Company class is a little more exciting these days at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Look over in the corner of the studio and it's obvious why—Wendy Whelan is here. Dressed in a vest, with her pants tucked into her socks, one might almost forget that her name is virtually synonymous with the term ballet. But watch her do a devéloppé and you instantly remember. Her collection of accomplishments is extensive—classical ballerina, freelance artist, inspirational teacher, or even, as of late, documentary film star. But now, she's adding another new hat: ballet stager.
Hamburg Ballet hits the U.S. The company will perform Old Friends, created by ballet director and chief choreographer John Neumeier, and set to Simon & Garfunkel songs. The work makes its New York premiere, and Hamburg Ballet makes its Joyce debut! Catch the ballet today through March 25.
🌃 We're here!!! First placing rehearsal starts in 20 minutes😜 @thejoycetheater Dancers: @mayaaraya @florenciachinellato @linxue1109 Photo: @kiranwest • • •• ••• #hamburgballetontour #tourlife #dancersofinstagram #johnneumeier #newyork #newyorkcity #dancerslife #dancersofinstagram #ballerinas #balletcompany #hamburgballet #heute_in_hamburg #hamburg #dancer #balletpost #balletlife #city #thebigapple #theatre #theatrelife
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BalletMet gets wet. The company's Art in Motion program, which runs through March 25, features confetti, gold petals and water, in work by Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, Christopher Wheeldon and artistic director Edwaard Liang, respectively. This rehearsal video certainly whets our appetite for more dancing! (Sorry).
Company dancer Gabriel Gaffney Smith (aka @gafsmit) captured this footage of @edwaardliang's newest ballet, Airavata, in rehearsal. (Yes, that's rain in our studio. See previous post for details.) Gabe also happens to be the composer of that beautiful music you're hearing. You can see this work when it premieres during Art in Motion, March 17-25 at the Davidson Theatre. #balletmet #artmakescbus
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The next generation. Catching American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, comprised of dancers ages 16–20 years old, is always a great opportunity to scout the next generation of talent. The troupe performs at Hunter College in New York on March 24–26. Expect excerpts from Raymonda, a piece choreographed by ABT principal Marcelo Gomes and more. Here's a behind-the-scenes video from last year's crop of dancers:
Desert colors. Jessica Lang's Her Door to the Sky was made for Pacific Northwest Ballet and is inspired by the life and work of American painter Georgia O'Keeffe. The ballet made its world premiere at Jacob's Pillow last summer and came home to Seattle on March 17. Catch it through March 26 along with William Forsythe's New Suite and David Dawson's Empire Noir.
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Prix de Lausanne prizes: The Prix winners have chosen their respective schools and companies. First place winner Michele Esposito will join the Dutch National Ballet junior company. Second place winner Marina Fernandes da Costa Duarte received a corps contract from the Bavarian State Ballet. Third place winner Taisuke Nakao will attend The Royal Ballet School. Find the full list here!
Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky will have world premieres on two coasts this winter. On February 10, Miami City Ballet will debut his new one-act version of The Fairy's Kiss to Stravinsky's celebrated score, a homage to Tchaikovsky. The following month, on March 15, at California's Segerstrom Center for the Arts, American Ballet Theatre will premiere his Whipped Cream, a new full-length story ballet to a Richard Strauss libretto and score.
Ratmansky has often looked to ballet history for inspiration. Fairy's Kiss, known as Le Baiser de la Fée when it was originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska in 1928, has been staged by Sir Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth MacMillan, and several times by Balanchine. Its story comes from The Ice-Maiden, a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and Ratmansky has kept the narrative. A young man, about to be married, is bewitched by a fairy's kiss and stolen away from the mortal world. “I asked Alexei for a narrative work, possibly one with a Russian flavor to it," says MCB artistic director Lourdes Lopez. “Our dancers have a very strong dramatic quality and short narrative works are not a large part of our repertoire." Ratmansky had created an earlier version during his tenure at the Bolshoi Ballet; this is a new production with new choreography.
Generosa has received many recent opportunities to shine onstage, including during the company's tour to New York City earlier this year and as an artist at the Vail International Dance Festival, where videos of her rehearsals with New York City Ballet's Joseph Gordon show what an assured performer she is.
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Matthew Renko is not only a rising dancer who has received special recognition in The New York Times, but a choreographer as well. He's created work twice for Next Step, PNB's choreographic program which allows company members to work with Professional Division students.
Benjamin Griffiths has danced with the company since 2005. Here's a #throwback video of Griffiths and former Pointe cover star Leta Biasucci dancing part of the "Bluebird" variation from The Sleeping Beauty. His crisp footwork and magnetic stage presence certainly seem fit for a principal!
Congratulations to all!
On any given day, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s rehearsal studios are filled with ballerinas decked out in a rainbow of colorful, innovative leotards—many designed and hand-sewn by principal dancer Elizabeth Murphy.
Murphy didn’t grow up sewing. In fact, she didn’t even know how to run a sewing machine until she was 18. She didn’t want to sit still long enough.
The Chelmsford, Massachusetts, native started dance lessons as a child in her hometown, and by her early teens decided to pursue a dance career. She moved to Pennsylvania to train at The Rock School for Dance Education. While still a student, she danced supplementary roles at Pennsylvania Ballet. Murphy then landed a position with Ballet West II before entering its main company in 2007.
But she was miserable. “My first year in the company was the hardest of my career, as of yet,” she says. Murphy didn’t expect overnight success, but she also never imagined how tedious it would be to stand around for six hours every day, waiting to rehearse short walk-on roles. For the first time, she contemplated quitting.
Instead, she decided to look outside dance for a new creative outlet. She discovered it in sewing.
Murphy found a bargain sewing machine online, along with a few easy patterns. Every evening, she came home from the studio to learn something new. When a friend suggested she try her hand at leotards, she found a simple bathing suit pattern, and turned to YouTube videos for guidance.
“It was freeing to practice and master sewing techniques, whereas in dance I sometimes felt stuck, or limited,” Murphy says.
The sense of accomplishment she found in sewing motivated her out of her dance rut: In 2007 and 2008 she attended Pacific Northwest Ballet’s summer intensive. Impressed by artistic director Peter Boal, and by the dancers she met in Seattle, Murphy kept an eye on the company and joined the corps de ballet in 2011. She’s moved up the ranks very quickly, and last November, Boal promoted her to principal dancer. In a pre-show speech, he compared her to a young Meryl Streep. “When she’s onstage, the audience can’t take its eyes off of her,” he says.
At PNB, Murphy has danced everything from Sugar Plum Fairy to featured roles in contemporary works, like William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated. “It feels so good to dance things that don’t put a limit to your range!” she enthuses.
You can say the same thing about her approach to designing dancewear. Murphy sews each leotard using soft spandex and mesh, with the aim of crafting lightweight, breathable garments. “I try to create simple lines that accentuate the beauty of the ballet body,” she says. She’s also developed a unique leg seam. “It keeps the leotard down better, without cutting into the leg,” she explains.
PNB corps member Emma Love Suddarth says she’s never worn such flattering, and comfortable, leotards before. “I get a little sad towards the end of the week when my Liz leotard supply runs out,” she says.
Last summer, Murphy started to market her eight leotard designs on Etsy, under her own brand, Label Dancewear. “My slogan is ‘Love Your Label,’ which is essentially ‘Love Yourself,’ ” she says. She wants to inspire younger dancers to accept themselves more than she did at her first job. “We’re so passionate about what we do,” she says. “But I think a lot of times, when we’re in it, we don’t see the beauty.”
Murphy still makes each leotard herself but plans to hire somebody to help her meet demand. She’s sold more than 300 leotards in the past six months and hasn’t had time to replenish her stock.
For now, Murphy is content to keep Label Dancewear fairly small. But someday, when she hangs up her pointe shoes, the goal-oriented ballerina may reinvent herself as a big-time entrepreneur.
Pacific Northwest Ballet is touring to NYC, with performances at City Center February 24–27. If you're a PNW resident who can't live without your home team, or a just a PNB fan who can't make it to NYC or Seattle to see the company, tune in to a live-streamed rehearsal on February 19.
The next few weeks will bring a ton of ballet to NYC, with companies ranging from Les Ballet de Monte Carlo to Pennsylvania Ballet—and more. Maybe the other companies will take a leaf out of PNB's book and stream their rehearsals too? If World Ballet Day is any indication, there are tons of ballet fans around the world waiting for a chance to catch their favorite companies online.
In honor of Valentine's Day, we're taking a quick look at some of our favorite dancing couples. Stay tuned for an exclusive set of interviews on V-Day!
First up: Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz.
We've admired Dec for years, both onstage and off. She was the gorgeous cover star of our October/November 2011 issue and provided recent street style inspiration in our February/March 2015 issue! Now, she's married to the equally gorgeous Karel Cruz. You can catch the two of them gracing the PNB stage with their endless limbs and pristine classicism.
Here, Cruz and Dec discuss dancing together in Jiří Kylián's extremely demanding Petite Mort.