Nature on an Epic Scale: The Seasons’ Canon

Crystal Pite’s epic makes a welcome return to Pacific Northwest Ballet, through this Sunday. The Seasons’ Canon might be the most thrilling thing on stage.  

For digital season subscribers, the streaming version is available April 25-29.


Antici … …

… … … …

… … pation


‘The Seasons’ Canon’ performs at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Photo by Angela Sterling.


That’s all I could think as the pitch black lifted to a deep twilight, then flickered gently to an abstract light show on the backdrop; the only humans, just now barely visible, huddled in an arc in the back corner of the massive stage.

Acclaimed Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite is known for her epic works, but perhaps none is more epically epic than The Seasons’ Canon.  

Building on Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (remade by Max Richter and performed by PNB’s orchestra), Pite’s stage is one massive flow that buzzes and hums with energy. The whole thing looks like nature, captured and magnified in its minutiae and mystery. A quivering blade of grass; the buzz of awakening as the ground thaws; a tiny sprout heaving dirt aside to break through the ground … the anticipation and energy of new life is undeniable. An enormous pillar of dancers, arms in unison and then opposites, is a trunk sturdy and powerful. Heads popping up like little buds add a bit of comedy into the thrill. 

If a nature documentary were to capture the finest detail and then choreograph it on an army of precision dancers, that’s The Seasons’ Canon.

It’s not all good news. Just like the awakening brings swells of expectation, there’s a sense of loss as other sprouts don’t make it, choked out by the others; or, in the colder months, when the thrum goes silent and glittery bits of snow fall to a bleak ground. Nature is full of systems of remarkable synchronicity and efficiency; for better or worse, here they’re magnified on human bodies in perpetual rhythm. 

But dance is subjective, and even if you don’t get nature out of this one, you’re bound to see something remarkable. With a form that’s purposely amorphous most of the time, it’s hard to pick any standouts — though, in the opening night cast, Clara Ruf Maldonado carefully scaling towers of dancers, and Amanda Morgan’s precision blades cutting through the masses, certainly make a case. For most of the 30-minute piece, which goes by all too quickly, the stage is a flood of dancers, sometimes moving as one big mass, other times as individuals in tiny motions. Put on 54 dancers at once, all you can think is big

Pite manages to capture something that’s both large beyond comprehension and tiny beyond perception. In the epic and the minuscule, The Seasons’ Canon reminds us that underlying the everyday flow there’s often something extraordinary. 


The other two pieces on this slate don’t really mesh with the feel of Pite’s, but they have their moments. With vocal soloist Sarra S. Doyle providing the soundscape, Jessica Lang’s (very short) The Calling has an enormous skirt that’s more prominent on the stage than the dancer. It makes you marvel at principal dancer Dylan Wald managing to move in it at all, let alone so beautifully.

Fans of old hymns might have a soft spot for Twyla Tharp’s Sweet Fields, which starts off the night, with vocals from The Tudor Choir. It begins with a playful couple of scenes, followed by a series where two dancers lie impossibly still while they’re hoisted aloft and flipped under, before running on for another 10 minutes. 

As for the title work? Between its PNB debut in 2022 and this run, this marks the third time I’ve seen it. It’s still the most thrilling thing on stage.

The Seasons’ Canon runs through 4/21 at Pacific Northwest Ballet (in McCaw Hall, Seattle Center/Mercer side). Tickets ($45-$217) here. Pay-what-you-choose same-day rush tickets are offered for the Thursday night performance (4/18); see info here. Accessibility notes: main restrooms are gendered and multi-stall, with gender-neutral, single-stall restrooms available by most of them. Theatre and common areas are wheelchair accessible.

Run time: 1 hour 30 minutes with intermission 

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of