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Onstage This Week: ABT Presents the American Premiere of "Jane Eyre," PNB Principals Jonathan Porretta and Rachel Foster Retire From the Stage, And More!

ABT's Devon Teuscher and James Whiteside as Jane and Rochester in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre. Patrick Fraser, Courtesy ABT.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.


ABT Presents Cathy Marston's "Jane Eyre"

American Ballet Theatre is known as a home for classical story ballets, but this summer the company adds a more modern take to its repertoire. Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre will have its U.S. premiere June 4–10 as part of ABT's Metropolitan Opera House season in New York City. Her 2016 production, created on Northern Ballet, blends balletic and contemporary movement to tell the story of Charlotte Brontë's strong-willed protagonist. "For me it's less about technique than about the emotions that the movement is expressing," says Marston, who worked closely with Brontë's novel to bring the story to life. The ballet is a collaboration between Marston, designer Patrick Kinmonth and composer Philip Feeney, who created a score mixing original and compiled music. A co-production with The Joffrey Ballet, Jane Eyre will make its way to Chicago stages in October.

PNB's Season Encore Bids Adieu to Two Principal Dancers

On June 9 Pacific Northwest Ballet closes out its season with an Encore Performance celebrating the careers of two principal dancers—Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta—who are retiring from the stage. The evening reprises some of PNB's greatest hits.

A native of Pittsburgh, Foster danced at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre from 1998-2002, when she joined PNB. She was promoted to principal in 2011. At PNB, Foster thrived in contemporary roles; this weekend she will be dancing Alejandro Cerrudo's Silent Ghost.

Porretta's retirement comes at the end of his 20th anniversary season with the company; he joined in 1999 and became a principal in 2005. Porretta and PNB artistic director Peter Boal have had a long relationship; Porretta first met Boal as a young student in the first-ever class that he taught at School of American Ballet. Porretta's final turn on the PNB stage is in the titular role of George Balanchine's Prodigal Son.

SFB Continues Its London Tour

San Francisco Ballet enters its second week at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre; performances run through June 8. The company is presenting four programs of contemporary work, mostly featuring ballets created as part of its 2018 Unbound Festival. June 5 and 8 audiences can see Stanton Welch's Bespoke, Liam Scarlett's Hummingbird and Justin Peck's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, and from June 6-7 the company performs Trey McIntyre's Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, Christopher Wheeldon's Bound To and David Dawson's Anima Animus.

Oregon Ballet Theatre Performs a Work by Alvin Ailey for the First Time

Oregon Ballet Theatre closes its season June 7-9 and June 13-15 with The Americans, a triple bill showcasing a diverse swath of American choreographers. The program features the company premiere of Alvin Ailey's Night Creature to music by Duke Ellington. This run will mark OBT's first time presenting Ailey's work. Also on deck are Trey McIntyre's Robust American Love and the world premiere of Big Shoes by Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, founders of the contemporary company BodyVox.

American Contemporary Ballet Presents Variations on "Raymonda"

This month, Los Angeles-based American Contemporary Ballet presents Variations on Raymonda, a side-by-side comparison of excerpts of a re-creation of Marius Petipa's original and George Balanchine's 1961 Raymonda Variations. The performances, running June 6-9 and 13-16 will include a talk by ACB artistic director Lincoln Jones on ways that Balanchine was influenced by Petipa's work.

Eifman Ballet Brings "The Pygmalion Effect" to New York

The St. Petersburg, Russia-based company Eifman Ballet continues its US tour of The Pygmalion Effect, choreographed by director Boris Eifman, at New York City Center June 7-9. The ballet is inspired by the Greek mythological tale of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with his creation, and is set to music by Johann Strauss Jr. Catch a sneak peek in the above trailer.

Bryan Koulman Presents Four New Works Featuring Dancers From PAB 

From June 6-8, Philadelphia-based contemporary ballet choreographer Bryan Koulman presents his annual season at The Performance Garage. This year's run features four new works set to live music played by members of the Philadelphia Opera Orchestra and by the jazz group Weather Report, and dancers including Pennsylvania Ballet's Albert Gordon, Sydney Dolan, Austin Eyler and Flavia Morante, Pennsylvania Ballet II's Santiago Paniagua and Lucua Erickson, Brandywine Ballet's Elizabeth Strenge and contemporary dancer Nikolai McKenzie. Catch a glimpse of McKenzie in rehearsal in the above video.

Summer Intensive Survival
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There's a sweet spot toward the end of August—after summer intensives have wrapped up and before it's time to head back to school or work—where the days are long, lazy and begging to be spent neck-deep in a pile of good books. Whether you're looking for inspiration for the upcoming season or trying to brush up on your dance history, you can never go wrong with an excellent book on ballet. We've gathered eight titles (all available at common booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble) guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the art form, to add to your end-of-summer reading list.

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James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.

On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.

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Roman Mejia in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

The Princess Grace Foundation has just announced its 2019 class, and we're thrilled that two ballet dancers—New York City Ballet's Roman Mejia and BalletX's Stanley Glover—are included among the list of über-talented actors, filmmakers, playwrights, dancers and choreographers.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

While most ballet casts are 100 percent human, it's not unheard of for live animals to appear onstage, providing everything from stage dressing to supporting roles. Michael Messerer's production of Don Quixote features a horse and a donkey; American Ballet Theatre's Giselle calls for two Russian wolfhounds; and Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee requires a white Shetland pony. Another Ashton masterpiece, The Two Pigeons, is well known for its animal actors. But though ballet is a highly disciplined, carefully choreographed art form, some performers are naturally more prone to flights of fancy—because they're birds.

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