What’s Next

​An interview with NEXT STEP dancers Alex Hyman and Jacqui Schiller, and musician Benton Gordon

By Kyla Sabado


With music ranging from classical Mozart to alternative, electronic, screamo duo F*ck Buttons, this year’s NEXT STEP performance at Pacific Northwest Ballet will invigorate McCaw hall with young dancers performing fresh, original works. I met with three performers in this upcoming show: the exceptional flutist, Benton Gordon (17), playing in the pit with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (SYSO – lovingly pronounced “Sigh-So”), and vibrant PNB professional division dancers Alex Hyman (19), and Jacqui Schiller (19).

NEXT STEP dancers watch musicians rehearse

Pacific Northwest Ballet stirs with hubbub as dancers, musicians, choreographers, and office workers bustle around to ring in the end of the ballet season with the annual NEXT STEP performance. This one-day performance showcases current company dancers' original work. Company dancers choreograph new pieces and use the professional division students to perform their work. Alex describes NEXT STEP as, “a chance for company members to learn about being choreographers and try choreographing stuff on the professional division students. It’s a chance for them to learn and it gives us the chance to learn what it’s like to be in the studio with a choreographer. It’s a learning experience for all parties.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet School professional division student Alex Hyman (center) in George Balanchine’s Western Symphony. Photo © Rex Tranter.

In this unique scenario, two dynamic Seattle organizations collaborate to showcase world premiere choreography using student artists. That is cool on so many levels. This collaboration benefits everyone. The musicians have the opportunity to play in the ballet, an entirely new environment, which allows them experience in working with a new style of music. It is far more challenging to play music when other artists--who are practicing an entirely different art form--are counting on your performance. “When there is physical movement relying on what musicians do it adds more significance to the music,” Benton quips, “Suddenly a woodwind solo has a lot more importance.”

Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra musician Benton Gordon (center)

Jacqui speaks highly of the opportunity to dance with live music, saying “we are lucky to have live music.” She describes the experience as “a whole other energy when there are other people creating the music.” Both dancers laugh in describing the switch from the predictability of dancing to recorded music to dancing with an orchestra, which varies slightly in each performance. The performers feed off of each other, heightening the monumental beauty of dancers moving gracefully in sync with the flawlessly orchestrated composition.

On Friday, June 14th, come marvel with me as these three artists, along with their peers, showcase how the upcoming generation is influencing their artistic genres. If, at this point, you are still trying to figure out how one dances graceful ballet to screamo music, you should just come to see for yourself. After viewing a sneak-peak of some of the pieces, I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Pacific Northwest Ballet
ONE NIGHT ONLY: This Friday, June 14 @ 7:30 PM
TeenTix $5 at the door
More info at pnb.org

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