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

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

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.

Latest Posts


Chisako Oga photographed for Pointe by Jayme Thornton

Chisako Oga Is Soaring to New Heights at Boston Ballet

Chisako Oga is a dancer on the move—in more ways than one. From childhood training in Texas, California and Japan to a San Francisco Ballet apprenticeship to her first professional post with Cincinnati Ballet, where she quickly rose to principal dancer, she has rarely stood still for long.

But now the 24-year-old ballerina is right where she wants to be, as one of the most promising soloists at Boston Ballet. In 2019, Oga left her principal contract to join the company as a second soloist, rising to soloist the following year. "I knew I would have to take a step down to join a company of a different caliber, and Boston Ballet is one of the best companies in the country," she says. "The repertoire—Kylián, Forysthe, all the full-length ballets—is so appealing to me."

And the company has offered her major opportunities from the start. She danced the title role in Giselle in her very first performances with Boston Ballet, transforming a playful innocent into a woman haunted by betrayal with dramatic conviction and technical aplomb. But she also is making her mark in contemporary work. The last ballet she performed onstage before the pandemic hit was William Forsythe's demanding In the middle, somewhat elevated, which she says was a dream to perform. "The style really clicked, felt really comfortable. Bill drew something new out of me every rehearsal. As hard as it was, it was so much fun."

"Chisako is a very natural mover, pliable and strong," says artistic director Mikko Nissinen. "Dancing seems to come very easy for her. Not many have that quality. She's like a diamond—I'm curious to see how much we can polish that talent."

Chisako Oga, an Asian-American ballerina, does a pench\u00e9 on pointe towards the camera with her arms held out to the side and her long hair flying. Smiling confidently, she wears a blue leotard and a black and white ombr\u00e9 tutu.

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

A Life-Changing Opportunity

Oga began dancing at the age of 3. Born in Dallas, she and her family moved around to follow her father's job in IT. Before settling in Carlsbad, California, they landed in Japan for several years, where Oga began to take ballet very seriously. "I like the simplicity of ballet, the structure and the clear vocabulary," she says. "Dances that portray a story or have a message really drew me in. One of my favorite parts of a story ballet is diving into the role and becoming the character, putting it in my perspective."

In California, Oga studied with Victor and Tatiana Kasatsky and Maxim Tchernychev. Her teachers encouraged her to enter competitions, which she says broadened her outlook and fed her love of performing in front of an audience. Though highly motivated, she says she came to realize that winning medals wasn't everything. "Honestly, I feel like the times I got close and didn't place gave me perspective, made me realize being a dancer doesn't define you and helped me become the person and the dancer I am today."

At 15, Oga was a semifinalist at the Prix de Lausanne, resulting in a "life-changing" scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School. There she trained with two of her most influential teachers, Tina LeBlanc and Patrick Armand. "She came in straightaway with strong basics," Armand recalls, "and working with her for two years, I realized how clever she is. She's super-smart, thoughtful, driven, always working."

She became a company apprentice in 2016. Then came the disappointing news—she was let go a few months later. Pushing 5' 2", she was simply too short for the company's needs, she was told. "It was really, really hard," says Oga. "I felt like I was on a good track, so to be let go was very shocking, especially since my height was not something I could improve or change."

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

Moving On and Up

Ironically, Oga's height proved an advantage in auditioning for Cincinnati Ballet, which was looking for a talented partner for some of their shorter men. She joined the company in 2016, was quickly promoted to soloist, and became a principal dancer for the 2017–18 season, garnering major roles like Swanilda and Juliet during her three years with the company. "There were times I felt insignificant and insecure, like I don't deserve this," Oga says about these early opportunities. "But I was mostly thrilled to be put in those shoes."

She was also thriving in contemporary work, like choreographer-in-residence Jennifer Archibald's MYOHO. Archibald cites her warmth, playfulness and sensitivity, adding, "There's also a powerful presence about her, and I was amazed at how fast she was at picking up choreography, able to find the transitions quickly. She's definitely a special talent. Boston Ballet will give her more exposure on a national level."

Chisako Oga, an Asian-American ballerina, poses in attitude derriere crois\u00e9 on her right leg, with her right arm out to the side and her left hand grazing her left shoulder. She smiles happily towards the camera, her black hair blowing in the breeze, and wears a blue leotard, black-and-white ombre tutu, and skin-colored pointe shoes.

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

That was Oga's plan. She knew going in that Cincinnati was more stepping-stone than final destination. She had her sights on a bigger company with a broader repertoire, and Boston Ballet seemed ideal.

As she continues to spread her wings at the company, Oga has developed a seemingly effortless artistic partnership with one of Boston Ballet's most dynamic male principals, Derek Dunn, who Oga calls "a kind-hearted, open person, so supportive when I've been hard on myself. He's taught me to believe in myself and trust that I'm capable of doing whatever the choreography needs." The two have developed an easy bond in the studio she likens to "a good conversation, back and forth."

Dunn agrees. "I knew the first time we danced together we had a special connection," he says. "She really takes on the artistic side of a role, which makes the connection really strong when we're dancing onstage. It's like being in a different world."

He adds, "She came into the company and a lot was thrown at her, which could have been daunting. She handled it with such grace and confidence."

Derek Dunn, shirtless and in blue tights, lunges slightly on his right leg and holds Chisako Oga's hand as she balances on her left leg on pointe with her right leg flicking behind her. She wears a yellow halter-top leotard and they dance onstage in front of a bright orange backdrop.

Oga with Derek Dunn in Helen Pickett's Petal

Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Perspective in a Pandemic

The pair were heading into Boston Ballet's busy spring season when the pandemic hit. "It was really a bummer," Oga says. "I was really looking forward to Swan Lake, Bella Figura, some new world premieres. When we found out the whole season was canceled, it was hard news to take in."

But she quickly determined to make the most of her time out of the studio and physically rest her body. "All the performances take a toll. Of course, I did stretches and exercised, but we never give ourselves enough time to rest as dancers."

She also resumed college courses toward a second career. Oga is one of many Boston Ballet dancers taking advantage of a special partnership with Northeastern University to help them earn bachelor's degrees. Focusing on finance and accounting, Oga upped her classes in economics, algebra, business and marketing. She also joined Boston Ballet's Color Our Future Mentoring Program to raise awareness and support diversity, equity and inclusion. "I am trying to have my voice inspire the next generation," she says.

Jayme Thornton for Pointe

One pandemic silver lining has been spending more time with her husband, Grand Rapids Ballet dancer James Cunningham. The two met at Cincinnati Ballet, dancing together in Adam Hougland's Cut to the Chase just after Oga's arrival, and got married shortly before her move to Boston. Cunningham took a position in Grand Rapids, so they've been navigating a long-distance marriage ever since. They spend a lot of time texting and on FaceTime, connecting in person during layoffs. "It's really hard," Oga admits, but adds, "We are both very passionate about the art form, so it's easy to support each other's goals."

Oga's best advice for young dancers? "Don't take any moment for granted," she says without hesitation. "It doesn't matter what rank you are, just do everything to the fullest—people will see the hard work you put in. Don't settle for anything less. Knowing [yourself] is also very important, not holding yourself to another's standards. No two paths are going to be the same."

And for the foreseeable future, Oga's path is to live life to the fullest, inside and outside ballet. "The pandemic put things in perspective. Dancing is my passion. I want to do it as long as I can, but it's only one portion of my life. I truly believe a healthy balance between social and work life is good for your mental health and helps me be a better dancer."

Kaatsbaan Cultural Park artistic director Stella Abrera and executive director Sonja Kostich. Photo by Quinn Wharton, Courtesy Kaatsbaan Cultural Park

The Inaugural Kaatsbaan Spring Festival Brings Together Leading Figures in Dance

The rollout of vaccinations is helping the U.S. turn a corner during this coronavirus pandemic, and artists and audience members alike are looking forward to enjoying live performances once again. It couldn't be more perfect timing, then, for the inaugural Kaatsbaan Spring Festival, which will feature 16 presentations on two outdoor stages in New York's Hudson Valley. Taking place May 20–23 and May 27–30, the festival brings together luminaries from multiple disciplines, including dance, music, poetry, sculpture and the culinary arts.

"During a challenging year such as this, we really wanted to provide artists from various genres opportunities for support and work," says Sonja Kostich, Kaatsbaan Cultural Park's executive director.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Ballet West principal Katlyn Addison in a still from In The Balance. Courtesy Ballet West

Ballet West’s New Web Series Documents an Uncertain November

If the story of a ballet company presenting performances amidst a global pandemic, a divisive presidential election, and uprisings for justice sounds like it was made for TV, Ballet West has a series for you. In The Balance: Ballet for a Lost Year is a nine-episode documentary about BW's November 2020 performances, which took place at Salt Lake City's Capitol Theatre. The series premieres Friday, May 7, on Ballet West's social media channels, with a new episode released every Friday. (Viewers can also unlock all nine episodes on Ballet West's website starting May 7.)

For a month filmmakers Diana Whitten and Tyler Measom of Skyscape Studios had unlimited access to company class (divided into pods to abide by COVID-19 restrictions), rehearsals for new ballets by Jennifer Archibald and Nicolo Fonte, and interviews with artists and administrators. Some of the series' most fascinating insights come from people's different ways of navigating uncertainty, and how this connects to the arts.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks