As the dancers in A Midsummer Night's Dream feverishly practice for opening night, Pacific Northwest Ballet prepares for the rush of people who will be spending their night watching the show unfold.
William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells the story of a fight between King Oberon and Queen Titania, and the quarrel between two mortal couples that leads to absolute chaos and disorder. Pacific Northwest Ballet is known for its vibrant, graceful, and effortless performances. But, this does not come without a great deal of effort, grueling rehearsals, and some kinks to work out.
I had the opportunity to see a rehearsal in action just under a week before the show’s opening. The room was filled with potential, hard work, and a slight feeling of stress. These dancers have been perfecting their characters to make sure that when audiences arrive on April 12th, they’ll be swept into the world of Shakespeare’s Athens and mythical Fairyland right from their seats.
As the dancers were preparing for rehearsal, they stretched their limbs, occasionally drinking from their huge bottles of water plastered with numerous PNB stickers. It was almost odd to see these dancers in their Adidas shirts and workout wear, a stark difference from the sparkling tutus and leotards they will be wearing for the show. Francia Russell, who is head of staging, sat in the front examining every toe tap and gesture. Ezra Thomson, who plays Puck, ran through his jumping sequence three times to get the sequence just right. While Thomson rehearsed, Calista Raut, the dancer playing the role of Helena, worked with directors to perfect her sobbing. The gesture had to be simultaneously gentle, remorseful, and heartbroken.
Even in a ballet like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which boasts a large cast, every single dancer matters. In the rehearsal, I observed the dancer playing the lead Butterfly, Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan, who already was incredibly graceful, flutter to the front of the room four or five times, perfecting her movements, synchronization, and emotional capacity each time.
When audiences step into McCaw Hall on April 12-21, they will certainly be awestruck by the commitment, perfection, and originality every dancer brings to the stage. Just like the rehearsal process, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be chaotic, graceful, and most importantly, dedicated.
Lead photo credit:
Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Angeli Mamon with PNB School Professional Division students and PNB company dancers in a rehearsal for George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo © Lindsay Thomas.
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