A dance efficiency is all the time, by definition, a fleeting factor; it’s a selected quicksilver mixture of molecules that may by no means recur in fairly the identical method ever once more. However Pacific Northwest Ballet’s efficiency of “Empire Noir” and “One Thousand Issues” on a latest night in McCaw Corridor felt particularly ephemeral: It was a gown rehearsal, in entrance of an invited viewers of about 100 (unfold out within the huge theater that may maintain practically 30 instances that quantity), and in contrast to most gown rehearsals it wasn’t a starting, however an ending.
Within the enormity of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting us, arts performances aren’t on the high of the checklist: some amongst us are ailing and dying, some are dropping their locations of shelter and sustenance and earnings, some are struggling to steadiness work with home-from-school youngsters. For these few hours at McCaw, although, all of it got here down to 1 lovely factor misplaced.
After weeks of rehearsals, costume fittings, set building and ticket-selling, the PNB repertory program scheduled to open March 13 — like most Seattle arts occasions, in compliance with the brand new state-ordered restrictions towards massive gatherings — was gone, with that final gown rehearsal serving as a wistful goodbye.
It’s a curious factor to observe a efficiency in a virtually empty theater; I’ve executed it usually with motion pictures (a special expertise, as a film stays the identical at any time when it’s screened), however hardly ever with dance. There was nobody within the seat in entrance of me, nobody subsequent to me, nobody throughout the aisle — simply efficiency, filling up the empty areas. You don’t often consider McCaw Corridor as a room, however it’s; this was like a big model of a living-room leisure. Have been these individuals onstage, dancing with the fierce ardour that comes once you solely get one shot at one thing, performing just for me? It was straightforward to assume so.
As phases go darkish everywhere in the state, let’s pause for a second to contemplate what we’re dropping for some time — the dances that received’t be danced, the songs that received’t be sung, the performs that received’t be carried out. Let’s, at first, assume virtually about what we will do to assist these whose livelihoods are affected: We are able to, if we will afford to, donate any ticket purchases again to the group; we will buy subscriptions to imminent seasons; we will donate cash immediately, to our favourite arts teams or to a common fund just like the Seattle Artists Reduction Fund Amid COVID-19, a quickly rising GoFundMe began by Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo.
Some native organizations are planning to carry that darkness a bit. The Seattle Symphony can be digitally presenting each rebroadcasts and reside streams all through the month; PNB is offering ticket holders with a hyperlink to observe that very gown rehearsal that I noticed. And people issues can be lovely, however they received’t be the identical — there’s one thing about being within the room the place it occurs (to cite one other transformational live-theater work), about respiration the identical air because the performers, about realizing all of your troubles and worries went away as you watched a dancer change into a superhuman within the stage’s magic gentle.
I can’t assessment the dances I noticed that Thursday evening — a part of accepting the invitation was agreeing not to take action, because it wasn’t an official efficiency — however sometime I or one other Instances author will, as PNB inventive director Peter Boal guarantees they’ll return to the repertory quickly. However I can say it’s a night that ought to have been seen by greater than 100 individuals, and that when the dancers gathered for a bow on the finish of Alejandro Cerrudo’s “One Thousand Items” (a 2012 work making its PNB premiere), most smiled gamely however a number of wiped away tears. A ballet that (virtually) no person noticed pale away, quietly and superbly, because the curtain went down.
As we care for one another within the coming days and weeks, I’ll be fascinated about that efficiency, in that large near-empty room. In its unusual, unhappy magnificence, there was hope; the efficiency was fleeting, however the artwork stays.