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pnb: a very busy day—nutcracker auditions and R&J talk

PNB Professional Division students watching auditions
As if they weren’t working hard enough with the opening of their season this week!

PNB was super busy on Sunday, with Nutcracker auditions and a talk at Elliott Bay Book Company.

Click here for a peek at what went on…including some fuzzy video and what to expect in R&J hair.

Nutcracker Auditions
More than 250 students turned out for the Levels I–VIII Nutcracker auditions. But before the students can even get through the door to audition, their parents have to commit to the famously rigorous rehearsal schedule. That ought to have cut the numbers down significantly, but the lobby still seemed packed when I made my way to PNB’s window-studded, spacious Studio C.

The first thing you notice is that all the windows but one are papered over. This is apparently a very private function.

The second thing you notice is that Studio C doesn’t seem very spacious anymore.

When I got there, Level I was hanging out on the sidelines and Level II (in light blue) was just finishing their combination. Peter Boal was sitting in benign judgement at a table in the front with balletmasters Anne Dabrowski and Otto Neubert. An accompanist was playing the same song over and over again.

Balletmaster Paul Gibson danced with the Level II students, giving these eight-, nine-, and ten-year-olds someone to follow. What was so sweet was that this man who has danced Oberon and choreographed Piano Dance did their simple steps with full seriousness. All in all, it was a pretty encouraging environment.

Level II did a final line-up and then filed out, with Level I leading the way. Only 24 Level II girls will make it. Only 9 Level Is will. The tricky part is that they need to be able to do the steps—of course—but they also need to be able to fit into the existing costumes. You can be the best dancer and still not get in. (Incidentally, costume size is also how they cast some of the extras at Seattle Opera.)

The Professional Division students help out at the auditions. Two were on guard in the hallway; it looked a little like a nightclub, with its velvet rope. Two more took height measurements at the end of the hallway, and several more in a back studio helped the on-deck students put on their audition numbers and warm up. Professional Division students were the ones who guided Level III, IV, and V students into Studio C after the staff had had a short break. The audition continued. Different steps, different song, but over and over and over again.

The Level III, IV, and V group was gigantic: 4 rows of kids stretched across the back of the studio. I was sorry to leave midway through their audition.

Also auditioning on Sunday was my 2001 Canon PowerShot. Not so powerful, as you can see from the video below. My apologies for the quality, but it’ll at least give you a sense of what went on behind closed (and covered) doors.

The first adult figure at the left is Paul Gibson. He’s joined later by Otto Neubert. Note the Professional Division student in a white top helping kids figure out when to go. The image at the end is by Angela Sterling.

Meanwhile…over at Elliott Bay Book Company…

Doug Fullington, Olivier Wevers, Lucien Postlewaite

These talks are always nice on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But on a sunny September day? With Mariners-game parking? I expected to be the only one there, but I was wrong. It was pretty much a full and content house.

Olivier Wevers and Lucien Postlewaite chatted with Education Programs Manager Doug Fullington about their roles in the upcoming Roméo et Juliette. I’m glad I went, because I learned a few things.

First off, we were all right in thinking that this Jean-Christophe Maillot version of R&J is told through Friar Lawrence’s point of view. What I felt but didn’t know last time I saw the show was that the ballet is in some ways a flashback…that the Friar is reliving the events, aware of the outcome, but unable to change things, drowning in guilt. AND, one reason Wevers is so incredibly terrifying in this role’s quieter moments is that he is purposely trying to internalize and feel all the horror that is going on onstage around him. Very, very scary.

Another thing I learned? The hands reaching upward, which distracted me last time, are symbolic of the two houses. It seems obvious in retrospect. Maybe I’ll like them better this time.

And then there were the silly things, which are so much fun hear…

Like, the Hair Meme:
Postlewaite: Carla Körbes has a lot more hair than Noe does. I end up swallowing a lot of it.
Postlewaite: Kaori Nakamura cut her hair short. Wevers: It’s really short. It looks fantastic.
Audience Member: Lucien, your hair looks darker than last time we saw you!

Or, the Technically Terrifying Roles:
Theme & Variations. Twenty minutes of hell to dance; beautiful to watch.

What was most comforting was to hear Postlewaite talk about how the role of Juliette looks on a dancer who is not Noelani Pantastico. (She danced—boy did she dance!—all nine of the performances last time PNB did R&J.) The gist was: Different people, different takes, but nonetheless amazing connections being made.