|PNB Principal Dancer Maria Chapman
photo by Angela Sterling
That was my first response when I heard the news that Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Maria Chapman has decided to retire.
Just last week I was in a studio at PNB’s home, the Phelps Center, watching Chapman and soloist Joshua Grant rehearse a pas de deux for the company’s new Nutcracker. Three couples worked on the choreography, but it was hard to tear my eyes away from Chapman and Grant. She radiated confidence and displayed artistry beyond anyone in that room.
Chapman, whose daughter Eleanor was born last summer, is one of a slew of new mothers at the ballet company (Rachel Foster and Kylee Kitchens also had babies last year; Sarah Ricard Orza’s daughter was born in 2013, and principals Lindsi Dec and Carrie Imler will welcome new babies early in 2016.)
In a statement PNB released this week, Chapman says she wants to be a full time mom, and that she’s happy to go out on a high after the recent “Emergence” program.
A high indeed.
|PNB Principal Dancer Maria Chapman with Soloist Joshua Grant
in Christopher Wheeldon's "Tide Harmonic"
photo by Angela Sterling
The willowy, dark-haired Chapman has never seemed as fluid and elegant as she was in Kiyon Gaines’ “Sum Stravinsky,” the first dance on the “Emergence” bill. Partnered with the equally elegant Karel Cruz, Chapman seemed to float across the stage, her long arms wafting behind her. She was as good as I’ve ever seen her onstage.
A friend of mine has a theory that motherhood somehow intensifies artistry; that seemed to be the case with former principals Kaori Nakamura and Louise Nadeau, and Sarah Ricard Orza has shone in recent performances. Coincidence? Probably. But there’s also a case to be made for the impact of an artist’s personal life on her artistic expression.
Mother love is fierce and profound, tender and all-encompassing. It certainly changes all aspects of your home life, and that has to spill over into artistic expression, doesn’t it?
Maria Chapman has been with PNB for more than two decades, her entire career. She’s danced Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake”, and Myrtha in “Giselle.” She’s suffered and recovered from serious injury, and Chapman has helped to spear head PNB’s Second Stage program, an opportunity for dancers to plan for their careers after retirement.
PNB Artistic Director writes that “we will miss Maria on our stage and in our studio.”
Amen to that.