Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nutcracker - The Ballet

Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) is considered as one of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States.   The Company of nearly fifty dancers presents more than 100 performances each year of full-length and mixed repertory ballets at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle and on tour. The Company has toured to Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and throughout the United States, with celebrated appearances at many important cities in the United States.  Founded in 1972 as Pacific Northwest Dance Association under the aegis of Seattle Opera Association, the Company became an independent organization in September 1977 and was renamed Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1978.   It's first Dancer transition program "Beyond Dance" was established and presently second stage dancers offer a variety of assistance that include continuing education grants, mentoring,  and an in-house program of university courses in cooperation with Seattle University.

PNB School has over 900 students and offers four types programs.  Children division trains kids from 2 years to 7 years age group.  Students Division enrolls students from 8 years age onwards and the  Professional Division offers training at a higher level with advanced instruction for those students planning a professional dance career. Students invited to the two-year Professional Division program concentrate on perfecting technique and developing artistry through intensive full-day instructions.  There is also a Open Program for 13 years and above.  Students are provided opportunity to participate in the public programs  at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle.

The Marion Oliver McCaw Hall stands on the land donated in 1889 by Seattle pioneers David and Louisa Denny for "Public Use Forever".  A Civil Auditorium was built on this land in 1928 and was transformed into Seattle Opera House in 1962 for the World Fair and the "Seattle Space Needle" has come up close to the Hall.  The 1927 and 1962 buildings were stripped and 70% of the old construction was replaced by new construction in 2003 at a cost of 127 million dollars.  The building now consists of 295000 square foot hall with two auditoriums, 2900 seat main auditorium and 400 seat lecture hall, lobbies, backstage, orchestra pit, cafe and gift shop.  The orchestra pit can seat 90 performers and can be raised to stage level through a spiral lift,  if necessary.  The building is owned by the City of Seattle and has now become a key center for cultural activities.

"Nutcracker" is a ballet based on E. T.  A. Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King".  This performance during November-December this year has provided opportunity for over 200 children to perform alongside professional dancers and live music, literally at their feet as over 50 musicians perform live for the ballet sitting and standing just below the stage.

"Nutcracker" is set in the German town of Nuremberg and is a dream of a young girl Clara Stalbaum.  The story unfolds in two acts and five scenes.  The story being the dream of a young girl, there is adequate scope for imagination and fantasy.  The whole program had a family touch with half the viewers being children of various ages, mostly below 10 years.  When we arrived at the entrance of the theater we were welcome by beautifully dressed pretty girls with small baskets of candy in hands and thanking every visitor for coming to the event.  Almost every parent carried a additional seat cushion for seating the kids in the auditorium to enable them to have a clear view of the ballet.  There were giant Mannequins of Nutcracker, Mouse King and Clara's Godfather and a key role in the ballet, Herr Drosselmeir, displayed in the lobby.  Children were excited by the presence of these huge dolls and had their photos taken standing before them.  We were equally excited and had our photos also taken with the Nutcracker!

The auditorium was full and filled with the excited cries of joy of the children when we went to the show on Sunday, 27th November 2011.  All of us were provided with a book giving details of PNB, story of Nutcracker and the list of performers and write up about key persons behind the show.  It was very touching to see each mother or father accompanying the child read out and explain the story to the child in the few minutes before the beginning of the show.  The sets and costumes were fantastic and matching the dream and fantasy of a young girl.  The performance was a collective effort of over 100 dancers, from four year old children to adults, and the music support was admirable.  The sets and screen designs were of an excellent level and all the children as well as adult viewers enjoyed the show.  A scene in which the grown up Clara and the Prince sailing on a golden boat in the sea through vision of a magical land to an exotic port was the center piece of the whole show.  The view of fish jumping in the sea water was especially well received by the children as well as elders alike.  The movements were quick, orderly and well timed.  The scene in which the Master of Ceremonies in the island brings on one group of dancers after another to entertain his guests was a feast to the eyes.  The dance scenes of Moorish couple, a brilliant peacock in a golden cage, a Chinese tiger and his attendants, whirling daredevils, four tiny couples were performed with ease and precision.  The show provided a mix of performance of children being initiated to ballet as well as veteran performers.  All the performers received well deserved standing ovation at the end of the show.

We were privileged to see the dream of a German girl from Nuremberg in a city on the Pacific Coast.  The memory of viewing the ballet is sweeter than the candy bars given to us at the end of the show.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the kind words! We're very happy to hear that you enjoyed the show.

    Happy Holidays,
    Pacific Northwest Ballet School
    301 Mercer Street
    Seattle WA 98109