pnb’s swan lake: apprentice jumps into jester role

Kyle Davis, PNB apprentice
Imagine an apprentice…not yet 20 years old…in a company full of strong male dancers…being asked to take on the Jester in Swan Lake.

It sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s not: Kyle Davis made his debut in this major role Thursday night. He made princely work of it, bringing his light, lifted, contained approach to each step.

Devoting much of his energy to giving a clean performance, Davis still had a little left over to give to acting. It will be interesting to see how he grows in this respect as he has more opportunities. In a role like this, the generosity of fellow company members really comes into play. The Jester needs people to respond to him, people to play off of, people to make eye contact with. It was good to see some of the older company members supporting him in that way.

Kyle Davis (far left, in blue) and fellow Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers
in Jerome Robbins’
West Side Story Suite (photo © Angela Sterling)
Davis has danced other ballets here. In addition to joining the corps onstage, he danced in the Mark Morris ballet, A Garden, in November. (Kind of a gimme: the style of that Baroque chamber dance suited this young man’s clean, crisp delivery perfectly.) The Nutcracker 2008 cast list had Davis down for more than 20 performances in solo/small-group roles such as Sword-Dance Doll, Nutcracker, and Commedia. And he had solo bits in West Side Story Suite as well. (Actually, there the acting was fully engaging. Yes, it’s going to be exciting to watch Davis take that into longer roles.) That’s a lot of spotlight for an apprentice. He has shown himself worthy of it.

Exciting as it was to see what Davis could do, I couldn’t help but feel sad that good dancers in the ranks above him had gotten passed over for this plum role. That’s part of the dance world, though—and maybe part of the regular world too. At any rate, I was glad to be there to see him on Thursday night!

Davis is scheduled to dance the Jester again on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. He shares the role with Benjamin Griffiths (who dances the role with personable power) and Jonathan Porretta (fireworks and panache and strong acting skills).

PS: I just got back from Backstage Pass’s post-performance meet-and-drink event at 10 Mercer. (Always a fun time.) The word is that Davis stepped in for Porretta; apparently he won more than a few fans tonight as well.