PNB’s Jerome Robbins Festival takes the form of two different, alternating repertory programs. If you had to pick just one, which should it be?

Share story

PNB’s Jerome Robbins Festival takes the form of two different, alternating repertory programs, and in an ideal world ballet fans would go to both. (PNB is making this just a bit easier by offering a 50 percent off deal for the second rep, to those who buy full-priced tickets for the first.) But if you can pick just one, which would it be?

You won’t go wrong either way, but let me offer this: if you’ve never seen “Dances at a Gathering,” pick Program B. “Dances,” the longest piece in the festival, is a work of exquisite subtlety that leaves its watchers transfixed and transformed (when I last saw it, I remember audible sighs of delight from the audience throughout), and it’s generally recognized as Robbins’ ballet masterpiece. Teamed with his giggly comic ballet “The Concert,” the program will nicely convey the breadth of Robbins’ work.

If you’re a PNB regular who’s seen all of the company’s Robbins repertory, pick Program A. “Other Dances,” a pas de deux set to Chopin (it’s sort of a companion piece, or postscript, to “Dances at a Gathering”), was originally created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova in 1976, and makes its PNB debut in this festival. Program A also includes two romance-themed Robbins works that we haven’t seen here in a few years: the elegant “In the Night” (another work inspired by Chopin’s music), and the brief, dreamlike love story “Afternoon of a Faun.” “West Side Story Suite,” performed here more recently but always rousing, rounds out the program

Both programs will include “Circus Polka,” a ballet for a ringmaster and 48 students from the PNB School. Created by Robbins for a 1972 New York City Ballet tribute to composer Igor Stravinsky, it originally ended with the young dancers forming the initials “I.S.” This time, they’ll be spelling out “J.R.”


Jerome Robbins Festival, at Pacific Northwest Ballet from Sept. 21-29, alternating between Program A (“In the Night,” “West Side Story Suite,” “Afternoon of a Faun,” “Other Dances,” “Circus Polka”) and Program B (“Circus Polka,” “The Concert,” “Dances at a Gathering”); Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; $30-$189; 206-441-2424 or