For those infatuated with ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet has long held our affection. Arguably the Northwest’s most prestigious ballet company, PNB’s performances are always professional and enchanting. However, there is a large portion of Seattle-ites who, sadly, do not hold this enamored view of ballet. Instead, they think of it as dull, stuffy performances by women in tulle and men in tights that should have ended in the 18th Century. Whether you belong to the first group or the second, PNB’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an ideal show for you.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Louise Nadeau and Olivier Wevers in A Midsummer Night's Dream at PNB. Photo by Angela Sterling.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is definitely not a long, dry classical ballet. It is actually a fairly short ballet consisting of two acts. The first act contains the twisting Shakespearean storyline. Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, are feuding in the enchanted forest. Two human couples—Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius—are also in these woods. Hermia and Lysander are happily in love, but Helena and Demetrius are not so lucky. Helena loves Demetrius, but he scorns her. Puck, a mischievous fairy, has found a flower that causes people to fall in love with the first person they see. He sets out to use it to end Oberon and Titania’s quarrel and to remedy Helena’s unloved plight. He succeeds in doing this, but only after causing some humorous mix-ups between the lovers. These include forcing Titania to fall in love with Bottom, a workman with the head of a donkey. In the second act, all the couples are happily reunited and they celebrate with a series of grand wedding dances.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will not disappoint those who adore going to ballets. The legendary George Balanchine did the choreography, and it is stunning. Of the dances, my personal favorites were Oberon’s impressive solos and the breathtaking Pas de Deux (duet) in Act II. The sets are large and creative, and include a starlit sky and a sizeable spider’s web. The dancing in Act I features quite a bit of miming and acting to tell the story, but Act II gives the typical “ballet” experience, with more classical choreography
If it is your first time attending a ballet, do not despair. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is still an excellent performance for you. The storyline is clear and entertaining, and there is plenty of humor woven throughout. Puck and Bottom’s solos are especially enjoyable. The ballet does an excellent job of combining the charming events of the famous Shakespearean comedy with the impressive choreography of George Balanchine. No dull pastel tutus adorn the dancers of this show. Instead, sparkling costumes in clear jewel tones swirl across the stage.
Please remember that this is a ballet, so it will be a bit “cheesy.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fairytale and should be treated as such. The dancers don’t speak, so they must communicate solely with their bodies. Thus, their acting is overemphasized. The idea of dancing out a story is a bit comical in itself. This is all part of the charm of a ballet. No matter how implausible, though, everyone enjoys a happy ending.
After each show, there is a question-and-answer time with PNB artistic director Peter Boal and one of the lead dancers. Opening night, Carrie Imler, who played Titania, attended. She said that one of the reasons she loves performing is that it allows her to take an audience into an imaginary world where they can forget about their worries for a few hours and simply enjoy the story. Even if ballets are not normally in your comfort-zone, I encourage you to see this show. It provides a painless introduction to this important category of the arts. It may even transform you into an avid lover of dance. Enjoy the haphazard story, soak up the lighthearted dancing, forget your troubles for a night, and go home happy.
April 3rd, 2008
A Midsummer Night's Dream
April 3 – 13
PNB’s Ticket Office: 206-441-2424
Ticket Office Hours: Weekdays 10 a.m. – show time, weekends 90 minutes before show time
Pacific Northwest Ballet is located in McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, on the north edge of Seattle Center. It is served by buses 1,2,3,4,13,14,15,16,18,45,74 and 82. For bus schedules: tripplanner.metrokc.gov.
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