Monday, September 29, 2014

Movin' On Up!

PNB company members in George Balanchine's "Diamonds"
photo by Angela Sterling
Congratulations to Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers Leta Biasucci and Jerome Tisserand. PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal announced their promotions at the company's opening performance September 26, 2014.

Jerome Tisserand moves up to his (rightful) place as a principal dancer. Tisserand is one of those classically beautiful dancers, the kind of guy who looks exactly like the prince he portrays. PNB hasn't had anybody so princely in its principal ranks since Lucien Postelwaite left for Ballet de Monte Carlo.
Princely PNB Principal Dancer Jerome Tisserand
in Peter Boal's "Giselle"
photo by Angela Sterling

Not only is Jerome Tisserand a beautiful dancer; he's one of the nicest people at PNB. I'm delighted that he'll finally own the title that fits the performances he gives. Woot Jerome!

I wrote about Leta Biasucci last spring. She's a tiny dynamo with a mighty stage presence. She is now a soloist with the ballet company, and in her opening night performance in George Balanchine's "Rubies", Biasucci dazzled with a charisma that was multiplied ten-fold by her partner, the effervescent Jonathan Porretta.
PNB Soloist Leta Biasucci as Clara in Stowell/Sendak "Nutcracker"
photo by Angela Sterling

Porretta and Biasucci are an inspired partnership. Both dancers are compact and dark, so they make a nice physical match. But more than that, in this rendition of "Rubies", they sparkled and snapped and, for me, stole the show.

For those who haven't seen all three parts of "Jewels" on a single bill, briefly: "Rubies" is the savory, syncopated filling between the almost wistful grandeur of "Emeralds" and the full-scale splendor of "Diamonds". (By the way, Carla Korbes and Batkhurel Bold were splendor personified in their opening night performances).
PNB Principal Dancers Carla Korbes and Batkhurel Bold in George Balanchine's "Diamonds"
photo by Angela Sterling

The audience went wild for "Diamonds", but for my money, Porretta and Biasucci stole the show in "Rubies." When Porretta smiles onstage, he lights up the cavernous McCaw Hall. He's at ease in "Rubies", and he clearly passed on some of that confidence to his young partner, Biasucci.
PNB's Leta Biasucci and Jonathan Porretta in George Balanchine's "Rubies"
photo by Angela Sterling

Early on, she was intent, almost serious, precisely executing Balanchine's choreography. Midway through, though, she relaxed, cracked a grin, and her performance took off.

What a excellent start to PNB's new artistic season. Dance on, ballet dudes!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Carrie Imler: Fierce Ballerina

PNB Principal Dancer Carrie Imler in Kiyon Gaines' "Sum Stravinsky"
photo courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet
Quick, what's the first word that comes to mind when somebody asks you to describe a ballerina?

Are you thinking ‘graceful’? What about ‘delicate’?

Would you believe ‘fierce’?

That's how friends and colleagues describe Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler.

"I would honestly describe her as fierce in every definition and example of the word," says Imler’s good friend and fellow principal dancer, Jonathan Porretta. "She is an athlete, she is fearless, she's an artist."

"I kind of like fierce," Imler admits with a demure chuckle.
Carrie Imler in rehearsal for "Swan Lake"

At first glance, Carrie Imler looks anything but fierce. She has long dark hair and bangs (she pins them back when she's onstage), wide-set dark eyes and the elegant carriage of the longtime dancer she is. On this particular afternoon she's wearing a stiff white rehearsal tutu that's stained in spots, and a pair of tattered pink tights. She’s replaced her pink pointe shoes with a pair of flexible slippers. An oversize gray fleece jacket tops off this not-so-stylish ensemble. Imler is soft spoken, but quick to laugh. Particularly when you point out how many men in the audience describe her as their favorite PNB dancer.

"I see," she answers slowly. "Maybe it's because I am a strong athletic type. I'm not your rail thin ballerina."
PNB's Carrie Imler in George Balanchine's "Apollo"
photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

At 36, (an elder stateswoman when it comes to professional ballet dancers), Carrie Imler seems fit and ageless. Her shoulders are broad, her legs muscular, her energy unflagging.
Imler's boss, PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal, says not only is she strong, she's also versatile.

"Carries has broken the mold in some ways, because of the whole range of roles she can do. She's a jumper, and a turner, too."

Jonathan Porretta says from the first time he saw Imler, when he joined the company 15 years ago, he instantly noticed that she could jump as high as some of the men. “And she can turn,” he enthuses. “I mean, can we discuss her fouette turns in “Swan Lake,” with the swan arms? Nobody does that!”

Most recently, Imler wowed audiences and national dance critics with her performance in the classical story ballet "Giselle." Imler danced the role of Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis; a band of dead women who've been jilted at the altar. New York Times chief dance critic Alistair Macauley called Imler’s performance “shimmering.”
Carrie Imler as Myrtha in "Giselle" staged by Peter Boal for PNB
photo by Angela Sterling

Despite that kind of praise, Carrie Imler isn’t PNB’s version of Felix Hernandez, the star ballerina. Imler has been mostly content in her role as the dependable third starter in PNB’s version of baseball's pitching rotation.

“I think I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl," she says.“You know, the media sees opening night, but there are 3,000 other people that see you every other night. So whether you’re doing opening night or an afternoon show, or the one in the middle of the week, somebody’s seeing you, and you’re making somebody’s day.”

Imler’s good friend Jonathan Porretta is more candid about what it’s like to be passed over for opening night.
Carrie Imler (with Kiyon Gaines) in "Midsummer Night's Dream"
photo courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet

“I don’t think it feels good,” he admits. But Porretta agrees with Imler that whether or not dancers are in the opening night cast, performance is the whole point of a ballet career.

“In the end, it’s about the fans that come to the show. It’s about what you put out on stage, and what you get back from the audience.”

Carrie Imler starts her 20th season in Pacific Northwest Ballet this month. She has, at most, another ten years before her body won’t be able to sustain the rigors of the daily hours of rehearsal. She pauses when asked about her legacy to her colleagues at PNB.

“I would like to think I’m a role model,” she says softly. “Somebody …who worked well, did their rehearsals, acted well, behaved well.”

Jonathan Porretta believes his friend has given more than that over her two decades at PNB.

“She’s the heart and soul, the ballerina of this company,” he stresses. “She is the senior-most dancer, the longest out of everybody. She is PNB!”
PNB Principal Dancer Carrie Imler in Jyrie Kylian's "Forgotten Lands"
photo by Angela Sterling for PNB

Seattle-area audiences have a chance to see Carrie Imler this weekend in George Balanchine’s “Jewels” at McCaw Hall.

 She'll dance in "Diamonds" at the Saturday matinee, September 27th, and Friday evening, October 3.
For more information, www.pnb.org.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Carla Korbes To Retire

Carla Korbes in PNB's "Swan Lake"
photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB
Gosh, just when you think you're on top of the Seattle-area dance news, bam!

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carla Korbes says she'll retire at the end of this season.

Say it ain't so, Carla!

If you're a PNB fan, you know Korbes' work.
The ethereal Brazilian-born blonde is one of those dancers who elevates her roles simply with the extension of her arm, or the grace of her jete.
Plus, she is a warm and friendly person.
PNB Principal Dancer Carla Korbes
photo by Angela Sterling

In a release, Korbes said "my body is ready to move on, so I need to respect that."

Korbes was out with injuries for much of PNB's 2013-14 season.
She returned in Susan Marshall's "The Kiss," which she told me recently was a lot more fun than she'd anticipated.

Korbes will dance in PNB's opening night production of "Jewels;" according to a company media release, audiences will be able to see her perform throughout this artistic season. Her career will be celebrated at PNB's Encore performance in June, 2015.

Carla Korbes dances in "Jewels;"
She's a jewel herself.
It's been a privilege to spend these years with her.

Carla Korbes with Batkhurel Bold
photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB