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Take five with Paul Gibson

Paul Gibson will top twenty years with Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2014. While most people who recognize him on the street remember his dancing from 1994 to 2004, Gibson has enjoyed the last ten years as a ballet master for the company just as much.
Gibson danced at PNB from 1994 to 2004, then became a ballet master for the company.
Paul Gibson. Photo: Angela Sterling
“These days, I’m more into watching back stage or going out to the front of the house when it’s something that I’ve staged,” he said.
For the current program, Director’s Choice, Gibson coached the cast on the revival of “Take Five…More or Less” created by Susan Stroman for PNB in 2008.

“We have three casts for this 13-minute piece,” he said, “and the majority of them are dancing it for the first time.”

The work, set to the jazzy motifs of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, follow six women and five men through a whirlwind performance, full of big moments and impatient toe-tapping interludes. It’s fast, funny, and reflects Stroman’s award-winning choreography for such shows as Contact or The Producers, said Gibson. “There’s a musicality to her work that I think comes from the theater. Plus she’s a sweet and brilliant lady and was so great to work with. When she came here, she was very focused and very prepared.”

Because of Stroman’s commitments in New York (she's directing and choreographing Bullets Over Broadway which opens next month), Gibson was the “stager” for this revival. In ballet, this means being the person who communicates the choreographer’s emotional intentions as well as teaching the steps.

For Gibson, preparing a piece like this or the upcoming Midsummer Night's Dream includes many hours of reviewing binders full of written notes as well as DVD recordings of the company’s past performances.

“But I don’t want to make the dancers into a copy of the past,” he added. “They can’t be a machine that just reproduces the work. They have to make their way into it.”

As a dancer, Gibson “wanted to have my own experience in the performance and not simply to emulate someone else.”

So, he encouraged three casts of “Take Five” to filter the dance through their own sensibilities and emotions. Gibson knows that’s what makes dance exciting to the watchers out front as well as those standing backstage in the wings.