't see any restrictions on number of times to access, which I'd expect to be called out, and which would be different than the subscriber/donor only access for a couple of the programs they aired.

I don't have any issues with the sound for the Met streams, but someone who has Met on Demand ($150/year or $99 for Met Supporters $150+) might be able to tell you if the paid service has 5.1 sound, like in the cinema.  

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Someone asked about unlimited viewings for subscribers on Facebook, which PNB confirmed.

I believe live music will be used as much as possible, they want to keep the musicians working and employed.  In the new season trailer you can see musicians and Emil de Cou working with masks on.  Pieces like Mopey will probably be recorded but Red Angels most likely performed live.  Not sure about something like Swan Lake, that is a large group, and there are safety issues with wind instruments.

I thought all the new filming for the Sun Valley Festival was really well done.  PNB historically films for their own recording purposes, not for entertainment, which are two different goals.  Since all the pieces are solos and duets we won't have to worry about close ups vs zoom outs.  I also really enjoyed the introduction of each piece by a choreographer, dancer or actor.  The digital season is going to be great, and a steal at $190, although most of us probably paid our normal subscription amount.

I do hope that the dancer chats become interactive.  For instance, when San Francisco Ballet holds them, in their format, the audience can write in questions, and the moderator can pose the question to the dancer(s).  Someone wanted to know Yuan Yuan Tan's favorite chocolate, and the moderator actually asked her!  

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I don't have any issues with the sound for the Met streams, but someone who has Met on Demand ($150/year or $99 for Met Supporters $150+) might be able to tell you if the paid service has 5.1 sound, like in the cinema.  

Some time ago I emailed the Met asking about Met on Demand quality sound. They said, it is stereo. They said they realize it's not the best, but that they were working on finding a way to go from stereo to 5.1. No dates given.

I suppose I should try listening with headphones which are, of course, designed for stereo. But what I want (one can always wish 😉) is a more cinematic feel and experience. In addition, one's expectations are likely very different depending on whether one is watching on a tablet, a phone, or other small screen, verses a 75" high quality TV screen with surround sound. When one is watching a big screen from several feet away, the stereo sound from frontal-only speakers sounds very uni-directional and artificial (kind of like miked singers do) compared to the multi-dimensional feeling of speakers in front and behind you. I imagine stereo coming from "way up there behind the screen" wouldn't sound too great either at a cinema during a Met Live in HD streaming performance. Heck, these cinema's often use dozens of speakers with dozens of audio channels to achieve a life-like experience.

Edited by SandyMcKean
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