As late spring turned to summer in Seattle, all of us at PNB took a deep, steadying breath. It was time to plan for our future. Yet no one had gone before us; all of us in the performing arts field in this country stood on new ground. Our businesses are held aloft by human proximity – artists to one another, audience members in row upon row of attached seats, stage crew and wardrobe shoulder to shoulder backstage. Impossible now.
After we’d lost spring 2020, but before most of us were willing to concede that we were about to lose all in-person performances for the 2020-21 season, Artistic Director Peter Boal pivoted. Down came the carefully laid plans for PNB’s Dance Happens Here season at McCaw Hall. Up and out went Peter’s vision, past pandemic-induced constraints and toward the possibility of creating beauty, connection, and inspiration.
The Dance Happens Everywhere Digital Season has been built on a PNB operating budget half the size of what it was just a year ago, with far fewer staff members and about ten times as much ingenuity. You will see the results of how our artistic staff and choreographers adjusted to public health mandates in creating dancer pods for safe rehearsals, as well as selecting and staging repertoire that allows for distance between artists, musicians, and production teams. You may wonder how we managed to pull off filming on the McCaw Hall stage, and for that we can thank our landlord, Seattle Center, for repurposing broadcast equipment from Key Arena and creating a stage and sound studio available for all campus organizations to safely capture new content and stay engaged with their audiences. While we have zero audiences in McCaw Hall, we do have digital season subscribers in 40 states and 8 countries. We are cheered by the thought of our subscriber in Wales, and the dozens who now follow PNB from California.
We remain focused on creating as much certainty as we can in the midst of so much disruption. Strong relationships with audiences, PNB School families, and community partners will help us build a bridge from where we are now to a future when we can return to full expression of what we do best.
It’s inexpressibly challenging to work this way, removed from the exuberance and beauty emanating from studios and the daily joy of collaboration and cohesion made possible by that aforementioned, wonderful proximity to one another. Nonetheless, we remain committed to creative problem solving and to seeing our company through to its next phase of being.
So many of you have stepped forward to offer financial support, ideas, and inspiration to us during this time. Thank you for all the ways you’ve each made PNB an important cultural asset and gathering place in our city, and now in your home – wherever it may be. More than ever, we deeply appreciate your patronage. Welcome to our season.
Executive Director, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Featured photo: PNB dancer Dylan Wald in Jessica Lang’s The Calling. © Angela Sterling.