Lindsi Dec steps out from the “Rubies” corps, lowering her arms slowly, a flash in her eyes. And then she bursts into action, her 5' 9" worth of angular beauty unfurling into head-high extensions. Darting and slinking through Balanchine’s hip-jutting steps, the Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist is having the time of her life. And so is the audience.

Dec’s connection to this solo goes back a long way. She saw it for the first time as a teenager attending a Miami City Ballet performance at the Kennedy Center and promptly decided that ballet was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. It’s no surprise that Dec responded immediately to the role. The steps fit her long, leggy body and playful personality. If there’s one part that captures Dec’s energy, optimism and humor, says PNB artistic director Peter Boal, it’s the solo girl in “Rubies” from Balanchine’s Jewels.

When Boal came to PNB in 2005, he saw Dec as someone who could excel in tall-girl roles. Now 29, this neoclassical dancer has created a much richer onstage identity. The same enthusiasm that Boal loves in her “Rubies” performances has helped Dec prove she is also a modern dancer, a contemporary dancer, a lyrical dancer and—something that surprised even Dec herself when it happened this past June—a Romantic classical ballerina.

Dec started out learning everything from pompom to ballet at the Linda Natoli Studio of Dance in Clinton, Maryland. No one in her family danced—not her mother, her father, her older brother or her many aunts. But her mother signed her up for classes when Dec was 3. Why? “My mom told me, ‘Well, you were very introverted.’ ” Dec laughs. “What?! You can’t even stop me from talking!”

Dec’s family moved around Maryland and Virginia quite a bit, but dance class and competitions continued in spite of long commutes to one dance studio or another. In eighth grade, Dec dropped sports to focus on ballet. She then attended Houston Ballet’s summer intensive and got a glimpse of what a professional career would require. Her progress stopped short, however, when her high school refused to waive its after-school athletic requirements.

It cost her a year of ballet study before she found her way back to the studio. When she returned, she felt she’d fallen behind the other students. “I still feel that way,” she confesses. However, she pushed herself to catch up, and in the process developed a work ethic that has led to one breakthrough after another. 

Dec was 15 when seeing “Rubies” cemented her desire for a professional career. She enrolled in The Washington School of Ballet, a longtime dream of hers. When she suddenly sprouted to 5' 9" in her junior year, she worried whether ballet was still an option. A friend recommended that she study at Pacific Northwest Ballet, which was known for hiring tall dancers.

Dec followed through, and was accepted to their summer program. Despite certain technical weaknesses like modest turnout, Dec was offered a spot in PNB’s professional division when she graduated from high school. She had also won a scholarship to New York University, but decided to defer and see how her efforts in the professional division went. In 2001, PNB hired her as an apprentice; the next year she made it into the corps. PNB’s then co-artistic director Francia Russell recommended Dec spend time in front of a mirror looking for lines that would compensate for her lack of turnout. Dec still follows that  advice to this day—it’s one of the secrets of her success.

Dec stayed in the corps for seven years. In 2007, Boal told her, “To gain ground in this company, you need to excel at more lyrical movement. That softer, more adagio side would open doors for you.” Dec took Boal’s challenge. She actually had already been working on pas de deux after hours with another PNB dancer, Karel Cruz, a 6' 4" Cuban with bravura technique. It paid off. In 2008, PNB ballet master Paul Gibson cast the pair in a pas de deux in his Sense of Doubt—an adagio section. Gibson had long admired Dec’s ability to transform herself for a role, but he felt this time she went somewhere new emotionally. Boal agreed, noting that Dec and Cruz made the dancers’ interaction itself be a presence onstage. “He’s a perfect partner for her,” Boal thought.

Perfect partners onstage—and off. Dec and Cruz got married in 2009, the same year she was promoted to soloist. That fall, their luminous pas de deux in Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort electrified Seattle audiences. Yet the couple did not rely on their personal chemistry to create a dramatic performance. They watched a Nederlands Dans Theater video of the piece every night during rehearsals, says Dec, trying to figure out how to achieve a “liquid movement quality.” They nailed it.

Dec has blossomed with married life. “I couldn’t think of anything better for us,” she says. “We’re so supportive of each other.” While they enjoy salsa dancing, neither has consuming hobbies. They like hanging out with each other, with their pound kitties—Miso and Luna—and with their friends. It’s easy to see why. Even interviewing Dec is fun. She sees the humor in life and laughs readily.

Her positive personality follows her into the studio. “When you know you’re rehearsing Lindsi,” says Gibson, “you know it’s going to be a great rehearsal.” Choreographer and fellow PNB dancer Kiyon Gaines, who counts her as a close friend as well as a muse, agrees, noting that he feeds off her energy and eagerness. Gaines also praises Dec’s professionalism and her support of other company members. “She is a source of encouragement,” he says. “Everyone in the company has benefited from Lindsi’s kindness.”

Since her Petite Mort breakthrough, Dec has been cast often and widely. For the company’s new restaging of Giselle last June, acknowledging Dec’s evolution as a dancer, Boal cast her as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Dec thought at the time. None of her many fans would have doubted her dramatic abilities, but Giselle’s floating movement and soft arms presented a big change from Dec’s other repertoire.

Then in March, Dec tore a muscle in her right leg. She faced nine weeks of recovery, with Giselle looming at the other end. Dec’s injury altered her approach to her extracurricular workouts. For the past five years, she had been cross-training, doing abs, cardio on the elliptical and weights with good results. Post-injury, however, Pilates, yoga and not pushing became the new rule. Boal noticed that Dec came back to the studio with a different posture and a greater fluidity to her port de bras. In fact, he interrupted a run-through of Giselle to tell her how great her arms looked. “After I got injured, something clicked in my head about placement,” says Dec. In Giselle, she showed a new lift to her carriage, a quietness. Contrary to even her own expectations, this powerhouse had succeeded in transforming herself once again.

Happily, Dec’s natural spice and sparkle survived the transformation. “You worry when someone starts to analyze little pieces that they’ll become too restricted and lose their expression,” says Boal. “What’s so great about Lindsi is that freedom. And she hasn’t lost it.”

Rosie Gaynor is a Seattle dance writer.






























Elizabeth Abbick as the Snow Queen in Butler Ballet's "Nutcracker." Photo by Brent Smith, Courtesy Abbick.

Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. First up is Elizabeth Abbick, a student at Jordan College of the Arts, Butler University getting her BFA in dance performance and her BA in mathematics.

Abbick studying in the library. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis for Pointe.

Leawood, Kansas, native Elizabeth Abbick faced some tough choices her senior year of high school. Equally talented in math and ballet, she wanted a professional dance career but also desired to plan her post-performance life. "Butler University had always been on my radar because I knew the faculty was stellar and the students are the best of the best. I realized it could offer me both worlds," she says. Now a senior majoring in dance performance and mathematics, she hopes to work on the business side of the ballet world after her stage career.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

If you're in the NYC area and are in need of weekend plans, you might want to consider heading to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see Jean-Stéphane Bron's documentary, The Paris Opéra. While the film was originally released in France this past spring, it just made its way to the US on October 18th, and it chronicles the 2015-2016 season at the Paris Opera.

Encompassing the entire institution (which was founded in 1669 by King Louis XIV!), dancers will particularly enjoy an inside look at the Paris Opéra Ballet—both in rehearsals and onstage. Most notably, Bron captures the then POB director Benjamin Millepied as he decides to leave his position with the company barely a year after his appointment.

Check out the full trailer below, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's full listing of showtimes here.

Your Training
Thinkstock.

Bianca Bulle was always prone to ankle sprains. When she was 18, her recoveries became more complicated: She started experiencing Achilles tendonitis due to muscle weakness and fluid buildup in the ankle. "The last thing to get back to normal would be my Achilles, which was so incredibly tight and painful," says Bulle, now a principal at Los Angeles Ballet.

The Achilles is the body's largest tendon, attaching the bottom of the calf muscles to the back of the heel. It contracts and releases as you relevé and plié, as well as when you jump and even walk. Tendonitis, or inflammation, of the Achilles is one of the most frequently reported overuse injuries among active people, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. You'll know it by the pain or tightness at the back of the heel. If the condition gets bad enough, the tendon can rupture, which requires surgery to fix.

Achilles tendonitis is especially common among dancers on pointe, but it's not inevitable. With rest and proper conditioning, you can work to avoid it with careful technique and a commitment to cross-training.


Boston Ballet School pre-professional students. Photo by Igor Burlak Photography, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

What Causes It?

Keep reading... Show less
New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird."

I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.

Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?". Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck and Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale fame) may seem like unlikely friends, until you dig a little deeper into their backgrounds. Both attended Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and spent summers at the School of American Ballet in their youths. Moss and Peck's career paths diverged when the former fell in love with acting and Peck went on to study at SAB full time, eventually becoming the star we know today. Now, the pairs' artistic pursuits are uniting in an exciting new project.

According to Deadline.com, Moss will produce a documentary featuring Peck and her work curating BalletNOW, last summer's star-studded, critically acclaimed program at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Peck was the first woman to lead BalletNOW's programming, and she brought together dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet, putting them on stage with tappers, clowns and break dancers (sometimes simultaneously).


Keep reading... Show less
Your Best Body

Looking for creative and healthy ways to get your pumpkin fix this fall? First, back away from the pumpkin-spiced latte—the season's unofficial drink is often laced with sugary syrup and comes with a complimentary mid-rehearsal crash. Instead, try these simple snacks with puréed pumpkin. It's high in beta-carotene, which converts to immunity-boosting vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin K, iron and fiber. You can buy it canned or make the purée from a "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin (they're commonly available at grocery stores or farm markets).

Fruit-and-Spice Toast

- Spread purée onto whole-grain toast.

- Top with sliced pear.

- Add a dash of cinnamon.

Keep reading... Show less
Pointe Stars

When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!