PNB’s 40th Anniversary Season Promises Premieres, Audience Favorites

Written by Kristen Legg

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Seth Orza and Maria Chapman
with company dancers in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella.
PNB presents the classic story ballet September 21 – 30, 2012.
Photo © Angela Sterling.
A quick flip through any Dance Magazineprinted in the last 2 years will prove that PNB is moving up. Images of the company performing a range of works highlight the diversity and talent of the dancers here in Seattle. Reviews mention “adventurous programming” and “gusto and lyricism.” The company’s 40th Anniversary Season line-up proves that PNB is here in a big way.

The season opens this Friday, September 21, with former company director Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, first seen in 1994. In this retelling, Cinderella’s mother and the Fairy Godmother are portrayed by the same dancer, making it clear that “the love Cinderella experienced as a child remains with her into adulthood—a deep store of wisdom and hope to guide her towards future happiness.” The casting for the first weekend was recently posted, with few surprises. Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz will take the stage as Cinderella and her Prince on opening night, with Maria Chapman and Seth Orza and Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold rounding out the bulk of the run. Two unique castings take place on September 29 when Rachel Foster partners with newly promoted soloist Jerome Tisserand in the afternoon and Kaori Nakamura (recently “dumped” by her regular partner Lucien Postlewaite) meets her new prince, Jonathan Porretta, in the evening.

One of the most talked about presentations of the season is the All Premiere program, November 2–11, 2012. “A four-pack of world premieres underscores the commitment to dance innovation and encouragement of emerging choreographers that has been central to PNB’s mission from its inception.” This performance will feature a world premiere by Mark Morris, whose company will also be in town in early October at On the Boards. Morris has been secretive about his work for PNB, but it is known that it will be a split cast, using six men and six women. Sharing the bill with this dance icon are three up-and-coming choreographers, all of whom are also company members. Soloist Kiyon Gaines will present his second mainstage work; Andrew Bartee and Margaret Mullin, both members of the corps de ballet, are creating world premieres for the event.

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist James Moore and principal dancer Kaori Nakamura 

in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette. 

 Photo © Angela Sterling.

The rest of the season is chock-full of audience favorites, ensuring full houses and ample support. The company will present two more full-length ballets with Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette (February 1–10) and Stowell’s Swan Lake (April 12–21). Roméo et Juliette was last seen in full in 2008, although fans will remember the tearful performance given by Nakamura and Postlewaite at last year’s Season Encore. This seemed like a fitting farewell, as Postlewaite has now left PNB to dance with Maillot at Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. However, Postlewaite is slated to appear in the title role, as is Noelani Pantastico (also now at Monte-Carlo), for one night only. Which night(s) they will perform has not yet been announced.

Between these two tragic love stories is the company’s Modern Masterpieces program, which runs March 15–24 and features three great works and one world premiere. George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco is a classic, linear work—perfect for PNB. Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, last performed by PNB in 2009, is one of Ulysses Dove’s greatest works and a Seattle favorite. With music by Philip Glass, Twyla Tharp’s energetic In the Upper Roomwill round out the evening of restaged works. PNB’s Ballet Master, Paul Gibson, will create a world premiere, which is currently looking to be made up of a cast of nine dancers: a couple, a trio, and a corps of four men. This is Gibson’s fifth mainstage work on the company, which include The Piano Dance and Sense of Doubt, both similarly focused on small group work.

The season will wrap up with the Director’s Choice program, May 31–June 9. A tribute to Balanchine, whose works were vital in the growth of the company over the years, this performance will feature Agon and a full-length performance of Jewels. Also on the bill is a much-anticipated world premiere from Christopher Wheeldon.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers (l-r) Maria Chapman, Benjamin Griffiths,
and Lesley Rausch in Agon, choreographed by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust.
 Photo © Angela Sterling.
Fans of the company will be excited to hear of the celebrity guest appearances this year. In addition to Pantastico and Postlewaite in Roméo et Juliette, Patricia Barker is scheduled to be the Ringmaster in the Circus Polka of Cinderella on opening night, and Marisa Albee will perform as one of the Stepsisters in many of the Cinderellashowings, as well. Louise Nadeau, who retired in 2009, will return as the Queen in Swan Lake. PNB veteran Ariana Lallone will also grace the stage again, this time as the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, featuring students from the PNBSchool.

PNB has a number of extra performances, some around town and many on tour. On August 30, 2012, PNB presented a multi-media celebration, Celebrate Seattle, celebrating PNB’s 40th Anniversary and SeattleCenter’s 50th Anniversary. Company members recently visited Italy for the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds. Photos can be seen here. Earlier this month, Chapman, Körbes, Orza, Rausch, Benjamin Griffiths, and Matthew Renko performed excerpts from the up-coming season at the GuggenheimMuseum’s Works & Process event. Here, Chapman, Rausch, and Griffiths performed the pas de trios from Agon. For more information on this performance, click here. The company will also tour to Las Vegas, Nevada, and New Yorklater this season.

Overall, what is most noticeable in PNB’s 40th Anniversary Season, is the foundation Stowell created and the many things Artistic Director Peter Boal has given to the company. Stowell’s works presented this season allow the dancers’ technique and grace shine, while offering audiences new looks at long told stories. Many of the contemporary works on the program were brought in by Boal, who focused on updating and diversifying the repertory when he became director.

Tickets may be purchase through the PNB Box Office Monday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm (

301 Mercer Street, Seattle

; 206-441-2424) or online at pnb.org. The company also has many great deals and in-depth news posted to their Facebook page.