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Twenty-five years of live music celebrated at PNB

During the current run of the Director’s Choice, and the upcoming month of “Nutcracker” performances, Pacific Northwest Ballet audiences will enjoy something that very few dance fans experience these days.
“Today most ballet companies don’t have an orchestra or only perform with a very small group of musicians hired for the occasion,” said Emil de Cou, PNB’s music director and principal conductor. Here in Seattle, the orchestra’s 50+ musicians not only wow audiences on a regular basis, they also convert choreographers to the advantages of live music.

“Choreographers like control and the predictability of recorded music but when they see what a grand group that PNB Orchestra is, they know it is first class and full of musicians who love to play for the ballet,” said de Cou.
To celebrate their 25th anniversary as PNB Orchestra, the group also received their own solo moment, playing a joyful “Praeludium” from Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Op. 40, to appreciative applause duri…

Performing Beckett with circus style

Tonight (Nov. 13), UMO Ensemble brings their individual brand of movement and clowning to the works of Samuel Beckett. While the Ensemble often creates original works, they accepted an invitation from Seattle’s ACT to join the Seattle Beckett Festival this month. Since 1987, the Vashon-based troupe has built a reputation for mixing theater with circus arts, seeking to be "image-rich" as well as intellectually challenging.

In “Fail Better: Beckett Moves UMO,” rope artist Terry Crane and sound designer Jimmy Garver worked with ensemble members Janet McAlpin, David Godsey, Maria Glanz, and Lyam White to mix up clowning, aerial derring-do, and “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nudity” for a very different take on Beckett’s stories. Elizabeth Klob, executive artist of UMO, directed this work and took time to answer a few questions about transforming Beckett’s prose into an UMO production.

Why did you want take part in the Seattle Beckett Festival?
UMO has always been fascinated w…

Voronin breaks his silence

An original Teatro ZinZanni cast member, the Ukrainian-born illusionist known as Maestro Voronin is appearing in his 23rd show created for the spiegeltent on Mercer Street. During "When Sparks Fly," the popular dinner-and-a-show theater becomes a laboratory devoted to mad and magical science. As always, acrobatics are done with the greatest of ease while the “minions” create comic havoc between the courses. Voronin’s children also appeared at ZinZanni earlier this summer, performing in the company’s “Dream On,” a daytime show for younger audiences.



Although Voronin stays silent when performing as part of his character, he was willing to answer a few questions via email with the help of translator Julia Ochs.

Growing up, who were the magicians that you most admired?
Well, at the time there were two names: Igor Kio and Arutyun Akopyan – well-known Soviet/Russian circus performers and illusionists. There were a couple of magazines, “Yunyi Technic” (“Young Technician…

Giselle’s new look inspired by ballet's history

Only up close in the Pacific Northwest Ballet costume shop can one see the splendid detail of Giselle’s peasant dress, a hunter’s coat, or a Wili’s wings. Every costume heading for the stage is the product of hours of labor by a talented team.

“About 50 percent of every costume is sewn by hand,” said Larae Theige Hascall, the company’s costume shop manager, as she flipped over a bodice to show off a tiny pocket inside the Wili’s bodice that will hold the dancer’s fluttering wings.

Designer Jerome Kaplan’s new sets and costumes for Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of “Giselle” borrows details from the ballet’s early history. The romantic ballet, which premiered in 1841, starts with the peasant girl Giselle dancing happily with her handsome suitor. However, when Giselle discovers her beau is a nobleman in disguise (and thus out of her class), she dies of broken heart. Her unhappy end makes her one of the Wilis, supernatural maidens doomed to take their revenge on m…

Lily Verlaine builds on ballet past for her shows

Lily Verlaine began her dance training in ballet, but she found her calling in the burgeoning theatrical burlesque scene of the 21st century.

She started in burlesque approximately ten years ago. “I arrived at the right moment,” she said about the explosion of acts around the country in the last decade. “I knew that I needed to do it. Obviously it worked out well for me. Now I’m so busy living it that it’s hard to reflect on it.”

As artistic director and choreographer, her list of credits include “Land Of The Sweets: The Burlesque Nutcracker,” “Through The Looking Glass: The Burlesque Alice In Wonderland,” “Burlesco DiVino: Wine in Rome,” and “L’Histoire de Melody Nelson,” part of the choreographers’ showcase l’Edition Française featuring Verlaine, W’him Whim artistic director Olivier Wevers, and Kitten LaRue. She also has toured the United States and Europe as a member of the Atomic Bombshells.

When people say burlesque, many think of Gypsy Rose Lee and the fan dancer…

Collaboration remains key to Salt Horse creations

In Salt Horse’s latest work, Color Field, long-time collaborators Corrie Befort, Beth Graczyk, and Angelina Baldoz played with words and music to create a dance about light and color.

As with past Salt Horse works, their newest collaboration with the Northwest Film Forum let them shift movement and performance into a public space not traditionally associated with dance. Contributing to Color Field are filmmaker Adam Sekuler, lighting designer Marnie Cummings, musician Jason Anderson and performers Ariana Bird, Belle Wolf, Kathleen Hunt, and Steven Gomez.

Although Befort also does the scenery and Baldoz primarily works with the music, Graczyk emphasized in a recent interview that Salt Horse’s teamwork approach keeps them all very equal when it comes to the actual creation of a dance.

What has kept your collaborative process going since 2005?
All three of us enjoy is that Salt Horse is an entity on its own. It is the contribution of three voices coming together. We make a good te…

The costumes reveal the character at Seattle Shakes

Melanie Burgess makes actors look good and, more importantly, in character throughout Seattle. The costume designer, who also teaches at Cornish College of the Arts, has clothed productions at Seattle Opera, A Contemporary Theatre, Village Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Intiman, The 5th Avenue Theatre, Empty Space, Strawberry Theatre Workshop, New Century Theatre Company, Taproot Theatre and Tacoma Actors Guild, among others locally. A regular recipient of Seattle Times Footlight award and a winner of a 2010 Gregory for her work, Burgess recently discussed the challenges of designing two very different productions for Seattle Shakespeare Company: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Shakespeare’s King Lear. What do you think is the biggest contribution that costumes make to a production?
Costumes provide visual storytelling. They can indicate time, location, and a wide range of character traits. More subtlety, through silhouette, color, and texture, they …