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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.

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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