Most people only attend student performances when they have a connection to the school or a student who is performing. But when the school in question is Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and many of the students are on the cusp of joining professional corps de ballet around the world, paying for a student performance starts to seem like a pretty good deal.
The Pacific Northwest Ballet School is recognized as one of the top ballet training institutions in the United States. Every year the school performs a one-act story ballet for the general public on the same stage that the professional dancers use. This year's ballet is Snow White. Choreographer Bruce Wells, using music by Jules Massenet, created Snow White specifically for the uninitiated and the very young. Shorter than a movie, these one-hour performances require no intermission (final performance is Saturday, March 21).
Snow White is accompanied by an onstage narrator (local actor Allen Galli, who played Sancho Panza in PNB's Don Quixote earlier this season) who guides the audience through the story. However, it may still be helpful to explain in advance to younger viewers that “and then they danced” is a big part of the story. My 6-year-old confused herself by trying to find literal meaning in every moment of the dance.
Despite that small difficulty, she was thrilled that the dancers were all children and teenagers. The seven dwarves, who were danced by the smallest students in the performance, particularly captured her fancy. Snow White's choreography is not quite as challenging as what you will see in PNB’s company performances, but it is not oversimplified, and it is very pretty. The experience is more like a small professional company than a student dance recital.
Lovely, accessible dances; beautiful costumes; and a familiar, straightforward story make it easy for even the youngest viewers to sit (mostly) quietly for an hour. In an audience full of families, the occassional whispered question or emergency rush to the bathroom are more likely to be overlooked than in an evening performance. Crafts and dance lessons in the lobby before the performance help make the event feel extra-special and keep kids occupied until the curtain bell. Snow White is a perfect opportunity to expose younger children to ballet for the first time.
If you go ...
When: Saturday, March 21 at 3:30 pm. Tip: Allow lots of time for traffic around Seattle Center and arrive early to find parking, collect booster seats, and get settled. The snack bar inside McCaw Hall is selling “poisoned apple” cookies just for this event.
Where: Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, on the north edge of Seattle Center.
Tickets: $25 to $60. Every family member must have a ticket, but children’s tickets are discounted. There are no bad seats at McCaw Hall – do not hesitate to buy the cheapest seats available. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone 206-441-2424.
Parking: The Mercer Garage ($15) is connected to McCaw Hall by a sky bridge. Other pay lots in the neighborhood have similar pricing. Street parking is limited to 4 hours, and hard to come by. Consider taking the bus – look online to plan your route.