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The Short Version: In today’s fast-paced, tech-centric society, it’s important for couples to slow down and appreciate a bit of arts and culture, and Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) is just the place to do it. The dance company is committed to preserving and evolving the art of ballet through ground-breaking performances that challenge and delight audiences in Seattle and touring destinations worldwide. PNB also fosters an appreciation for ballet in the community by offering several educational opportunities where dance lovers can learn more about the art form in a comfortable environment. The idea is to help people make meaningful connections with others and the world around them through dance.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with watching couples dance. There’s something about the communication of a relationship that happens when people use movement to express themselves or the feelings they have for their partner. You can tell when a couple is in perfect sync and moving with fluidity — or if they’re new to each other and awkwardness abounds.
I’m not alone in this preoccupation. Scientists aren’t sure why we like to watch movement to music so much, but there’s evidence to suggest it stimulates the reward centers in the brain. So, even if you are just watching someone dance, your brain experiences pleasure in the sensory and motor areas as if you are cutting the rug yourself.
Ballet, a long-revered form of dance, stirs these pleasure centers and encourages people to feel the emotion of the dance even when they’re not part of the choreography. In essence, dance makes us more open to our feelings and those of others.
If you’re looking to make such connections and share a cultural experience with your significant other, a night at the ballet could be just what Cupid ordered. Thanks to its variety of inspiring performances in Seattle and tour destinations across the globe, Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) can deliver the perfect venue for your next romantic, soul-stirring date.
One of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States, Pacific Northwest Ballet is a company of nearly 50 professional dancers who perform more than 100 full-length and mixed repertory ballets each year.
Not only does PNB present artistically stunning performances, but the company is also committed to educating ballet novices and enthusiasts alike on the nuances of this refined dancing style.
Gary D. Tucker, PNB’s Media Relations Manager, told us each season brings new performances and innovative choreography.
“We do six shows in the season in addition to ‘The Nutcracker,’” he said. “Each of those shows runs seven to 10 performances over a two-week period.”
This means every month or two there’s a new offering to enjoy with a date.
Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, where PNB holds its performances, is not only structurally stunning, but it also makes for a perfect date night with an on-site restaurant, Prelude, and bars to enjoy pre- and postshow drinks.
“We’re located in Seattle Center, so you can park once and go anywhere to eat on campus,” Gary said. “It’s a great gathering place for a night out.”
Gary told us “Swan Lake” is one of the most popular performances among patrons and makes for the quintessential romantic date night.
“‘Swan Lake’ is the classic ballet,” he said. “It’s the most recognized ballet in the world. It’s a big event. People get really dressed up and have champagne at intermission.”
If you’re looking to impress a date and up your date game from pizza and Netflix, this would be the way to do it. However, be advised that “Swan Lake” is three hours long, so beginners may want to try something a little shorter at first if they aren’t sure how they feel about ballet.
PNB offers an array of different ballets in two different formats, so there’s something for everyone — from the ballet enthusiast to the ballet novice.
“Our season is a combination of story ballet, like ‘Swan Lake’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and mixed reps,” Gary said. “Mixed reps are a shorts program like how you might see them in a movie theater. It’s a variety pack. I think mixed reps are a great way to get into ballet. It’s a smaller time commitment.”
One of these, “Love and Ballet,” features four ballets all focused on the many facets of love and are more contemporary in nature. Some may be familiar with Benjamin Millepied’s choreography in the movie “Black Swan.” In “Love and Ballet,” he choreographs “Appassionata,” a piece performed by three couples. Another familiar contributor to “Love and Ballet,” American-songwriter Sufjan Stevens is featured in Justin Peck’s “Year of the Rabbit” set to Steven’s song cycle, “Enjoy Your Rabbit.” These performances deliver a contemporary take on classical style and offer the perfect entry point into the techniques of modern dance.
Ballet is often depicted as the art form of kings, socialites, and highbrow artsy folk. As a result, ballet is often seen as expensive and intimidating. However, Pacific Northwest Ballet aims to change that view. Ballet is actually a very welcoming art and is often quite affordable. PNB started a program, The Pointe, to make ballet accessible to all.
“The Pointe is for young adults, 20 to 40 years old, who traditionally don’t subscribe,” Gary said. “It’s an introduction to the ballet. We send out an offer to them once per week; sometimes it’s a discounted rate or a two-for-one deal or an offer to a place in town. It’s sort of an easy entry into the ballet for people who don’t have a history of going to the ballet.”
PNB also hosts pre- and post-performance events with its audience education manager for all ticket holders.
“They talk about what is about to be on stage and discuss the history, backstory, what it means, and things to look for,” Gary said. “We also hold a post-show Q&A with the artistic director and one or two company dancers. You can ask them any range of questions about the show or ballet in general.”
These efforts go a long way to make ballet feel more inclusive and help novices develop an interest and understanding of ballet. It’s also a great way to bond with your date over a culturally-rich experience.
Pacific Northwest Ballet works hard to bring dance to others in the community, namely schoolchildren. PNB knows inspiring a love of ballet and dance early on will result in a greater respect for the arts.
“Dance Chance auditions kids in underserved schools. It finds kids with the talent but not the means to be dancers,” Gary said. “It gives them a full scholarship to take classes, they get clothes, they get transportation, and it’s part of their school day.”
PNB also has a program called Discover Dance that visits schools in the local area. Staff work with teachers to create curriculum-based dance classes for all kids. The students then create a dance and, twice a year, come to perform at PNB’s auditorium. One fifth grader talked about the benefits of the experience saying, “Before I had major stage fright. But after I performed in front of 2,000 people, and I knew I could do anything.”
Each year, PNB reaches over 21,000 people in the community through its in-school programming efforts, studio visits, matinees, and community partnerships. It’s clear the dance company is making a big difference.
“We produce an event called Sculptured Dance,” Gary said. “The dancers perform around the pieces of art at the Olympic Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle. It’s a really cool setting, and it’s free. It’s outside in a park, and there are food trucks there, too. It’s really popular and a fun event for audiences to go to.”
As the 2017-2018 season has only just begun, there are many inspired, evocative performances to enjoy with your sweetheart. Get dressed up, grab a glass of bubbly, and enjoy strengthening your connection at the ballet.