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Use a dress rehearsal to gain insight into the dance at PNB

Dress rehearsals and previews can offer an interesting insight into the work going on behind the theater curtain as well as cheap tickets for big bucks shows in Seattle.

Last night, Pacific Northwest Ballet opened the doors of McCaw Hall and let friends and fans check out the Directors Choice program. If you are not a staff member or a donor, you can still attend such PNB dress rehearsals for the price of a lecture ticket.

“The lecture series used to be on a different night,” said Doug Fullington, who oversees the lecture series, “but we found linking them to the rehearsals enriched the experience for the audience. You learn a little about the ballet and then you go upstairs and see it performed.”

At a typical lecture, Fullington interviews an artist involved with the show. Last night, he questioned Roslyn Anderson about staging Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort and Sechs Tanze (Six Dances).

Anderson, who has worked with Kylian since the 1970s, travels around the world to stage the ballets originally created for Nederlands Dans Theater. She previously came to PNB to work on the premiere of Petite Mort last season.

Prompted by the genial Fullington and questions from an enthusiastic audience, Anderson talked about the choreographer, how she works with a new company, and added a little friendly backstage gossip.

For example, she revealed that several years ago, when working as ballet mistress of Nederlands Dans Theater, she sat next to American composer Leonard Bernstein during a performance of the comedic Sechs Tanze.

Bernstein, said Anderson, laughed his head off and turned to her at the end, saying “That’s what Mozart meant.”

Anderson also discussed how Kylian begins his creation process with an intimate knowledge of the score selected, then coming into the studio to collaborate with the dancers to create the movements.

It is this type of insight that gives the lecture audience a very special experience and feel for the dance about to be performed, said Fullington.

“I remember when Ronald Hyde and Annette Page were here for Sleeping Beauty. They’d stand up and demonstrate,” Fullington said.

Another nice aspect of attending dress rehearsals is the more casual working atmosphere, he added. You’ll see PNB stars in their warm-ups, hanging at the edge of the stage to catch remarks about the dance just performed. The “tech board” that controls the lights and scenery is out on table set up in the middle of the seats, with people in headphones switching the switches to make the magic happen on stage. The orchestra may perform an extra encore to smooth out a phrase.

Or, as happened last night, a lone dancer might tip-toe across the stage in her pink pointe shoes, obviously lost in concentration as she anticipates opening night.

PNB will offer lecture/dress rehearsal tickets for all remaining shows in their season except Nutcracker. For more information, check their website. While the dress rehearsal for Director's Choice is over, you can receive a special "dress rehearsal discount" for remaining performances by entering the code "DressDC" when ordering over the web or by phone. Director's Choice opens tonight at McCaw Hall.

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