Lindsay Thomas for Pointe

A (Very) Busy Day in the Life of PNB's Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz became friends almost 15 years ago, standing at the back of a rehearsal studio with their fellow corps de ballet members. "We were fourth cast in one of the ballets," Dec recalls, "and we said, 'Let's do something. We can't just hang around here!' "

So, in their free time, Dec and Cruz started working together on a pas de deux from Don Quixote.

They weren't a couple yet, but it didn't take long for their friendship to deepen into romance. They started dating and eventually married, in 2009.

The couple often brings their work home, studying videos or talking through complicated choreography. But these days they have less free time to think about ballet. Two years ago, they were finally cast together in the lead roles in Don Quixote, the culmination of the dream from their corps days. Afterwards, Dec told Cruz it was time to start a family. "I thought, 'I've gotten to do everything I wanted to do.' I felt so blessed, and I was like, 'What are we waiting for?' "

In January 2016, Dec and Cruz welcomed their son, Koan, into the world. Life with a baby is tough, but Cruz insists that parenthood has made them better artists. "It's like somebody stirs you inside," he says. "When you have a cup of coffee, and all the sugar is on the bottom and you stir it? Something changes inside of you. We've become stronger."

Pointe spent a day with Cruz and Dec to see how they do it all.

Photo by Lindsay Thomas


"We wake up at 5 am," Cruz laughs. "Then we go downstairs with the baby and sing 'Hakuna Matata' for a long, long time." Dec adds, "That's the only way he'll eat his breakfast."


Photo by Lindsay Thomas


Cruz's mother relocated to the Seattle area from Cuba to help take care of the baby. That eased Dec's transition back to work. She's also had a lot of support from the other mothers at PNB. "Anytime I'm about to have a breakdown, or if I have a question, I can go to numerous moms in the company."


Lindsay Thomas

Before they head to the studio, the couple gets some early morning work done. This year they launched their own leotard company, Solu, with seven styles. They hope to add tights, warm-up wear and athletic gear in the future.


Photo by Lindsay Thomas

The couple lives 45 minutes from the PNB studios in Seattle. They leave the house every morning at 7:45 am to ensure they make the 9:15 company class.


Photo by Lindsay Thomas

In November, Dec broke her fifth metatarsal on her right foot. She was immobilized in a boot with orders not to put weight on it for three weeks. Her biggest worry was how to take care of Koan. "Karel kept reminding me this is a dark period, but that I know how to get back from an injury and I'm going to be okay," she says. Her full recovery took a little over three months, and she returned to class in February.


Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Cruz finishes class with a giant saut de chat.


Photo by LindsayThomas.

After class, the couple pairs begins rehearsals for PNB's March "Director's Choice" program. These days when they're in the studio together, Cruz and Dec seem calm, centered and secure. When she launches herself into a jump, Dec always trusts Cruz will be there to catch her. "Maybe it's because we're husband and wife," Cruz remarks. "We know we're there for each other." Dec agrees: "We're not that couple that fights when we rehearse. We're respectful of each other."



Photo by Lindsay Thomas

Dec in rehearsal with Miles Pertl and ballet master Anne Dabrowski. On performance days, Dec tries to sneak home in the afternoon, to spend time with the baby. "Even if I only have 45 minutes, that's 45 minutes playing with him, putting him to sleep, 45 minutes I have that he wouldn't normally see me."


Photo by Lindsay Thomas

During her break, Dec receives in-house physical therapy on the foot she injured in November.


Photo by Lindsay Thomas.

Chilling out in the dancers lounge afterwards. "I think about working together in the corps, and how much ambition we had at that time," says Cruz. "Now I look at the results of everything we've done. It brings an emotional moment."



Latest Posts


DTH's Alexandra Hutchinson and Derek Brockington work out with trainer Lily Overmyer at Studio IX. Photo by Joel Prouty, Courtesy Hutchinson.

Working Out With DTH’s Alexandra Hutchinson

Despite major pandemic shutdowns in New York City, Alexandra Hutchinson has been HIIT-ing her stride. Between company class with Dance Theater of Harlem and projects like the viral video "Dancing Through Harlem"—which she co-directed with roommate and fellow DTH dancer Derek Brockington—Hutchinson has still found time to cross-train. She shares her motivation behind her killer high-intensity interval training at Studio IX on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Cicely Tyson and the Enduring Legacy of Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem

Cicely Tyson, the legendary 96-year-old Black actress whose February 16 funeral at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church was attended by, among others, Tyler Perry, Lenny Kravitz, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, is remembered for performances that transcended stereotypes and made an indelible impression on a nation's heart and soul.

Among the most fondly remembered is her breakout role in the 1972 movie Sounder, which depicts a Black sharecropper family's struggle to survive in the Jim Crow South. The role catapulted Tyson to stardom, winning her an Academy Award nomination and a reputation as someone committed to enhancing Blacks' representation in the arts. Throughout a seven-decade career, countless critically acclaimed, award-winning roles in films, onstage and on television reaffirmed that image. Yet one role reflecting the depth of that commitment is much less visible—the supporting one she played working with longtime friend Arthur Mitchell when he envisioned, shaped and established the groundbreaking Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

As Ballet Looks Toward Its Future, Let's Talk About Its Troubling Emotional Demands

As a ballet student, I distinctively remember being told that to survive ballet as a profession, one must be exceptionally thick-skinned and resilient. I always assumed it was because of the physically demanding nature of ballet: long rehearsal hours, challenging and stressful performances, and physical pain.

It wasn't until I joined a ballet company that I learned the true meaning behind those words: that the reason one needs thick skin is not because of the physical demands, but because of the unfair and unnecessary emotional demands.

Undoubtedly, emotional and physical strength go hand in hand to some extent. But the kind of emotional demand I am talking about here is different; it is not the strength one finds in oneself in moments of fatigue or unwillingness. It is the strength one must have when being bullied, humiliated, screamed at, manipulated or harassed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks