Those of us in NYC were lucky enough to catch Pacific Northwest Ballet in performance last week. I'm totally jealous of Seattle audiences right now, because this company is amazing!
I'm still recovering from the brilliant dancing in on the contemporary program, which included David Dawson's A Million Kisses to My Skin, William Forsythe's The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude and Crystal Pite's Emergence. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see the company's all Balanchine program, which included Prodigal Son, Square Dance and Stravinsky Violin Concerto.
As usual, technology has the answer to my sorrows. This video of Leta Biasucci and Benjamin Griffiths makes you feel like you're standing in the wings during their performance of Square Dance. And what's even more mesmerizing than their stellar technique? The fact that they're obviously having an amazing time dancing together.
Ah, late summer. When family vacations make a mockery of your last few days of freedom. When every moment you share at the pool with your friends feels tinged with tragedy because you'll soon be stuck in a classroom. When you'd settle for endless stifling humidity if it meant never hearing your alarm go off at 6am, ever again.
Are you stressed yet? Well, you shouldn't be. Back-to-school doesn't have to be #theworst—think of all the ways you'll improve as a dancer this year! In honor of a little Friday zen chillout/back-to-school de-stressor, check out these two videos produced by Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Gabrielle and Jimena are two students who attended the PNB summer program this year. In true PNB fashion, the videos are dreamy and inspiring, and the dancers are beyond gorgeous.
Are you relaxed yet? Good.
Körbes in Swan Lake (photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Carla Körbes’ Words of Wisdom
After an illustrious career at Pacific Northwest Ballet, ballerina Carla Körbes is leaving the company this June. But as sad as it is to say goodbye, the happy news is Körbes, who’s been a PNB principal since 2006, isn’t hanging up her pointe shoes yet. In fact, she’ll be performing as the artist in residence at Colorado’s Vail International Dance Festival next month.
Originally from Brazil, Körbes moved to the U.S. in the 1990s to study at the School of American Ballet in NYC. She became a New York City Ballet apprentice in 1999 and quickly joined the main company. Though she was promoted to soloist at NYCB in 2005, she moved across the country soon after to join PNB. Ten years later, on the eve of her retirement, Dance Spirit asked Körbes to reflect on what she wishes she’d known when she was starting out.
Taking time for self-praise makes you a better artist. Being self-critical perfectionists makes us better dancers. But if we only see ourselves in a negative way, our artistry will suffer. It’s crucial to recognize your talents and how far you’ve come.
There’s always more room for discovery. I grew up with very classical training, and until I was 14, I was only aware of story ballets. But at 15, when I moved to NYC and discovered Balanchine, my whole world turned upside-down. And once I joined PNB, my world got even larger as I was exposed to William Forsythe and Nacho Duato’s work. Recently, I was blown away by a Crystal Pite piece. I’ve been a dancer my entire life, and I still feel there’s so much to explore in the dance world.
Receiving criticism from teachers or ballet masters doesn’t mean you’re failing. Harsh words are sometimes meant as encouragement. But early in my career, I often took my director’s critiques too personally. I went from getting a job and being on top of the world to feeling insecure and ashamed of any weakness. Learn to use criticism as a constructive tool—it’ll help you stay positive and continue to work hard and improve. Otherwise, you’ll end up shutting down and stunting your growth as an artist.
Three other ballerinas are also taking their final bows: American Ballet Theatre principals Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent and Xiomara Reyes are retiring at the end of this season, too.
Paloma Herrera, who joined ABT’s corps de ballet in 1991, will give her final performance
as the title role in Giselle on May 27 (matinee).
Julie Kent, who joined ABT as an apprentice in 1985 and is the longest-standing ABT dancer in history, will give her farewell performance as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet on June 20.
Xiomara Reyes, who joined ABT as a soloist in 2001, will give her final performance on May 27 as Giselle.
The marketing department at Pacific Northwest Ballet has been going absolutely nuts, posting tons of photos of the company during their latest run of Swan Lake. And of course, we love it. Keep 'em coming, folks.
With beloved ballerina Carla Körbes retiring at the end of the season, this is the last Swan Lake she'll ever dance with the company. And I don't think I'm wrong when I say that everyone wants her perfection to last forever. I mean, just LOOK at this poster!
Carla Körbes as Odette in Kent Stowell's production of Swan Lake
So, it's no surprise that this run of Swan Lake is extra special. But while Körbes might be the epitome of white swan elegance, there are other members of the company ready to help make the ballet shine. I love Swan Lake because the corps, soloists and principals all have important, memorable roles.
The corps de ballet forms the backbone of every classical ballet (and many neo-classical ones too), and the flock of white swans is one of the reasons that Swan Lake is everyone's favorite.
PNB dancers in rehearsal (photo by Lindsay Thomas)
PNB's Swan Lake tutus were designed by Paul Tazewell. (Photo by Angela Sterling)
And as much as we love the corps, we also live for those iconic Odette/Odile moments. PNB principal Lesley Rausch has that dichotomy dialed.
The Icon (Lesley Rausch, photo by Angela Sterling)
The Temptress (Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold, photo by Angela Sterling)
The heartbreak (Lesley Rausch & Batkhurel Bold, photo by Angela Sterling)
And there you have it. #swanlake4life
In a battle of East Coast vs. West Coast, who reigns supreme? For many Americans, the answer to this question came on February 1, when the New England Patriots (#teameast) defeated the Seattle Seahawks (#teamwest) in Superbowl XLIX. But the dancers among us were not so sure.
Earlier this week, we raved about Pacific Northwest Ballet's triumphant manège to Boston, the outcome of a Superbowl bet with Boston Ballet. PNB artistic director Peter Boal laid down the smack talk, claiming his dancers' superiority in all things feet, turns and jumps. He had us wondering: Is West Coast really the best coast? The plot thickens...
Bostonians are nothing if not tough (I mean, what other city could handle the crazy winter they've been having?), and Boston Ballet didn't let PNB have the last word. A handful of BB dancers filmed themselves dancing to same song (Dropkick Murphys' "I'm Shipping Up to Boston"). There's no smack talk and no fancy graphics. It's just one take of raw Bostonian awesomeness.
We're calling a tie here, folks. 'Tis the season of love, after all, and we LOVE BB and PNB.
For dancers who dream of perfect feet, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Lesley Rausch may be the ultimate poster girl. But it’s not just those daggers that set this principal dancer apart. Rausch’s pristine technique (carried by mile-long legs) and luxurious port de bras take her from classical roles, like Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, to the more contemporary, like Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort.
At age 15 (photo courtesy Lesley Rausch)
Rausch grew up in Columbus, OH, and trained at Columbus Youth Ballet and PNB School before joining PNB’s corps in 2001. She was made a soloist in 2007, and promoted to principal four years later. This month, you can see Rausch in George Balanchine’s Jewels. —Jenny Dalzell
Dear Teen Lesley,
Don’t give up when people say you are too weak. Explore how your body changes with Pilates, physical therapy exercises, gym workouts, yoga and more. You’ll figure out what works for you—trust your intuition. Learning how to coordinate your body will be an ongoing process that will continue far into your career. But becoming a smarter and more efficient dancer will ultimately help you overcome the challenges that come with being hyper-mobile.
Rausch in costume for Kent Stowell's Firebird (photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Trust yourself, and know that you won’t always be perfect. Don’t be embarrassed to try something that may not work the first time—especially when it comes to acting, or difficult steps. Some of the movements you think you’ll never be able to do just require a lot of practice. And with acting, the more you allow yourself to be vulnerable, the more realistic your portrayal will be.
Remember the biggest challenges you face will be the moments that shape you the most. Acknowledge the difficulty, but know you’re strong—stronger than you realize. Try to maintain a sense of humor. Your weaknesses will become your greatest strengths, and the hard times will provide you with material to draw on artistically. You already have so many of the skills you need to be successful. Stay true to yourself, and enjoy the journey.
Your Somewhat Wiser Self,
Rachel Foster in Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance. By Angela Sterling
Rachel Foster is the image of power and athleticism. The Pacific Northwest Ballet principal excels at both the intricacy of contemporary works and the precision of George Balanchine’s neoclassical choreography. She trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and attended summer courses at the School of American Ballet and San Francisco Ballet School before joining Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1998 and then the PNB corps in 2002. In 2009, Dance Magazine featured Foster as one of its “25 to Watch,” and the magazine had it right: Foster, who’d been promoted to soloist in 2008, was made a principal in 2011. Her time in the company also brought her luck in love, and she’s now married to Le Yin, a former PNB principal dancer who’s on faculty at the PNB School. Catch Foster this month in PNB’s “All Premiere” program, November 2–11, and read on for The Dirt.
What did you want to be when you were a teen? It's always been my dream to dance and become a professional ballet dancer. When I was a teenager, my parents would drive me 2 hours to ballet class and 2 hours home every day.
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Alina Cojucaru
Biggest guilty pleasure: Sleeping in. I have a dog named Ceasar who loves his early morning walks.
Favorite food: My husband's wonderful Chinese cooking. Everything else tastes so bland in comparison.
What's your biggest pet peave? Littering
One thing most people don't know about you: I'm really messy at the studio, but at home I'm a neat freak. I love to clean and organize.
If you weren't a dancer, what would you be? I love animals. I could see myself as a veterinarian.
One thing you can't live without: A telephone call to or from my mom every day.
Who is your dance crush? My husband. I still have a dance crush on him.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? My husband and I talk frequently about opening our own ballet studio.
Want to know what’s really going on with the dancers of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet? Principal Noelani Pantastico (remember her from the DS December 2005 cover?) is giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the company with the launch of a new website, PNB Unleashed. Pantastico got the idea for the site following the success of her own website, noelanipantastico.com. She enlisted her husband, Brady Hartley, and PNB corps members Lindsi Dec and Benjamin Griffiths to help her create a proposal, which the four then presented to PNB artistic director Peter Boal and the rest of the company. The finished product features exclusive photos and interviews with PNB dancers, an “Ask a Dancer” page filled with advice and tricks of the trade, company news and updates, “A Day in the Life of…” various PNB dancers, and more. Every ballet company should have this much info out there for its fans! Check it out at www.pnbunleashed.com.
Okay, maybe you won’t be earning your master’s degree any time soon, but it’s never too early to start thinking about it, right? Here’s a new program to keep on your radar: The University of California, San Diego, is launching a Master of Fine Arts in Dance Theatre. The goal is to cultivate choreographers interested in dance/theater and collaboration with artists in other disciplines, including visual arts and technology. Classes will begin fall 2008. For more: theatre.ucsd.edu/academics/graduateprograms/dancetheatre
Want a chance to study with top choreographers like Mia Michaels, Cris Judd and Tina Landon? How about the opportunity to win a scholarship to put toward college tuition or dance training at a prestigious program like the Joffrey Ballet School, Broadway Dance Center or Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago? The National Learning and Achievement Organization is launching a new scholarship program, ASPIRE, designed to help teen dancers get the training they need to succeed. So what’s the scoop? You attend one of ASPIRE’s workshops, during which you learn choreography and audition for scholarships. On the faculty and scholarship panel: professional choreographers and dancers, as well as professors from college dance departments. In its inaugural year, ASPIRE will be holding scholarship workshops in Cedar Rapids, IA (February 29–March 1, register by January 30); Des Moines, IA (March 28-30, register by February 27); and Iowa City, IA (June 26-29, register by May 27). For more: aspiredancecompetition.com