Weekend Highlights

Published April 14, 2011
Going Places

A Parent’s Review: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at PNB

by Ruth Schubert
seattle child article photo
Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Kiyon Gaines and principal dancer Carrie Imler in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Photo © Angela Sterling

This isn’t your typical fairy tale ballet. Yes, many of the classic elements are there: fairies, lush sets and costume, fairies, a king and a queen, fairies. But the narrative line of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream is tough to follow in the CliffsNotes version, much less in a music and dance version.

Not that it really matters. There are enough funny moments with the mischief-making Puck and the mixed-up enchanted lovers, and enough balletic beauty to hold most kids’ attention. It’s just that the focus here is much more on the dance, George Balanchine’s lovely choreography and Felix Mendelssohn’s gorgeous music.

If you have a child who needs the recognizable story of, say, Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, to hold his or her attention, A Midsummer’s Night Dream is probably not for you. But if you have a child who can appreciate sheer beauty, impish comedy and 24 young dancers flitting about as bugs, you’re in for a treat. And at 2 hours long, this is one of the shorter fairy tale ballets, which is a plus for younger kids.

Let me try to give you the story in a nutshell: The King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania, get in a fight, prompting Oberon to order his minion Puck to enchant the Queen so that she’ll fall in love with whomever she first sees when she wakes up and opens her eyes. Unable to resist using the enchantment on others, Oberon and Puck start enchanting four innocent humans who are running through the forest until all of the wrong people are in love with all of the wrong people. When Titania awakes, she falls in love with a peasant who Puck has turned into an ass.  All’s well that ends well, though. Everybody gets enchanted back to be in love with the right partner, The Duke and Hippolyta enter (Honestly, I have no idea how they fit into the story, but no matter) and Act II opens with a triple wedding to strains of Mendelssohn’s famous Wedding March.

One of the most beautiful dances I have ever seen is the pas de deux in the Second Act, a floating and ethereal dance set to the exquisite Symphony No. 9 for Strings. It was my music geek husband who fiddled with his iPhone and told me that Balanchine chose that piece of music to insert in the ballet. It is worth the price of admission.

A couple of pointers for families attending the ballet:

  • The matinee performances are preceded by an hour’s worth of special activities for kids, including crafts and dance lessons. If you want to participate, get there early – at least half an hour before the performance.
  • The $27 seats are just fine. I like the Dress Circle as much as the next guy, and I have enjoyed every moment I’ve spent in great seats at McCaw Hall. But I have also sat up in the back of the second tier when that’s what I could afford and could see perfectly well.
  • Order treats for intermission before the show starts. The lines weren’t as long at A Midsummer Night’s Dream as they get at the Nutcracker, but we were really glad to have our food and beverages waiting out on a table for us when intermission started. My kids actually had time to eat the food.

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If You Go...

Where: McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street, Seattle.

When: Thursday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 15 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 17 at 1 p.m. Matinees include crafts, dance classes and other activities.

Admission: $27 to $165.

Contact: PNB Box Office, 206-441-2424; tickets@pnb.org; www.pnb.org.