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Interviews

  • Madison Abeo - An Interview with Rising Star

    Young dancers spend countless hours in the studio developing their skills and artistry. While you will often find their peers hanging out at the mall or movie theater, these hard working young men and women will deny themselves the typical pleasures of teenage life for the promise of a shining dance career.

    Madison Abeo, a level VIII student at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, is one such dancer who recently caught our eye. We were not only impressed with Madison's classic beauty and winning smile, but by her charisma, work ethic and dedication to both her family and her art. This young lady is the living, breathing definition of a "class act" - and we're thrilled to introduce her to all of you!

    Ladies and gentlemen, Miss Madison Abeo...

    Grace:  Madison Abeo

    Grace:


    Hello, Madison. Please share about yourself and how you got your start in ballet.

    I was 3 years old and my family and I were living in Zambia, Africa. We had traveled there while I was young to do work in the villages. My parents put me in a local ballet class because I was clumsy and always tripping over my feet. We lived there for 2 years and when we moved back to the states I took classes at a small ballet studio in Monroe, where the teacher was a Cornish graduate. She encouraged me to audition for Cornish and then I danced there for 4 years before moving to PNBS.

    When did you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that a career in dance was right for you?

    When I did my first Nutcracker performance at Cornish, and played the role of Clara – I knew I wanted to dance professionally. Its hard to explain how it made me feel, its something only a dancer understands. I dance because of the feeling I get when I dance, there really is no word to describe it.

    Many locals are familiar with your father's "artistic" side. Can you share a little bit about your family with our readers?

    My dad is local rapper RA Scion, who was in a group called Common Market. My mom manages his music and the business side of things. He has had music videos on MTV and done 5 or 6 CD’s. I am in a few of the videos. We have had an exciting life. I have been to huge concerts and danced on stage with him at Bumbershoot, Sasquatch Festival, and toured to several cities him on the road when I was younger. I have seen the fun side of music festivals, the VIP and green rooms, the backstage life is something that is the same in music as it is in dance.

    How has their influence affected you? Are they supportive of your career or did they caution you against it?

    I don’t feel like they have influenced me in the way of dance. Neither of them are dancers, but they did influence me with how I perform and work. Both are very hard workers. My dad taught me the value of not only hard work but how important the quality of a good performance and show is. How to be a humble and a grateful performer and how to work to do your best for the sake of the audience.

    You've had the opportunity to meet and work with many local artists - both in music and dance. Can you share a little about that? What were some of your most favorite projects?

    I have worked with a few bands and danced in their music videos. My favorite music video was for a local group called Alabaster. It was a fun atmosphere and they gave me a lot of artistic freedom. I was also asked to work with STG/Paramount for their annual DOORS fundraising event, where I was honored to have Olivier Wevers choreograph a piece for me to perform, and PNB was nice enough to loan me a costume. I was the only classically trained ballet dancer highlighted that night, and I got to meet some amazing people that donate to the arts.

    What programs are you looking at for summer?

    I auditioned for 4 schools, ABT New York, San Fran Ballet, Boston Ballet and Houston Ballet and I was grateful to get into all 4! I have recently made the decision to attend San Fran Ballet summer intensive, after discussing it with my parents, my teachers I decided it was best for my future.

    Even with partial scholarships, summer intensives can be quite expensive! Unlike many students, I've heard you're actually working to help off-set some of the costs associated with your intensive. Tell us a little more about that.

    Yes they are very expensive! I am always shocked at how parents can afford to send their kids every year to these programs that are $4-7,000 and then you have airfare, spending money, etc. My family has never been able to afford such things. I am grateful to my grandparents that have helped with the costs in the past. Now that I am old enough to help work to earn the money, I have been babysitting and saving every penny! I also have created a Facebook fan page, at the suggestion of my Aunt, and people who had no children for me to babysit, that wanted to donate and invest in my future. It means so much to me that so many people not only believe in me, but that they are helping me reach my dream.

    Working, going to school and taking dance class...that's quite a load! Please share what a typical "day in the life" is like for you.

    A typical day for me is – waking up around 6:45am to get ready for school. Packing a lunch and all of my school and dance gear. School until 1:30pm, and I attend the Center School, which is at the Seattle Center, so I just walk to PNB from there. I take about an hour to change, tape my feet and stretch. Then class, which is always on pointe at this level (Level VIII) is from Mon-Sat from 3:00 until 5:30. I stretch briefly after class, get home around 6pm, eat a quick dinner. Then if it’s a Friday, I babysit from 7 until Midnight or spend the rest of my night doing homework. Saturdays are usually the longest dance day, my level dances from 11:30am until 4pm and I arrive early at 9am to take the Pilates class that is provided to help with my core strength.

    Strength:  Madison Abeo

    Strength:

    Many young dancers have strong mentors in their lives who encourage and inspire them. Who are your mentors and how important has their influence been to your success?

    Some of the people I consider to be mentors are Olivier Wevers (Former PNB Principle dancer and director of Whim W’him dance Co.), Andrew Bartee, Sarah Pasch (PNB dancers), Rena Robinson-Steiner (Former PNB Teacher and dancer with Dance Theater of Harlem), and Colleen Dishy (former RAD and Cornish college teacher). In one way or another, all of these people have spent one on one time with me, giving me advice, encouragement and have been amazing examples for how to be the best dancer I can be.

    You've also done some modeling for Vala Dancewear. Can you share how that partnership came about?

    My mom likes to take photos for fun and some of the pictures caught the eye of an amazing dance mom (You! Lol) who gifted me a leotard and my mother took photos of me in it. Rebecca, the owner loved the photos and was so nice - gave me even more leos for my mom to take photos of me in! I love the leos because they are a great twist of classic styles, they are comfortable and SO much more reasonable than some of the other brands. The most recent photoshoot we did was with professionals, La Vie Photography / Bamberg Fine Art Photography – in which I wore Vala leos AND Class Act tutus. It was kind of a fashion ballet photo shoot, with some partnering photos that included my class dance partner Levi Teachout. We spent all day taking photos in different tutus and outfits, and we have already seen a couple of the shots and they are so beautiful! I am so excited to see how the rest turned out!

    Beauty:  Madison Abeo

    Beauty:


    Okay...loaded question time! Who are your favorite dancers?

    My favorite dancers are: Carla Korbes (PNB Principle dancer) – She is the perfect dancer. Not only does she have amazing feet, lines and expression – she is one of the nicest and most down to earth ballerina’s at the ballet. She is kind, humble and smiles at you when you say hi. When I watch her dance, she takes my breath away. Lucien Postelwaite (Ballet Monte Carlo) was the main reason I wanted to dance with PNB. He is a star. The perfect blend of grace and strength. As a younger dancer and before he left PNB, I often said I wanted to someday dance a piece with him! Andrew Bartee (PNB dancer) can do things with his body that I have never seen other people do. He is a true artist and isn’t afraid to be himself.

    Is there anything from your past (dance or otherwise) that if you could - you'd change?

    My parents have taught me that all of the challenges we face help make you who are now, so I don’t think I would change anything!

    Developing as a dancer and artist takes dedicated, consistent effort and tons of "sweat". How do you stay so motivated?

    Family, friends and my passion for dance is what keeps me going.

    Do you have friends outside of dance? If so, do they support you in your efforts?

    Yes I have friends outside of dance. My true friends understand my passion for dance, they often ask me about my progress and shows and they know how much it means to me to have them at performances, so they come to as many as they can.

    What is your "dream" role?

    My dream role is of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. I have always been mesmerized by the beautiful upper body movement of that role. The back and arms are amazing in that part. Also it is a huge test as a dancer to be able to play the pure and dark side of a character, really pushes you to the limits! I hope I get the chance to someday dance that role.

    A dancer's career is often very short. What can you see yourself doing after the final curtain goes down?

    I want to stay in the dance world, I would love to teach classes. I love kids and I think I would do well as a teacher.

    What final piece of advice would you give to other young dancers out there?

    Don’t make yourself try to fit into the “box” that some people and teachers think you need to be in order to be a good dancer. Its unrealistic. Instead, be the best dancer you can be by working on your strength and being healthy. Most of all, respect your teachers, they may not dance anymore, but they all were amazing when they did. They have learned tools that will only make things easier if you just listen. Lastly, dance is hard – on your body and on your spirit. Make sure you love it and that the love shows when you dance, or else its not worth all the pain and effort.

    To see the rest of the photos from the shoot Madison did with La Vie Photography – and to visit Madison’s dance support page, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MadisonRaynAbeo .  You can see Madison dance next in an excerpt from Balanchine’s Serenade – performed by the Level 8 dancers as part of the PNB School’s, End of Year performance on June 15th , 7pm at McCaw Hall.  Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.pnb.org.

    Madison is wearing Vala Dancewear's "Enchant" leotard.  Tutus courtesy of Class Act Tutu.

  • In a relationship!

    Prinicipal Dancers James Moore & Kaori Nakamua in Roméo et Juliette

    Pacific

    Huffington Post has an in-depth interview with Pacific Northwest Ballet's Artistic Director, Peter Boal and Principal Dancers, James Moore & Kaori Nakamura about Jean-Christophe Maillot's version of Roméo et Juliette.


  • Valentine’s Day with Seth Orza & Sarah Ricard Orza

    Seth Orza, Soloist and Sarah Ricard Orza, Corps de Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet.  Shown here in "Petit Mort".

    Seth

    Ah, Valentine’s Day! It’s the time of year when we shower our true love with tokens of affection, whether they be in the form of a box of chocolates, a gushy card, or a dozen roses (or all of the above!).

    In the dance world, Valentine’s Day can be especially wonderful as couples not only live, but oftentimes work, together. We decided to get an inside look at the blessings of Valentine’s Day through the eyes of the dancers themselves. First up is Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza of Pacific Northwest Ballet!

    Vala: “How did you two meet?”
    Seth: “We met in New York at the School of American Ballet’s when we were both 13.”
    Sarah: “We met at the summer course. Then we got together and started dating seriously when we were both at the School of American Ballet for their year round program when we were 17. And we’ve been pretty much together ever since then. We’ve been together now for 12 years and married for 2 ½ years.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza shown here at SAB Summer Course, 1995 (Age 14). Seth & Sarah met at age 13.

    Seth

    Vala: “Congratulations, that’s wonderful! So what’s the best thing about being married to a fellow dancer?”
    Sarah: “Well, I think that the dance world is just so small and intimate; sometimes it’s hard to explain or even relate to people who aren’t in the world on a daily basis—what’s going on, or what the daily ups and downs are like. So, if I’m having a bad day, Seth already knows why and that’s good.”
    Seth: “We try to help each other out along the way through the pressures of ballet, performing, and all that.”
    Sarah: “Oh, and travelling. If we tour, it’s great. It’s really nice to have your loved one with you when you’re going to all those places.”

    Vala: “How do you two plan to make this Valentine’s Day special?”
    Seth: “Well…” he says with a sly tone, “it’s kind of a surprise.”
    Vala: (Laughing) “Oops! I don’t want to ruin anything!”
    Seth: “We try to do something special every Valentines day, but it’s hard after twelve years to do something different every time.”
    Sarah: “There was one year when I had the genius idea of getting chocolate covered strawberries from Godiva. So I got a dozen chocolate strawberries only to find that in the fridge at home, Seth had also gotten a dozen Godiva strawberries!” she laughs.
    Seth: “We had a lot of chocolate strawberries!” he chuckles.
    Vala: “Great minds think alike! So, do you have any last words of advice for fellow dancers out there?”
    Seth: “It’s nice being in a relationship with a co-worker—or a dancer—and it does work out.”
    Sarah: “It’s definitely a balance, though. I mean, we’re together at work all the time and then at home all the time. So sometimes there’s days when one of us has to step back and take some space—be it at work or at home. You just find that balance with spending all of your time together.”

    Seth Orza and Sarah Ricard Orza on their Wedding Day

    Seth

    Vala: “Do you ever have a day when you really don’t want to be with the other person but you still have to work with them?”
    Seth/Sarah: “Oh no, never!” they laugh in unison.
    Seth: “Of course, but I think that happens in any relationship.”
    Sarah: “We have partnered together a lot, and that has challenges…”
    Seth: “Yeah, working together professionally…I mean, if she’s just around it’s one thing, but if we’re working together, it’s kind of hard sometimes.”
    Vala: “Well thank you both so very much! I really appreciate you taking the time to do this and I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!”
    Sarah: “Thank you! You have a happy Valentines Day, too!”

    by Denise Opper, Media Relations Class Act Tutu & Vala Dancewear

    This post first appeared Valentine's Day, 2010.

  • Behind the Scenes with Lindsi Dec (Pointe Magazine Cover Shoot)

    pointe_lindsi_decHere's a fun "behind the scenes" look at Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist, Lindsi Dec's photo shoot video with Pointe Magazine!

    In the shoot, Lindsi is wearing two ensembles; the first is Class Act Tutu’s V Neck Tutu Bodice (in wine) and Classical Tutu skirt in Wine/Black

    The other one (as featured on p 10 of Pointe) is Vala Dancewear’s “Siren” in one of the new fabrics/colors we are testing (consider this a sneak peek!!!), along with Class Act Tutu’s Layered Romantic Tutu in our 5-Layer “Bird of Paradise” palette.

    If you want to own one of these georgeous tutus worn by Lindsi in the Pointe Photo shoot, they are in our Sample Sale!

    Not your size? No problem! Just contact us.

  • Ballerina Cynthia Gregory Coaches Next Generation

    Photo Credit: Virginia Trudeau

    Photo

    Here's an outstanding interview with former prima ballerina, Cynthia Gregory. Gregory, who spent more than 25 years with American Ballet Theatre, currently works with Nevada Ballet Theatre and directs the Cynthia Gregory Center for Coaching. "Coaching is what I do best. People would ask me to help them with a role when I stopped dancing. They'd commission me to do that. Teaching has to do with the basics of class and technique. I'm much more interested in helping a 'finished' dancer when they're looking at a role ... it's like finding your voice." ~ Quote: Cynthia Gregory for the SF Chronicle. Read more...

  • Catching Up With a Star: An Interview with Laura Gilbreath

    Getting into position

    Behind

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist and Vala model, Laura Gilbreath is--in a word--breathtaking. Her fabulous extensions, incredible technique and striking beauty make for a rather bewitching combination! We adored her in "3 By Dove", wept over her haunting interpretation in "Afternoon Ball", and were mesmerized by her peacock variation in "Nutcracker". But what we find most intriguing however, is her stunning work ethic! This young woman's been busting her chops since she was a teenager--an attribute which led to her success with Pacific Northwest Ballet!

    Behind the scenes photos courtesy of Rachel Anne Fitzthum, Designer, Vala Dancewear

    We recently caught up with the talented dancer and asked her some of our--and your--burning questions. Here are her answers...

    Please share with our readers about how you got started in ballet.

    I guess you could say I started dancing because my mother always had such a love and appreciation for it. She danced (ballet) up until she was in high school, and so when she had two little girls, it was only natural that she expose us to this beautiful art form.  My sister is two years older than I am, and she began lessons when she was about 4. When Mama and I would go pick her up (I was 2 1/2 at the time), I would constantly be dancing around in the waiting room wanting to join the class. The teacher and my mother must have gotten sick of seeing me jump around because they let me join the creative movement class early.

    In a recent interview, you mentioned that you'd attended School of American Ballet when you were younger. Can you tell us how old you were when you accepted into their program? Was this your "dream" school at the time?

    I started going to SAB for the summer course when I was 11, and then I began attending as a year-around student when I was 15. I would definitely say this was my dream school when I was younger. Aubrey Morgan (used to dance with NYCB) and Janie Taylor (currently dances with NYCB) are from my studio and they both attended SAB. I wanted to do exactly what they did. It all sounded so amazingly wonderful and exciting. I prepared my mother early on that I would be leaving home at an early age.

    How did your family feel about such a big move?

    As I said, my mother was somewhat prepared that I would leave home early, but that did not make it any easier. Not to mention the fact that she had already let one daughter go at the age of fifteen to train in ballet as well. My sister, Elizabeth, trained at the Harid Conservatory for 2 years and then ended up attending Indiana University. Before that, she did some trainee work with Ballet Austin. She still does some dancing occasionally around New Orleans. She is a beautiful dancer. So I guess all in all everyone was very supportive of the move and happy that I was fulfilling my dreams. Daddy just wanted his little girl to be safe and to be able to visit me when he could!

    What was it like for you to live so far from home for the first time? How did you handle homesickness? (I think I'd personally have a panic attack..LOL)

    It was hard being away that young. I think I talked to Mama on the phone probably 5 times a day! At the time I felt so grown up and sophisticated, but 15 is a baby looking back on it. Mama would try to visit at least every few months and Daddy would come as often as his work schedule would allow. The good thing about being at a place like SAB is that everything is in that one building: cafeteria, dorms, studios, and there were plenty of things to do in a 10 block radius, so my mom never had to worry about me galavanting around the city. My friends and I had plenty of good, clean fun in the dorms!

    So what prompted your move to Pacific Northwest Ballet?

    I moved to Seattle after attending 2 summer courses at PNB. When you are at SAB for the winter, they encourage you to go somewhere else for the summer to experience different places. I chose PNB. My last year at SAB, I started to see that NYCB was not looking like it was going to work out for me, and, where I didn't know a lot about PNB, what I had heard and knew about the company I liked. So I became a Professional Division student in August, 2002, then I got my apprenticeship in the spring of 2003. And I've been here ever since!

    And we're so happy about that, too! So what's a typical "day in the life" like for you?

    A typical day in the life of me? Well, since we usually work until 7 pm, we don't have to start our morning warm-up ballet class until 10:15. Seems crazy to people with "normal" jobs but that extra sleep can really help when the days are long and exhausting. I get up at 8 am when we have class at 10:15. I immediately go to my dog Bonnie and let her outside to play, eat, etc. My boyfriend, Jerome (Tisserand), and I like to eat outside in the mornings if it's nice. We will usually throw the ball to Bonnie before we leave too. Then it's off to work. Class goes until 11:45 and rehearsals start at 12:05. Our lunch break is 3-4 and then rehearsals start back from 4-7. Now everyday is not this full. Some days you might have 12-1 then 4-5 and be done. It just depends on what we're  working on. Right now on Tuesday and Wednesday nights I have Spanish class through Seattle University. It's spanish 1 and they will also be offering spanish 2 and 3 consecutively. These Seattle U classes are great, and I try to take all that I can in order to slowly chip away at getting my degree one day. If I don't have some SU class (they last until 9:30), I love to come home and make dinner. Then usually a bath is in order and then it's bedtime for me by 11:00. Not too exciting, huh?!

    I think it sounds very exciting, actually! {Grins} Okay, next question. With it being the holiday season, would you mind sharing your favorite "Nutcracker" experience with us?

    I guess my favorite Nutcracker experience/memory would have to be getting to do Clara as a young girl in New Orleans. That was such a special time for me. It was my first real dancing part in point shoes, and I remember feeling so beautiful. Now, that has carried over into adulthood as I get to take on the role of Clara with PNB. Last year was my first year doing the part, and I have fallen in love with it! I love that it is not only beautiful dancing, but a wonderful chance to act as well. Clara is by far my favorite role.

    I think the same can be said for a number of "baby ballerinas"! Speaking of which, what advice would you like to share with young dancers?

    My advice would be work hard each and everyday if you have the dream and desire to dance professionally as I did, but don't miss out on your childhood. I remember afternoons when I would go over to my friend's house to jump on her trampoline after school. Somedays I would be having so much fun that I didn't want to go to ballet class. My mom would always say that was just fine and let me keep playing (until I had to come inside to do homework, of course!). But the point is, if you're serious about it definitely pursue it, but always do it because you want to and because it makes you happy. I never missed a sleepover, I just arrived really late and left really early for my Saturday morning ballet class!

    Thank you so much, Laura for taking time away from your busy schedule for us. We really appreciate it and cannot wait to see you on stage again very soon!

    To check out Laura in action, please purchase your tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker". Visit PNB.org for more information.

  • PBS NewsHour: The State of Ballet in America

    Check out this awesome round-table discussion hosted by PBS Arts Correspondent, Jeffrey Brown!  Part One is shown below and Part Two is here.

    About the program: "Ballet in America was once dominated by a few major companies and concentrated in New York and a handful of other cities. But today there are more than 65 professional, million-dollar-budget ballet companies all around the country.

    Last week, nine of these companies brought together for a series of performances titled 'Ballet Across America' at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

    {Jeffrey Brown} spoke to three of the companies' artistic directors about the state of ballet in America: Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founder and artistic director of Ballet Memphis; Ashley Wheater, former ballet master of San Francisco Ballet and current director of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet; and Ib Andersen, artistic director of Ballet Arizona and member of the George Balanchine Trust, the organization responsible for preserving and licensing the late choreographer's work." ~ Quote PBS NewsHour at PBS.org.

  • Stars of ABT Honor the Legendary Alicia Alonso

    Alicia_Alonso

    Alicia

    "Alicia Alonso {director of Ballet Nacional de Cuba} accepted the sold-out audience’s adoring ovation at the Metropolitan Opera House from a central box seat before Thursday night’s American Ballet Theatre performance. But one sensed that this legendary ballerina, being saluted by the company with an evening to celebrate her 90th birthday, would find her way to center stage, and she did, culminating the boisterous, rousing event....

    "Alonso (who actually turns 90 on Dec. 21) was a member of Ballet Theatre (as ABT was initially known) during its earliest years. Plagued by vision problems – over which she repeatedly triumphed -- since early in her career, she is now virtually blind. Celebrated for the distinctive stamp she put on the role of Giselle, she also performed in many new ballets during the 1940s...." Read the full article from the Los Angeles Times here.  And be sure to check out The New York Times' recent interview with the dance legend here.

  • By Popular Demand, Ailey Spirit Return to BAM Stage

     

    BAM2010_interior_pageThe Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is ready to thrill audiences during its Encore Season at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, June 10-20th. The twelve-performance showcase features two of the company's most beloved works: "Ailey Spirit" and "By Popular Demand".  For a special treat, check out this terrific interview with Ailey dancer, Yannick Lebrun!

  • Thoughts of Summer on Our Mind

    Now that summer intensive auditions are over, thousands of dance hopefuls are eagerly awaiting acceptance letters from their schools of choice. Whether you've been through the process numerous times or are just starting out, summer intensives are highlight and rite of passage in a dancer's training.

    Natalee wearing "Enchant" (Vala Dancewear Style #22108)

    Natalee

    With that in mind, I decided to take a moment and ask our very own Vala tester, Natalee Maxwell about her summer dance experiences...

    Natalee writes:

    My experiences with summer dance intensives have been really beneficial to my growth in dance. I have gathered priceless knowledge from my summer travels to Texas, California, and Washington. Since the training was so rigorous and effective, I was able to develop so much in a condensed period of time. I seemed to think that 6 weeks might seem too long to stay interested in a dance intensive, but I have learned that the time just flies by when you are learning and excelling so much.

     

    Getting to know and be known by many impressive teachers from around the country is a total delight as well. With each teacher, I had a fresh take on their preferred techniques and styles. By having an open mind towards the teacher’s likes allowed me to become a better-rounded dancer, able to modify myself more easily. I also enjoyed being able to take part in classes with international dancers as well as Americans. I was able to see the caliber of dancers that were out there, and break free of my so-called “small town” of Albuquerque. It was important for me to venture out and see what bigger companies and programs had to offer.

     

    As the audition season begins, I look forward to my summer training, as there will always be something new and exciting for me to discover in the art of dance.

    We would like to hear of your summer experiences as well!  Send us an email. And who knows? We may be contacting you to share your summer intensive experiences as well!

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