Pacific Northwest Ballet’s conductor, Emil de Cou, talked to The SunBreak:
“What I love about ballet is the collaboration between the dancers and the music. The conductor and the company members have to work together extremely closely. I have to learn the steps (that they are dancing), but it’s most important to get to know the people dancing. It’s so personal. Singers use part of their bodies as their instrument, but in dance, the entire body is the instrument. The conductor holds a great deal of power. To be a good collaborator, the dancers have to trust you implicitly to look out for their interests; to help them if they are in trouble, to support them in their exuberance. It’s the intermingling that takes time.”
On the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Orchestra
“It’s the best ballet orchestra in the country. I’ve conducted all the ballet orchestras. There’s a love and commitment, a focus and care to what the PNB players do, and they take great pride in it. Stewart (Kershaw, previous PNB conductor) did great work with this orchestra. It’s a happy family, which was so before I got here. This is an orchestra which has grown together.
“This is one of the happpiest places I’ve worked. People should realize this is such a wonderful company. This is not an accident. There’s been not just hard work, but good work. Ballet can be a harsh environment, with competitiveness and a lack of kindness. David (Brown, executive director) and Peter (Boal, artistic director) treat everyone well, and with respect. People laugh, they enjoy what they are doing. This isn’t so everywhere. I’ve worked places where the atmosphere is humorless. The first thing I noticed here was that people are allowed to laugh.”
“I want to change the décor of my office to a dancers’ art gallery. I have so much respect and love for them, what they sacrifice to do this. They are smart, hard-working people and I want to give them as much as I can.”
On final rehearsals with the orchestra
“They’ve had hours and weeks of piano rehearsals, but when they hear the orchestra it has to have an impact. The piano is a percussion instrument and suddenly they have an orchestra with long singing phrases. It’s such a short time for them to hear and adjust to the sound of the orchestra, to dance to the color of the sound. It gives them the license to be in the music for a longer time.”