Her Story at Pacific Northwest Ballet

“You never take me to the modern ballets,” my 8-year-old complained. “I only get to go to the story ballets.” Was she right? Conventional wisdom tells us to introduce kids to ballet through story, but I’ve never really bought it. After all, little kids are far more likely to spontaneously erupt into abstract dance than adults are, so why would they have a harder time understanding it? But as a reviewer, I do tend to take the kid closest to the age that readers are likely to want to bring, so maybe my artistic younger daughter had been unfairly sequestered in the story ballet ghetto? Fortunately, Pacific Northwest Ballet came to rescue with Her Story, a mixed rep of contemporary ballet choreographed by three of the world’s leading choreographers. The title implied a feminist theme, but the only link between the three pieces is that the choreographers are all women, and all three pieces are magnificent. Continue reading

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An Arts Snob Attends Disney On Ice

When a middle-aged white man complained on Twitter with a picture of one of my favorite graphic novels captioned “Can you believe they expect us to buy this stuff?” a woman replied, “It’s not for you.” So before I review the Disney on Ice “Follow Your Heart” show I need to disclose that Disney-themed ice shows are not for me.

I am an admitted urban snob who has worked tirelessly to protect my daughters from the Disney princess cult and made a niche writing about sharing the art I like with my kids rather than spoon-feeding them the idiotic drivel our culture tells us is the only stuff safe for their consumption. My taste is high-low eclectic, running from ballet and opera to heavy metal festivals and comic books, but if there is one unifying thread, it is almost always noncommercial.

I associated figure skating with hired thugs and baseball bats until my daughter discovered Yuri!!! On Ice and I found myself driving to Shoreline twice a week for skate lessons and studying the merits of heat-molded boots. When I got an offer for press tickets for the whole family to attend an ice show, I overcame my knee-jerk response of “I’d rather have my eyes picked out by crows,” and accepted the tickets because I knew my daughter would want to see professional figure skaters live.

What happened next will astound you (sorry, couldn’t resist.) Continue reading

Stank Baby

That time my daughter’s friend from rock camp pulled her up on stage at a music festival. That day at Doe Bay they danced, but earlier that summer she taught my girl the importance of Stank Face. For those who don’t know, it’s the ugly face you make when you’re getting down and the music is more important than looking pretty.

Adra Boo, then of Fly Moon Royalty, is still a favorite at Doe Bay (playing music at the fest and teaching at the writing camp). She also writes for The Stranger, and perhaps most importantly, mentors young women in music through Rain City Rock Camp.

50 Years of Jewels

Milestone birthdays inspire reflection. Especially when the milestone in question is 50 years, and Jewels are being reflected. This year, Jewels, the collection of three gemstone-themed ballets by George Balanchine, turns 50. I’ve been watching Pacific Northwest Ballet for nearly half that time – I fell in love with ballet at PNB’s Nutcracker in 1993. Continue reading

Choice Time at Pacific Northwest Ballet

In kindergarten, almost every kid has the same favorite subject in school – Choice Time. Choice time usually disappears in third grade, but when it does appear in later life, it’s usually still a favorite. For me, that means the annual Director’s Choice program at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Of course, it’s the director’s job to pick the programs, so in a sense every program is the director’s choice. But the idea behind Director’s Choice is that for this one program, the director picks ballets he likes best without consideration for budgets and ticket sales. I doubt that the director is ever free from those considerations, but it’s a nice idea and it is true that Director’s Choice includes more premieres and bolder works than other programs throughout the season. Which is why I always end up liking it best.

This year was even more special to me, because for once, I only brought my kids to the introduction of the blog post, but was free to attend and enjoy the actual ballet for myself, without consideration for what kind of value it may have for kids or how to help kids understand and enjoy it. Even better, my companion for the evening is a dancer herself, so I could share her insights that I would never get on my own. Continue reading

Ticket Season, Part Two: Pacific Northwest Ballet

16-17-renew“I love tickets!” squeals Cameron Diaz’s character in the first Charlie’s Angels movie. (And why has no one ever made a gif of that?) It’s supposed to illustrate what an eccentric character she is, but I understand completely. I love tickets. And spring is ticket season. Season-ticket season, to be precise. All of the arts organizations announce their upcoming seasons, tickets go on sale, and I spend hours each spring planning what I will be doing on Saturday nights all next winter. I’ve already written about next season’s offerings at Seattle Opera. Now let’s talk about ballet.  Continue reading

Omakase at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Photo © Angela Sterling c/o PNB

Photo © Angela Sterling c/o PNB

Omakase, written with the character for trust, is the word you use when you order chef’s choice at a sushi restaurant. It shows that you trust the skill of the chef to know better than you what is in season and what will taste best together. When you say omakase, instead of giving an order, you are trusting the chef to create the best experience for you, like a DJ controlling the atmosphere of a party by selecting the right beats. You are likely to be served dishes outside of your comfort zone, and while you might not like all of them, a good chef will create a more delicious and memorable meal than you could have selected for yourself.

Each spring, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Director’s Choice program is ballet omakase. The mixed rep program is Director Peter Boal’s opportunity to express his own taste and to stretch the audience and the dancers with dances that are more challenging or unusual than the regular season fare. Continue reading