When the Pacific Northwest Ballet comes to town, it’s akin to the New York Yankees, or at least the Seattle Mariners, playing ball at Avista Stadium. The storied Pacific Northwest Ballet, which opened in 1972, normally hits the road for performances in Manhattan, Paris and other exotic destinations. However, the venerable ballet company will finally make its Spokane debut Feb. 17 and 18 at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center.
“This is a really big deal,” Gonzaga chair of the dance department Suzanne Ostersmith said. “The Pacific Northwest Ballet is one of America’s premier ballet companies and we’re so fortunate that they are coming to us.
“We don’t have to drive to Seattle to experience this. And it’s so wonderful that they will be here for a Valentine’s performance. We’re beyond excited!”
The Pacific Northwest Ballet, which has toured Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Canada, will perform Kent Stowell’s “White and Black Swan Pas de Deux” from “Swan Lake,” Jessica Lang’s “The Calling,” Jiri Kylian’s “Petite Mort” and Twyla Tharp’s “Sweet Fields.”
“I think this is a nice sampler,” Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal said from his Seattle home. “What we’re presenting is eclectic. Maybe some dance fans will like one of the pieces. Maybe they will like all of them.
“I’m confident that those who attend the show will enjoy ‘Swan Lake.’ You’ll experience two different acts. You’ll have Odette, who embodies a pure and honest life, and Odile, her evil sister, who embodies deception. It’s an amazing story and then there are the dancers, who I guarantee will bring fireworks when they come to the stage in Spokane.”
When Boal visited the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center in 2020, he was so taken with the venue that he decided that his company would perform there one day.
“When I toured it four years ago, it was just so obvious how aesthetically pleasing it is,” Boal said. “And the backstage is very functional. We had to schedule something there someday and now that time is just about here.
“Our dancers and crew are excited about traveling to the other side of the state. We hope to stimulate interest in dance in Spokane.”
Ostersmith is confident that Boal and company will accomplish just that since dance is on the rise.
“We know there is a dance audience here and that it keeps getting bigger,” Ostersmith said. “We have 30 dance studios in this area and that’s more than there were before the pandemic. I know that many of those dancers are coming out to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet.
“This is a can’t-miss event for those who love the arts. And dance is everywhere in Spokane. Every single person in Spokane knows someone that dances, whether it’s a daughter, a niece or a neighbor. I can’t wait for the dancers to see this performance.”
Gonzaga Assistant Director of Dance Halle Goodwin hopes that those who are curious about dance will check out the performance.
“I would love to see the public experience this and support it, just like they get behind our wonderful basketball team,” Goodwin said. “Just like our basketball players, the dancers are phenomenal athletes, who do amazing things.
“Those who think they might like dance but not know much about it should check out what is being presented.”
Ostersmith believes there is a common denominator between dance and sports.
“There is something about how we respond to movement,” Ostersmith said. “That’s so, whether it’s at a basketball game or when performers move to music on a stage. Our brain makes that connection to movement. There is something magical about it.”
It took five years for the Pacific Northwest Ballet to schedule a date at the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center.
“This event is huge for us, since it’s so significant that the Pacific Northwest Ballet is coming” Ostersmith said. “I remember when we opened in 2019, and I recall Peter Boal taking a tour of the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center just before the pandemic. Peter is excited and enough people here are excited that 75% of the tickets are sold for the event (two weeks before the shows).
“I don’t think people realize how easy it is to see a show here. It’s easy parking and there’s not a bad seat in the house. I believe that we’ll have more shows like this with packed houses, since I know there is an audience in Spokane that is hungry to experience dance. I think they’ll be even hungrier after they see what the Pacific Northwest Ballet can do on a stage.”
Is there a possibility that the Pacific Northwest Ballet returns as opposed to visiting for a one and done weekend?
“Yes, it’s a possibility,” Boal said. “The dancers are excited about coming to Spokane. I hope we can come back soon.”