Behind the scenes at PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

On opening night of each repertory production, Artistic Director Peter Boal sends a note to PNB staff with a few bullet points about the show. Secrets are revealed, names are dropped, and questions are answered! We look forward to these behind-the-scenes notes as each production comes around the corner.

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION is special in that all three pieces are PNB premieres. We love the classical ballet choreography, the pointe shoes, the tutus, and the choreographers (Balanchine, Robbins, and Ratmansky), and we want to give you a peek! Here are a few of Peter’s fun facts about PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION to whet your appetite.

One work (La Source) is fifty years old and another (Pictures at an Exhibition) is three years old!

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(l-r) Madison Taylor, Elizabeth Murphy, and Emma Love Suddarth in La Source, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust, photo © Angela Sterling.

All three were created for NYCB and all are new to PNB.

Peter has been waiting to bring La Source to PNB for Principal dancer Carrie Imler.

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Carrie Imler and Company dancers in La Source, photo © Angela Sterling.

“Twenty-seven years ago, Carrie danced the corps of La Source with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet,” says Peter Boal. “Though I didn’t know Carrie at the time, I was a guest artist with CPYB for that performance. I have a videotape of Carrie and me sharing the stage when she was 12.” Sounds like a video that needs to be pulled from the vaults!

Peter had the golden ticket to see Opus 19/The Dreamer at its 1978 premiere performance.

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Peter Boal with PNB Principal dancers Noelani Pantastico and James Moore, photo © Angela Sterling.

Patricia McBride and Mikhail Baryshnikov took the leading roles. Now, he’s staging Opus for PNB!

We’re taking Opus on the road next summer!

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(l-r) Cecilia Iliesiu, James Moore, and Sarah Pasch in Opus 19/The Dreamer, photo © Angela Sterling.

If you haven’t heard, PNB dancers are headed to Paris in 2018 as part of a multi-company celebration of Jerome Robbins, 100 years after his birth. We’ll present 11 other works as part of the Les Étés de la Danse festival.

Jerome Robbins (the choreographer of Opus) wanted his dancers to “come in as clay,” says Pictures at an Exhibition stager Wendy Whelan.

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Noelani Pantastico and Wendy Whelan, photo © Angela Sterling.

Once, he even asked a dancer to remove her makeup before starting rehearsal. “He had x-ray vision of a dancer and he could see if you had a cover on. He liked the raw person,” Wendy says.

Pictures at an Exhibition follows the style of the piano piece of the same name.

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Company dancers in Pictures at an Exhibition, photo © Angela Sterling.

The progression: short movement after short movement after short movement. A section called “Cows” is choreographed to pounding, heavy music…and (ironically) danced by four women. The next section, light and airy, is danced by five men.

The original piano piece for Pictures (written by Modest Mussorgsky) was created in honor of Viktor Harmann, a friend of the composer who died suddenly at a young age.

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Company dancers in Pictures at an Exhibition, photo © Angela Sterling.

But Ratmansky chose another artist’s work as the backdrop. “Alexei explained the artist’s work was etched in his memory while he focused on a print of [Wassily] Kandinsky’s work in the hospital room during his wife’s long labor while giving birth to their son Vasily,” Peter says.

Wendy Whelan had never staged a ballet before Pictures.

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Wendy Whelan, photo © Angela Sterling.

Alexei Ratmansky created six works on Wendy. Chris Wheeldon created 13. Watch for her documentary, Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan, coming to the Northwest Film Forum, July 26-30 and August 2-3.

A final note from Peter:

Thank you for being part of this season. I hope you enjoy our final program. Consider joining us for Season Encore, Next Step or School Performance next week, and check us out at the Olympic Sculpture Park on August 31 for Sculptured Dance 2.0.

See you at the ballet!

Get tickets to PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION

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