Shakespeare Without the Boring Parts
Review of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Pacific Northwest Ballet by Bethany B.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler with PNB School students Photo © Angela Sterling
A Midsummer Night's Dream an original ballet by George Balanchine that is the whimsical story of lovers, magic, and fairies. Balanchine did one better than choreographing the ballet, he chose the music himself from selections of Felix Mendelssohn, including his incidental music. Not only that, Balanchine himself composed a piano part for a section of the ballet that lacked accompaniment. A Midsummer Night's Dream breathes Balanchine, but the other artists involved make it a stronger ballet. Mendelssohn’s music is vibrant, and the symphony masters it beautifully. An interesting aspect to this ballet’s music is the singing. During different pieces of the ballet there are sopranos and mezzo sopranos in the orchestra pit accompanying the dancers. Martin Pakledinaz is also a important artist in the overall production of the ballet. The set he masterfully created makes A Midsummer Night's Dream unique because no other company uses the same scenery--it's unique to this production. The vibrant forest-like qualities pull the dancers and story together. The costumes are beautiful, and play an important role in character identification, as the color schemes of Hermia and Lysander match, as do Helena and Demetrius. All in all, these artists have produced a masterpiece.
My personal favorite character of the ballet is Puck, a meddlesome fairy who runs around the story making sure everyone gets hurt, and has a good laugh. He plays the comedic relief of the romantic story, and shows quite a bit of dancing ability while he’s at it. The night I attended the ballet Puck was played by the multi-talented Josh Spell. Spell plays different roles on different nights, (such as Lysander) so Puck might not be played by the same dancer on the night you attend. After the performance, I got the inside scoop from Spell on Midsummer. According to him, the dancing and acting combined leaves the dancers vulnerable, and that adds to the beauty of the ballet. Puck is among his favorite rolls as a dancer, and he portrays it beautifully.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of A Midsummer Night's Dream is its broad range of entertainment. There is fencing, romance, drunken brawls, archery, singing, bickering, magic, trickery, weddings, comedy, meddling, and much more. Everyone has different interests, but A Midsummer Night's Dream feeds them all. Besides, it’s both classical ballet and Shakespeare in one performance. Basically, the plot of a Shakespeare play, without the boring dialogue, and dancing instead!
An interesting peculiarity about the ballet is the use of both children and animals. Children age eight to fourteen flutter across the stage playing the part of bugs. Balanchine’s choreography portrays the young dancers at the best of their ability, and they are breathtaking to watch. It is interesting that in traditional ballets, animals are the beautiful creatures (such as swans) while A Midsummer Night's Dream portrays hounds, bugs, donkeys, and somehow manages to show what stunning creatures they are. Additionally, this proves how exquisite the dancing at Pacific Northwest Ballet is, for every moment of the dancers is measured and placed, flattering the role they are playing and the ballet at large. Truly, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a masterpiece, full of comedy, romance, and beautiful dancing. It’s whimsical mayhem. It’s careless, stunning beauty all mixed together 'til in the end it comes out right.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Pacific Northwest Ballet
Through April 17