Peter Boal coaching PNB dancers in Opus 19/The Dreamer. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of PNB

In a windowless subterranean studio under the New York State Theater, I pulled back an imaginary arrow and let it fly.

"Good!" said ballet master Tommy Abbott. "I think you're ready. Tomorrow you rehearse with Mr. Robbins."

I was slated to play Cupid in Jerome Robbins' compilation of fairy tales called Mother Goose. It was a role given to the tiniest boy who could follow directions at the School of American Ballet. In 1976, that was me.

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Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of PNB

For many dancers, performing in some version of The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition—albeit an inescapable, monthlong one that can quickly grow tedious. But for Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Noelani Pantastico, it's a welcome return to her roots. After an 11-year career with PNB, where she annually performed Kent Stowell and Maurice Sendak's fantastical adaptation, she left to join Les Ballets de Monte Carlo—a company with no classical Nutcracker. "I did miss it," she admits. When she returned to PNB last fall, seven years later, the company had just traded the Stowell/Sendak production for George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Pantastico was pleasantly surprised to discover her muscle memory kicked in—from her training days at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, which also performs the Balanchine version. "I remembered things from when I was a teenager," she says. "I was coached by Darla Hoover, and it's ingrained in the body." At the end of last month, Pantastico began her PNB Nutcracker run, alternating among leading roles like the Sugar Plum Fairy, Dewdrop and Marzipan.

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Körbes with Karel Cruz in one of her final rehearsals at PNB

The Los Angeles dance scene’s meteoric rise continues, with another major gain for the Golden Coast: the superlative Carla Körbes. We hadn’t finished drying our eyes following her retirement from Pacific Northwest Ballet earlier this month, when the announcement came she’d been appointed associate artistic director of L.A. Dance Project. While founding artistic director Benjamin Millepied is overseas running Paris Opéra Ballet, Körbes will be on-site, overseeing programming, casting and rehearsals.

She joins LADP managing director James Fayette, also associate director of the freshly launched Colburn Dance Academy, which trains pre-professional ballet students under the leadership of Fayette's wife, retired New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer. (More on this in our July issue.)

And Körbes’ news comes on the heels of the announcement that American Ballet Theatre’s executive director Rachel S. Moore is also heading west as the new president and CEO of L.A.’s Music Center.

The migration continues! We can’t wait to see what Körbes achieves in her new role.

Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy of photographer

Last Saturday, Carla Körbes gave her final Swan Lake performance. The Pacific Northwest Ballet principal will retire at the end of the season, and we’re sure we speak for all ballet fans when we say NOOOOO! Fortunately, photographer Lindsay Thomas captured Körbes’ last rehearsal process for the ballet—from every angle—in a photo essay called Carla Körbes: Swan Song, published on tumblr. Here are a few of our favorites.

 

 

 

With Karel Cruz

 

 

 

 

Achieving this kind of in-sync port de bras is no easy feat!

To confirm why a great corps makes a great ballet, look no further than this video from Pacific Northwest Ballet. The company’s Swan Lake opened last weekend, starring the stunning Carla Körbes in her final season before retirement. And as impossible as it is to take your eyes off of Körbes when she’s dancing, we were totally mesmerized by this aerial view of her fellow swans. This is why it’s worth it to painstakingly polish spacing and lines before recital.

Check out “Stunning Spacing” for advice on setting formations and helping dancers create clean circles, diagonals and other tricky shapes.

A screen capture from Heatscape

Vogue recently spotlighted this film, which previews Justin Peck's new work, Heatscape, to be premiered by Miami City Ballet at end of the month. In the video, dancers—casual in jeans and Keds—explore the city's mural-covered Wynwood Walls, which inspired the ballet.

If you like that, be sure you've seen the music video for "Man On Fire" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, directed by Ballet 422's Jody Lee Lipes. In the uplifting final scene, New York City Ballet dancers perform in a West Side Story–esque alley on a dusty stage of gravel and sand.

And for a final ballet-in-streetwear favorite,  who could forget the mysteriously captivating Cylindrical Shadows, featuring choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet? We guarantee you'll feel like you've been transported to another world.

Ahhhh. Have a relaxing Wednesday evening, everyone.

And you thought you’d never see ballet to Celtic punk music...

PNB artistic director Peter Boal

As we’ve discussed, one of the things we enjoy most about Super Bowl Sunday is watching the teams’ hometown dance companies get in on the competition. This year, before the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots faced off in Super Bowl XLIX, Pacific Northwest Ballet posed a challenge to Boston Ballet on social media: the losing team’s resident ballet company had to perform a dance to an iconic song of the winning city.

Showing off his dancers' athleticism...

The results are better than we could have hoped, especially considering Boston Ballet’s social media fans chose “Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys (a very loud, very non-ballet Massachusetts-based Celtic punk band, if you are not familiar). PNB dancers rose to the occasion, however, donning Seahawks gear (minus one rogue Packers fan) and showing off their skills—plus a little smack talk—to fulfill their end of the bargain. The football score may have said otherwise, but this definitely makes Seattle winners in our eyes.

Original Diamonds cavalier Jacques d'Amboise shows PNB soloist Jerome Tisserand how to properly woo a lady onstage.

To polish Pacific Northwest Ballet’s staging of Balanchine’s timeless Jewels (1967), artistic director Peter Boal called in the experts. He invited the very first interpreters of lead roles in the ballet to offer their guidance to his cast. Once stars of the New York City Ballet stage, these icons continue to shape the dance world as renowned educators and directors. Fortunately, cameras caught clips of them in action during their coaching sessions in Seattle. Jacques d'Amboise, who founded the National Dance Institute, Violette Verdy, who teaches ballet at Indiana University, and longtime Miami City Ballet director Edward Villella offered inspirational nuggets of wisdom for performing the pieces they helped define more than 40 years ago.

When d'Amboise mentors Diamonds’ principals, he demonstrates why less is more and doesn't miss an opportunity to smooch a beautiful woman's (Lesley Rausch) hand:

For Emeralds, the charming Verdy discusses dancers’ motivation and the origin of movements (plus we get to see a nice clip of the beautiful Carla Körbes in motion!):

During his coaching session on Rubies, Villella stresses the importance of making sure the movement expresses Balanchine's signature style:

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