PNB & SAM partner to bring free Sculptured Dance to Olympic Sculpture Park

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 2.12.21 PMThe free summer arts and music events continue with Sculptured Dance a special “first of its kind” collaboration between Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) and the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). This Thursday, August 11th, various artworks at the Olympic Sculpture park become a stage for two hours only, 6pm-8pm. PNB commissioned works from five local choreographers for the special evening, and the performances are free and open to all.

The five new works will be performed in, on, and around Olympic Sculpture Park sculptures, by dancers from PNB, PNB School, Spectrum Dance Theatre, and Whim W’Him. The genesis for the works is a “conversation with sculptures on-site at the park” that features five dances created by Donald Byrd, Kiyon Gaines, Ezra Thomson, Kate Wallich and Olivier Wevers.

The evening of dance + art is part of The Wallace Foundation’s “Building Audiences for Sustainability” initiative. According to PNB Director Peter Boal:

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 2.12.07 PM“Since the opening of the Olympic Sculpture Park, I’ve wanted to program dance in and around the art… The site is naturally conducive to movement as viewers are lured from one sculpture to the next. Adding dance into the mix seems a perfect fit…. 

Bringing dance to the Olympic Sculpture Park offers the brilliant backdrop of great art as inspiration for dance. Add in the cross-pollination of unfamiliar pairings between three different dance companies and five innovative local choreographers, throw in a little unpredictable weather and an occasional train whistle, and you get something completely thrilling and fresh. There are elements we can’t control and the randomness becomes exciting. No curtain time, no seat assignments, just art, dance and you.”

The free, one-time-only performance takes place this Thursday, August 11th from 6pm-8pm at SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park, 2901 Western Avenue. You may bring chairs, but keep in mind that the performances will take place at various locations in the park, so make sure they’re portable. All are welcome to enjoy a summer evening with art and dance!


Four Queen Anne students will take the stage for PNB’s Swan Lake

Swan Lake, a true ballet classic, opens this Friday, April 12th at the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) with four local Queen Anne students taking the stage for the performances that run through April 21st.

Nina Adams (center)

The students were handpicked by PNB’s artistic staff – a very exciting opportunity for them to perform in a ballet classic beloved by audiences and dancers alike.

Three of our Queen Anne students – Elizabeth Houk, Natalie Parker, and Nina Adams – will be performing Waltz Girl roles. In addition, Mae Vanderslice will dance the role of a Persian Attendant.


Mae Vanderslice

PNB’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is choreographed by Founding Artistic Director Kent Stowell, and in celebration of its 40th Anniversary season, former PNB principal dancers Casey Herd and Louise Nadeau will return for special guest appearances at select performances.

Tickets for performances range from $28 to $173. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424 or visiting the PNB Box Office in person at 301 Mercer St.

Seattle Foundation’s GiveBIG challenge underway

Today is your chance to donate to Queen Anne charities and have your money go further.

The Seattle Foundation is hosting the “GiveBIG” challenge from 7 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. to support a long list of charities around town, a great many of which are based right here in Queen Anne, including the American Cancer Society – Great West Division, ArtsFund, Book-It Repertory Theatre, Forgotten Children’s Fund, Friends of KEXP, GreenStage, Hilltop Children’s Center, KCTS Television, Northwest Folklife, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pacific Science Center, Pottery Northwest, Queen Anne Helpline, Seattle Center Foundation, Seattle Children’s Home, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, SIFF, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Puget Sound Affiliate, Whim W’Him and more.

The money donated to charities through GiveBIG will be “stretched” by $500,000. Here is how the “stretch pool” and match works:

Credit card donations made during this time period will be counted as GiveBIG donations and used to calculate distribution of the stretch pool. The amount of a nonprofit organization’s share of the stretch pool will be based on the percentage of donations the nonprofit receives of the total online contributions made through on June 23. In other words, distribution of the stretch pool will be pro-rated. If X organization receives 1% of the donations through our site on GiveBIG, they will receive 1% of the stretch pool dollars.

Here is the long list of charities that are participating. There will also be a Golden Ticket given away every hour. Donors will be chosen at random to have more money donated to the charity they chose to support. Most tickets are worth $1,000 but the one-time extra special Golden Ticket is worth $5,000.

Pacific Northwest Ballet to lose 17-year veteran

Ballet dancer Stacy Lowenberg has announced her retirement at the end of this season, ending a 14-year career at Pacific Northwest Ballet in the Seattle Center. Her last show will be June 12, the final PNB performance of the season.

“I think it’s just a good point in time to make a career change,” said Lowenberg. “It’s been an awesome long journey, and I feel humbled that I got the chance to dance this long.”

Lowenberg joined PNB as an apprentice in 1994 and has been dancing for them ever since.

“I’m going to miss it so much, everyone I work with and moving my body all day long and doing something that as a little girl I dreamt of doing.”

Lowenberg, who lives in Fremont with her husband, said she was ready for a change and plans on pursuing different interests, like Pilates and choreography. She began teaching Pilates a few years ago after getting certified and has been working on her own choreography, with seven pieces produced to date. She also plans to take dancing lessons with her husband, which she says she’s never had the energy to do after dancing all day, and to learn to ski, which she’s never been able to do due to the prohibitions of being a professional dancer.

A new work of Lowenberg’s choreography will be shown in the Seattle Dance Project’s upcoming “Project 4,” opening this Friday at The Erickson Theater on Capitol Hill. She will also be dancing in PNB’s performance of Cinderella opening February 4.

From Pacific Northwest Ballet:

Her works have been shown at McCaw Hall, Bumbershoot, Meydenbauer Theatre and on film for the Beijing Olympics. (The Beijing choreography was danced in Seattle before the 2008 Olympics.) Ms. Lowenberg has choreographed for Ballet Theatre of Des Moines, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, PNB Choreographers’ Showcase, and Ballet Bellevue.

The Nutcracker at the Pacific Northwest Ballet: A One of a Kind Experience for All Ages

Editor’s Note: This is the first piece by our new arts reviewer and QA resident Grace Betz, marking QueenAnneView’s expansion into covering stories of the arts and culture throughout the community.

We in Queen Anne are truly spoiled to have a world class ballet company at our front steps.  I had the pleasure of attending the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s latest performance of The Nutcracker this past Sunday at McCaw Hall.  PNB’s iconic production reflects the neighborhood in which it is performed—quirky yet refined, modern yet traditional.

Now in its 27th season, PNB’s The Nutcracker is the collaboration of choreographer, and one of PNB’s founding artistic directors, Kent Stowell and illustrator Maurice Sendak, who designed the sets and costumes (in a side note, Mr. Sendak is perhaps most famous for his illustrations in the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are).

Stowell and Sendak’s revolutionary reworking of the traditional story is exclusive to Seattle.  However, PNB’s unique interpretation of The Nutcracker remains one of the most widely recognized renditions in the world.  And in a nation where most of the local ballet companies perform some adaptation of George Balanchine’s choreography, Sendak and Stowell’s version not only captures more of the original story, but does it in a way that is both fresh and engaging to experience.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, The Nutcracker centers around a young girl, Clara, who finds herself on the brink of adulthood, wondering where fantasy ends and reality begins.  A delightful story for both young and old, it is well paced and skillfully performed.  The innovative set dressings are beyond surreal and give the entire performance a pop-up book feel that readily draws the audience into the production.

The live orchestra, as conducted that evening by Allan Dameron, PNB’s acting music director, adds the advantage of real-time flexibility vital for a reactive and dynamic performance.  But what is truly phenomenal about The Nutcracker is its inclusion of PNB’s youngest dancers.  One very well could, over the course of a decade or so, witness the growth of an aspiring ballerina from her role as a soldier to a part in the flower or snow routines to that of Clara.  And the dancers instill their own personality onto the production which keeps each performance fresh no matter how many times you have seen it.  It is perhaps the best and most accurate measurement by which to witness the growth of the ballet company.

My favorite moments included the party scene in Act I, in which there were so many activities occurring at once that it was often difficult to determine where to devote my attention.  I appreciated how it showcased the talents not only of young Clara and Fritz, but also the children and adult attendees and even the maids (who typically, in non-PNB productions, are merely backdrop).  It was a nice change from many other companies’ versions in which each sub-group of performers is given center stage while the other dancers await, and rather flatly, in the sidelines.

PNB soloist Sarah Ricard Orza and principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite were marvelous in their roles as Clara and the Prince.  And guest artist Uko Gorter was amazing as the ever scheming Herr Drosselmeier.  However, for me, the pinnacle of PNB’s The Nutcracker is the Peacock, exquisitely performed this particular evening by corps member Brittany Reid.  Her performance of this unique-to-PNB character was masterful.

All in all the evening was a whimsical delight.  My only criticism is directed towards the universe which seems intent on sitting me next to the loudest child in the theater.  It seemed that as soon as I was truly losing myself to the story, her screams would quickly pull me out and place me right back in my first tier balcony seat.  I must admit, I am ambivalent as to this issue.  I was caught between rolling my eyes and passively-aggressively throwing imaginary darts at the complacent parents, but on the other hand I had to admit that that is what The Nutcracker is for—children.  So be forewarned, the early shows will be full of unruly little ones with their varying tolerances and attention spans.  If you are shrieking adverse, stick to the later shows (use as your guide school nights and appropriate bed times).

Although I am what one may term a ballet enthusiast, I do believe that PNB’s version of The Nutcracker is a must-see for experts and novices alike.  The story line is accessible to even the most irascible of ballet eschewers, yet PNB’s skill and technical precision will appeal to even the most jaded of ballet aficionados.  I do not think there is a bad seat in the house, although certainly being near the center puts the audience member at an advantage.  I enjoy watching ballets from a higher vantage point so that I may enjoy not only the dancing, but the formation as well.  For this performance, I sat in the third row center on the first tier balcony, which was perfect.  I would, however, caution would-be ticket buyers that the seats in the row in front of you are not low enough to provide a clear visual path above a person’s head.  There are complimentary cushions for children so that they may have a bit more of an elevated seat.  McCaw Hall also rents binoculars for a nominal fee.

So whether you are an experienced ballet connoisseur or this would be the first time you have ever set foot in a theater, I highly recommend you experience PNB’s exquisite performance of this holiday classic.  Even with the myriad of issues endemic to live theater, PNB’s The Nutcracker is about as close to perfection as one can get.  And bring the kids because it truly is a performance that can and should be enjoyed by all ages.

The Nutcracker runs through December 27, 2010.  Please check the PNB website or call the box office at (206) 441-2424 for performance and ticket information.

Raised in Texas and Oklahoma, S. Grace Betz moved to Seattle in 2009 on little more than a whim.  An avid supporter of the arts, she studied ballet for nearly 20 years and piano for 15.  She also plays the cello (albeit, not particularly well) and guitar.  After her misguided foray into the field of law, she decided to focus her remaining energy on subjects she actually enjoys, which include writing and the arts.

My Northwest’s Holiday Map lists holiday happenings throughout the Pacific Northwest

Wondering where all the holiday happenings are, well, happening? Check out My Northwest’s new Holiday Map, a guide for holiday activities throughout the Puget Sound region.

Using the map, it’s easy to see what festive events are happening in your neck of the woods—you can even search by address.

Here in Queen Anne we have a number of holiday events coming up, including Festivals of Lights, the classic Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker, the Christmas Ships Festival, and New Years at the Needle. There are also a number of great places in Queen Anne to stop off and enjoy the holiday lights, including the Kerry Park Viewpoint at 211 Highland Dr.