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Being a Late Bloomer Didn't Stop Pacific Northwest Ballet's Lindsi Dec From Realizing Her Dreams

Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of PNB

For 16 years, Pacific Northwest Ballet audiences had the unique privilege of watching real-life couple Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz perform together. At 5'9" and 6'4", the two make a striking pair. They met as corps members, married in 2009 and welcomed their first child, Koan, in January 2016. In June 2018, Cruz took his final bow and transitioned into a new role as coach and mentor to private students. Since then, Dec has continued to dazzle on her own as a PNB principal.

A late bloomer, Dec began her dance training at a competition studio in Clinton, Maryland. "I had to take a general ballet class in order to do everything else, but I hated it," she says. That changed when her mother took her to see Miami City Ballet at age 14. She switched her mind-set and began training at The Washington School of Ballet. "I was always behind because I started late," she says. "Even when I was a Professional Division student at PNB, they were hesitant with me because I was so weak. I had a growth spurt in high school that made me look like Bambi in pointe shoes. But I had a great group of teachers who worked with me and believed in me. It gave me the work ethic I have today."

Dec performs with Pacific Northwest Ballet in The Sleeping Beauty February 1–10, at McCaw Hall in Seattle.

A Don Quixote love story...

"Karel and I got into the corps the same year. We were fourth-cast together in one of the ballets and decided we needed to do something with ourselves rather than just stand in the back of the studio. I had always loved Don Quixote, so we taught ourselves the pas in the back studio. Patricia Barker saw us do it once and set up a guesting for us in the Tri-Cities. In 2015 we were finally cast together in the lead roles in Don Quixote, and it was so neat to have come full circle and do it together. When we were onstage bowing, I thought, 'Nothing will ever get better than this.' When Karel retired, we ended the gala with the same pas. I came out and he sobbed onstage. I'm getting emotional just talking about it."

On company life after Cruz...

"I didn't think it would hit me as hard as it did to come back to rehearsal without him. His presence was so calming. Some people think it's difficult to work with their spouse, but we've just always trusted each other and been kind and respectful. Even not having him here for breaks or lunch has been hard, because that was our routine all these years. We've just felt grateful to share our passion together onstage. It's hard not to have my rock with me anymore. He is here in different ways, but it's been a big empty void for me at work during this adjustment period."

On motherhood and ballet...

"Having a baby felt very freeing for me. As a ballet dancer, I've put a lot of pressure on myself. Then when I had Koan I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I have to keep this baby alive!' It's so much more pressure and responsibility, that now the stage is my chance to be free. I enjoy things so much more. I put my experience as a mom into some of my roles. I feel so grateful that I can do it, and that I can show my son that I fought for something I loved. I want him to do the same thing one day."

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