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  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty Returns Better Than Ever

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Princess Aurora in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Nakamura is one of four dancers performing the lead role in PNB’s presentation of the classic story ballet, running January 31 – February 9, 2014. Photo © Angela Sterling.


    Lavish storybook sets, decadent costumes and gorgeous dancing provide the stunning backdrop to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’.

    Kaori Nakamura and Seth Orza brought the house to its feet in a standing ovation during Friday’s opening as Princess Aurora and her beloved Prince Florimund. Their technique was amazing, and the way they looked at each other? Hello! Talk about your fairytale romances! I loved how the two of them can take a character, even one as well known as Aurora and Florimund, and make them their own. Orza is just one of those dancers you love to watch…over ‘n over again. I’ve yet to see an “off” performance from him or one where I wasn’t fully enraptured with his character. He *IS* the Prince…every time, all the time.

    I was also highly impressed by how quickly Nakamura went from bubby teenage Princess in Act I, to delicately composed bride in Act III. While this electrifying ballerina recently announced her plans to retire at the end of the season, her performance proved that she still has what it takes to rock the ballet world for many years to come.

    Jonathan Poretta provided a breath of comedy (as well as a serious hint of creepy!) as the wicked fairy, Carabosse. I loved how he’d peek out from under his “hag hoodie” and how the strobe lights would “flash” whenever he (she?) flew through the air. (Mmmwwa ha ha haaa!) In fact, I was almost sad when he died at Florimund’s hand (just before that glorious kiss), but as we all know, good always triumphs over evil especially in fairy tales.

    Laura Tisserand’s Lilac Fairy was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The depth of her storytelling ability seems every bit as endless and beautiful as her extension (which is really saying something, folks!). Everything she does is just incredible.

    The king and queen (Otto Neubert and Maria Chapman) plead with the wicked fairy Carabosse (Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jonathan Porretta) in Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty. Photo © Angela Sterling.


    And speaking of incredible, Act III’s Gold and Silver Pas de Trois (featuring Lindsi Dec, Andrew Bartee and Jerome Tisserand) was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Bartee has really come into his own as an artist (can’t wait to see more from him!), while Tisserand almost oozes with delicious charisma. Dec’s thousand-watt smile and clean technique shined brighter than any diamond, easily re-solidifying her place as an audience favorite.

    Just before the show, Artistic Director Peter Boal announced five (!!) well deserved company promotions: Elizabeth Murphy, Margaret Mullin and William Lin-Yee were officially recognized as soloists, while Lindsi Dec and Laura Tisserand were bestowed the title of Principal. Talk about putting a big, luscious cherry on top of a fantastic opening night!

    The Sleeping Beauty runs through February 9th. Tickets available at

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Director's Choice is Top Notch

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carla Körbes and corps de ballet dancer Joshua Grant in the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Tide Harmonic.  The newest ballet by Mr. Wheeldon is presented by PNB as part of DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, May 31 – June 9, 2013. Photo © Angela Sterling.


    Casting a luscious cherry on top of the company's impressive 40th anniversary season, is Pacific Northwest Ballet's Director's Choice - a triple bill highlighting a gorgeous World Premiere and classic favorites.

    The evening opened with George Balanchine's Agon - a fun, jazzy piece filled with glorious shapes, "legs for miles" and sassy brilliance. Joshua Grant and Ezra Thomson were particular standouts in this piece, each having grown by leaps and bounds this season as captivating, soulful artists. (I'm personally looking forward to seeing more from them next season!)

    The second piece, Christopher Wheeldon's world premiere, Tide Harmonic was every bit as awesome as one would expect - perhaps even more so! Here Wheeldon's brilliance creates a watery world of tantalizing delights; from sultry deep sea blue costumes to soothing aquatic lighting (hat tip to Randall Chiarelli), to an all-out gorgeous pas de deux featuring Carla Korbes and Joshua Grant. Quite honestly, it was here that the full scope of this gentleman's artistic development was brought to the forefront. In fact, he reminded me just a bit of (dare I say...?) Olivier Wevers. Time will tell what becomes of this unique partnership, but for now all I can say is, "Bravo!"

    The evening came to a close under the brilliant glow of Balanchine's 'Diamonds'.  This elegant piece features a shimmering chandelier, glittery tutus and jeweled tiaras - the kind of sweeping backdrop every little girl (and girl at heart!) pictures on her wedding day. Diamonds showcases the very best PNB has to offer, with its sweeping movements, delicious partnering and "Viva Imperial Russia!" opulence.

    As this banner 40th season comes to a close, it's clear that Pacific Northwest Ballet is just getting started.

    Director's Choice runs through June 9th. For tickets, please visit

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's All Premiere Offers Something for Everyone

    (l-r) Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura and corps de ballet dancers Sarah Pasch and Leah O’Connor in Andrew Bartee’s arms that work, presented as part of ALL PREMIERE, November 2 – 11, 2012. Photo © Angela Sterling.


    Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its milestone 40th anniversary season with the current quadruple rep, “All Premiere”. This power-packed display showcases the choreographic genius of PNB dancers Andrew Bartee, Margaret Mullin and Kiyon Gaines, as well as a world premiere by “Seattle native makes good”, Mark Morris.

    Andrew Bartee’s “arms that work” opened the show and featured a massive wavy fence constructed of long vertical elastic bands. These bands allowed the dancers to move through, behind, and sometimes artfully twisted and tangled within the structure itself. Local composer, Barret Anspach created the musical narration behind this piece. (Does that name ring a bell? It should! His sister, Jessika is one of PNB’s lovely corps members. ;) ) Anspach’s music suited Bartee’s modern mix of bouncy, halting and sometimes jerky choreography perfectly. The tone behind Bartee’s piece felt a bit reminiscent of the endless internal struggle between what we want versus what we can’t have. While I can’t say for sure that’s what Bartee was going for (I refuse to read anything about a new piece ahead of time so I don’t watch with pre-conceived ideas), but that’s the direction my thoughts traveled.

    Margaret Mullin’s “Lost in Light” followed Bartee’s piece, which exuded far more joy and loveliness. The piece featured four couples sweeping gracefully across the stage filled with minimal light streaming down as if from heaven itself. While Mullin’s neoclassical style distinctly showcased each of these couple’s stunning technical attributes to a “T”, the real standout this time was corps member, Brittany Reid. For the first time ever, I was able to catch a glimpse of this young woman’s passionate, lyrical quality and was left in near jaw-dropping awe. Seriously, folks - she was amazing and she’s definitely secured her place as one of this year’s dancers to watch.

    Mark Morris’ “Kammermusik No. 3” had no clear “story” or human element behind it, but instead focused largely on witty, angular movements sewn together with a silver thread of fun. The set featured gorgeous magenta backdrop made even more striking with a black curtain that was lowered – then raised – during the various interludes. At one point the music was silent and all you could hear was the sound of the dancer’s feet whisking across the stage. The piece ends on a particularly playful note with one male dancer tossing another off stage. Whoosh!

    The final piece of the night (and the one that literally brought everyone to their feet in standing ovation), was Kiyon Gaines’ “Sum Stravinsky”. Let me begin by saying, “Ho…leeee….COWWWW!” With one fell swoop (and maybe a few pirouettes), Gaines masterfully secured his place in the choreographic annals of fame!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Carrie Imler in Kiyon Gaines’s Sum Stravinsky, presented as part of ALL PREMIERE, November 2 – 11, 2012. Photo © Angela Sterling.


    Gaines’ artistic eye was masterfully brought to life through the use of gorgeous partnering and impressive costumes. The supremely talented partnerships featuring Carrie Imler and Jonathan Poretta, and Maria Chapman and Karel Cruz brought a mile-wide grin to everyone’s faces. These dancers literally stole the show and left me (and I believe I speak for everyone else at McCaw Hall that night) with a desire for more. Typical ballet costumes (read: tutus and pointe shoes) in shades of powder blue and teal sparkled with new life, thanks to the talented Pauline Smith. (Chapman’s one shoulder tank style bodice was nothing short of gorgeous!) In short, Sum Stravinsky made my heart sing. It was completely, and unequivocally, awesome.

    From modern to classical, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s All Premiere offers something for every Seattle dance fan. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “All Premiere” runs through November 10th. Tickets available at

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella Captivates Audiences Again

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Kaori Nakamura as Cinderella in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, which kicks off PNB’s 40th Anniversary season September 21 – 30, 2012.  Photo © Lindsay Thomas.


    Pacific Northwest Ballet kicked off its big 40th anniversary season with Kent Stowell’s Cinderella. This beloved crowd pleaser was performed two years ago, but is just as fresh, exciting and enjoyable ever. Saturday evening’s performance was a beautiful reminder of just how wonderful a classic fairytale story can be.

    The evening’s performance featured Kaori Nakamura as the young and severely mistreated Cinderella. While Nakamura’s dancing was technically flawless and every bit as charming as you’d expect, what really stood out for me was her ability to “tell a story”. Her dancing drew me deep into her character’s world and (no joke) left me with tears in my eyes more than once, such as when she received her gifts (shimmering “glass” slippers, anyone?) from her Fairy Godmother and finally said “I do” to her handsome prince. Bravo!

    And speaking of the prince, Jonathan Poretta did an outstanding job as His Royal Highness. While Poretta famously brings the more "humorous" character roles to life, I’ve got to say - he knows when to turn on the charm and can embody the role of "Handsome Prince" like no other! Poretta - like Nakamura - is a masterful storyteller, able to convey a variety of emotions (and quite possibly leap tall buildings) in a single bound.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Jessika Anspach and guest artist Marisa Albee as Cinderella’s stepsisters in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, which kicks off PNB’s 40th Anniversary season September 21 – 30, 2012.  Photo © Lindsay Thomas.


    Jessika Anspach and Marisa Albee lit up the stage as the mean, selfish and awkward Stepsisters. Albee, a former PNB soloist turned faculty member, was one of the original Stepsisters when the production premiered in 1994, which made watching her performance a deliciously rare treat! Albee and Anspach pulled out all the stops and left the audience in stitches with their zany antics. Everything from clumsy dancing to bold attempts at grabbing the Prince’s attention was met with plenty of giggles and applause.

    The Jester (who doubles as the Prince's right hand man) was performed by Kyle Davis, who – up until that moment – really hadn’t been on my radar much. (Ahem) However all that changed the moment Davis entered the scene. He immediately captured – and held – my interest. Everything Davis did felt natural, not forced or like he was “trying too hard” to get a laugh. He simply WAS the Jester. Quite honestly, I thought he must have taken a few lessons in Characterization 101 from Mr. Poretta himself, because his performance felt distinctly “Jonathan-ish”. His performance drew so many laughs, so many gasps of delight, it was incredible. (High five!)

    And what PNB production would be complete without a charming cast of young dancers? Darling Memory Children, enchanted Bugs, stern Pumpkins, impish Sprites and lovely Fairy Attendants danced, twirled and jumped their way across the big stage, leaving their own indelible mark of sweetness on this already luscious season opener.

    Andrew Bartee was another young man who stood out with his portrayal of the Dancing Master. No joke – Bartee is the man to watch! He was spirited, enchanting and so freaking funny my stomach hurt from laughing so much. He was great! I can’t wait to see more of him throughout the season.

    If you haven't purchased your tickets to this lavish production - umm, what are you waiting for? Consider this your official Royal Invitation to the Ball!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella runs through September 30th. Get your tickets by calling 206-441- 2424 or by visiting

    Denise Opper - Media for Class Act Tutu

  • PNB's 'Coppelia' is Perfect for Kids and Kids at Heart

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lesley Rausch as Swanilda with company dancers in PNB’s production of Coppélia, choreographed by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa). Photo © Angela Sterling


    Saturday evening’s performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Coppelia reminded me just how much fun a story ballet can be.

    Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand did an outstanding (stellar, phenomenal, glowing, superb) job in the roles of Swanilda and Franz. They went from a teasing, head-game playing pair of young lovers to a mature, “ready to tie the knot” couple in all of about 2 hours.

    Their comedic timing was impeccable, whether they were flirtatiously bantering back ‘n forth or trying to get away from the bumbling “mad scientist”, Dr. Coppelius, they brought the whole scene to life. I especially enjoyed the fact that their partnership didn’t feel forced, but rather effortless and natural, making this fairy tale all the more pleasant to watch.

    And speaking of Dr. Coppelius, I found William Yin Lee’s interpretation to be smooth, playful and satisfying. I loved the way he dragged Franz around by the ear while simultaneously giving him a few swift kicks to the behind, and how he tried (in vain) to put a lid on the mischievous antics of Swanilda-dressed-as-Coppelia.

    Act III’s Waltz of the Golden Hours featured Leta Biasucci, the petite powerhouse who never ceases to amaze with her delicate phrasing and innate ability to charm your socks off. Carrie Imler gave a beautiful performance as the glittering “Dawn”; Laura Gilbreath danced as “Prayer”, a role which suits her strong lyrical qualities perfectly, while Maria Chapman drew a hearty round of applause as the “Spinner”.

    Surrounding these enchanting soloists were 24 equally enchanting “baby ballerinas” dressed in lovely pink and gold tutus. As these young dancers entered the stage amongst a chorus of delighted “Ooo’s and ahh’s”, their smiles radiated what can only be described as immeasurable joy. I wouldn’t be surprised if their performance sparked the desire to dance in nearly every young audience member’s heart there.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Jerome Tisserand as Franz, and principal dancer Lesley Rausch as Swanilda in PNB’s production of Coppélia, choreographed by Alexandra Danilova and George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust (after Marius Petipa).  Photo © ANGELA STERLING


    Discord and War featured the whirling, arrow-wielding talents of Lindsi Dec and Kiyon Gaines, a most impressive duo if I’ve ever seen one. Their strong characters and powerful bodies gorgeously yield themselves to whatever role they’re playing, whether it’s a dashing prince or gentle princess or even a Gladiator-esque warrior.

    Charming sets featuring Swanilda’s adorable “teapot-shaped” house and a series of towering milk-white columns adorned with swirls of pink flowers rival the most beloved storybook illustrations. And those costumes…! Oh my! Each one was more impressive than the next, a seemingly endless stream of sparkling flowers, shiny tiaras and wispy tulle.

    With its tummy tickling humor, beautiful sets, spectacular costumes, and of course - all those gorgeous dancers - make Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Coppelia the perfect treat!

    Visit today for tickets.

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's New Works

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite and soloist Lindsi Dec in David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to my Skin. Photo © Angela Sterling


    Friday evening's opening performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet's New Works began with a pleasant surprise. As Peter Boal stepped out onto the stage to welcome the audience, he was accompanied by Linda Shelton, executive director of The Joyce Theater Foundation.

    What's this all about, you ask?

    Well, it turns out that Ms. Shelton was there to announce that PNB was the proud recipient of the prestigious Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance, a $25,000 grant which PNB will use to stage a new work by Alejandro Cerrudo, resident choreographer for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. The work will then make its New York debut at The Joyce during the 2013-14 season! {Cue imaginary fireworks and confetti here} Pretty sweet, huh? Yep, the audience thought so too. Now...onto the show!

    This season's production of New Works featured three different performances, each marked with a decidedly different feel and flavor.

    First up was David Dawson's, A Million Kisses to My Skin. Now, as a lover of all things classic and beautiful, this piece was thrilling to the core. While Kisses' choreography forced dancers to break out of their classical molds just a bit, the movements themselves didn't feel forced but rather effortless, passionate and exhilarating. The dancers seemed to be completely invigorated from start to finish. You could tell they all really enjoyed performing this piece!

    Sarah Ricard Orza was particularly stunning with her impeccable timing, fantastic port de bras, and well...everything else. If she hadn't been promoted when she was, I'd be the first person to beat down Mr. Boal's door demanding that change - pronto! She was the total package that night, hands down.

    Jonathan Poretta oozed power and charisma like no one else. To me, he is on par with the likes of Baryshnikov - so high up on the Awesome Dancer Pedestal it's incredible. His leaps and turns made me fist-pump the air and whisper, "YES!" much to the chagrin of my fellow audience members. (Ahem)

    Equally riveting were powerhouses, Lindsi Dec and Lucien Postlewaite. Honestly, you'd be hard pressed to find a better match than these two. Lucien's quiet charm coupled against Lindsi's fiery "look at me!" quality made for an absolutely brilliant performance. Every thrilling moment was flawless.

    With that said, I have GOT to see PNB perform more of Dawson's incredible works! And given the standing ovation the dancers received at the close of this piece, I know I'm not alone in my desire. (Pretty please, Mr. Boal? *Insert batting eyelashes here*)

    Next up was Cylindrical Shadows by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. I originally saw this work performed by Olivier Wevers' company, Whim W'him back in January 2011. While the piece had been craftily changed up just a smidge for PNB, these changes didn't mar the vibrant landscape of the original work in the slightest.

    In Cylindrical Shadows, the elements of sudden loss, grief and the continuum of time are explored in poignant detail. From the pendulous swinging of the dancers arms (hands of time?), to the way the dancers would weave themselves in and out of each others' embrace, Cylindrical Shadows makes you pause, wonder and pause again. During this piece, I found myself most impressed by Ezra Thomson and Jerome Tisserand. I love how these two great dancers were allowed to bring their talents to the forefront of this dynamic ensemble. I found their dancing believable, their loss palpable. {Bravo, guys. Bravo!}

    The third piece of the evening was Victor Quijada's Mating Theory. Now, no offense to PNB but this was the one piece that left me scratching my head a bit. I wasn't too sure what to think of the jerky, pop-lockish, preening bird-like strutting across the stage, although I admit there were some "flashback to the 80's" break dance type moves which were quite cool. I also found the final moments of the piece featuring Lucien Postlewaite and Rachel Foster to be rather exquisite, to say the least. They sparkled like priceless diamonds in the rough and I just sat there and held my breath, utterly transfixed. It was lovely!

    Overall, I didn't "get" which theories were doing the mating. Granted, the obvious mating undertones were there but they were subtle and didn't culminate as one would expect. Perhaps it included the different theories of dance mingling together? I'm not sure.

    In any event, it's safe to say that Mating Theory is a piece I'd need to see again in order to fully appreciate its intricacies. Not saying it was horrible - certainly not. But rather, it's a piece that requires a little more chewing before I can attempt to digest it.

    New Works runs through March 24th, 2012. Tickets are available at

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Don Quixote is a Winner!

    Allen Galli as Sancho Panza, and Tom Skerritt as Don Quixote, with Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote.  Photo © Angela Sterling


    Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of Alexei Ratmansky's Don Quixote has just become my new favorite ballet. (No joke! And it's much more entertaining than the book was back in high school. No offense, Mr. Cervantes.)

    From zesty fans and clicking castanets, to marvelous feats of strength and shining technique (not to mention sumptuous sets and yummy costumes!), this production has it all -and then some!

    Sunday's matinee featured principal dancers, Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz as Kitri and Basillio. And let me tell you, their spicy "cat and mouse" connection was irresistible! The two embodied their characters with all the bravado, sass and charm one would expect from the likes of this talented pair - especially when you consider their hot-blooded Latin roots! (Körbes hails from Brazil, while Cruz is originally from Cuba.)

    Cruz's gravity defying, single-handed, over head lifts (with Körbes playfully shaking her tambourine high in the air as if to say, "No sweat!" - or perhaps "No fear!") were spectacular.

    Actor of big and small screen fame, Tom Skerritt made for a marvelous Don Quixote! His performance as the delusional yet beloved character was spot-on. Skerritt drew you in and held you captive in Don Q's world, making you wonder if perhaps - just perhaps - he was somehow the sane one and everyone else was a bit loco.

    His hilarious sidekick, Sancho Panza was portrayed by local talent, Allen Galli. I don't know how the Powers that Be at PNB came up with this guy for Sancho, but they hit the bullseye with him, that's for sure! As a matter of fact, Galli's performance was so outstanding that he threatened to steal the entire show. His expressions as he tried to get his stubborn donkey to "giddyup", as well as when the crowd in the middle of Town Square tossed him high into the air, made the audience laugh...hard! But on a more serious note, his genuine concern and admiration for Don Quixote made their roles feel more like best (drinking) buddies versus "knight errant" and "squire". Love!!

    Allen Galli as Sancho Panza, with Pacific Northwest Ballet company dancers in Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote.  Photo © Angela Sterling


    And what kind of review would this be if I didn't mention (the outstanding), Jonathan Poretta?

    Poretta was cast this time as the supremely-full-of-himself, pretty little rich man Gamache, who has his heart set on marrying the lovely Kitri. It doesn't matter if it's a character role (where he's brandishing his little sword and fighting like a total girl) or a more serious part (like the Prodigal Son), Poretta delivers. It's as simple as that.

    Lesley Rausch was a zesty, spicy fan-flicking Mercedes, while Jerome Tisserand "gave good cape" as the dashing Espada. Kitri's BFF's, Piccilia and Juanita were successfully tackled by the unconquerable Lindsi Dec and Laura Gilbreath. Together, these two fabulous soloists captivated the entire audience with their precision, delicious lines and thousand-watt smiles.

    The second act of the show takes you deep into the wild recesses of Don's mind. After a fierce battle against windmills and creepy monsters (including sinister cactus and the Devil himself), Don is whisked into a glittering vision filled with sparkling dryads and their beloved Queen (Sarah Ricard Orza), adorable cherubs and of course, the lovely Cupid herself (Leta Biasucci).

    Both Ms. Biasucci and Mrs. Orza's performances here were nothing short of pure decadence! Their light and effortless technique was well-suited to the scene's dainty pointe work and lightening fast turns.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carla Körbes and Karel Cruz in Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote.  Photo © Angela Sterling


    Act three felt a bit like a filler, but a fun and dynamic filler nonetheless. Here is where our story wraps up - the "happily ever after" part, if you will. After pulling off the ultimate trick, lovers Kitri and Basillo are allowed to marry (hooray!) and the beloved Don and his faithful companion head off into the sunset in search of more (outlandish) adventures.

    The standing ovation the artists received was well-deserved! Bravo, bravo, bravo!

    There are only 6 performances left of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Don Quixote! Visit for tickets.

  • Review: Growing Through Arts - The Nutcracker Ballet Story & Activity Books

    nutcracker-ballet-by-aleksaAh, The Nutcracker! It's often a child's first "real" taste of the world of ballet, inspiring many a young Sugar Plum, Clara and Nutcracker Prince!

    Now you can encourage your little one's love for this classic holiday tale with this sweet storybook from Growing Through Arts.

    The Nutcracker Ballet by Aleksandra features delightful illustrations and charming prose that are sure to please budding ballerinas and baby danseurs of all ages. This beautiful hardcover book features a generous 11x11 size (perfect for those chubby little hands!), character building questions carefully woven throughout the story to fuel further discussion, and a handy glossary which explains new terms in a clear and simple way.

    The Nutcracker Ballet Practice & Play Book is a robust 32-page activity book filled with fun mazes, printing practice, pattern recognition exercises, drawing lessons, hidden pictures and - one of the best features by far - the Nutcracker Paper Doll!

    Class Act Tutu's Testing Lab featuring Miss Avianah


    The book features standard dimensions of 8.5 x 11", colorful illustrations and a larger font making it ideal for preschoolers through 2nd grade. While the book contains plenty of stand-alone learning activities, it's designed to complement The Nutcracker Ballet storybook.

    Both the story book and activity book are written by Russian Pointe's own Aleksandra Efimova, illustrated by her sister, Elizaveta Efimova, and published under Aleksandra's latest venture, Growing Through Arts. Founded in 2010 and "inspired by the classical, world-acclaimed Russian educational system, Growing Through Arts products are infused with the philosophy that participating in the arts can have a dynamic impact on children’s careers, educations, and social lives. Our system combines a uniquely powerful set of learning elements to boost your child’s mental and emotional growth."

    Their products build on and develop:

    • Creativity and imagination
    • Confidence, leadership and character strength
    • Memory, abstract thinking, discipline, focus, and a wide range of pre-academic skills
    • Arts vocabulary and much more!

    The Nutcracker Ballet by Aleksandra & The Nutcracker Ballet Practice & Play Book offers children an insightful peek behind the curtain and brings to life Clara's world and that of her beloved Prince like never before. I was very impressed by both the quality of these items, as well as their unique ability to encourage a young child's love for dance in such a positive and insightful way. These books would make a great Christmas, birthday or "just because" gift for tiny dancers.

  • Ring in the Holiday Season with Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker

    Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancer Andrew Bartee as the Nutcracker in the fight scene from PNB's Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker. Photo © Angela Sterling


    What puts me in the "holiday spirit"? Well, stuffing myself with turkey doesn't do it. Neither does fighting my way through the crowds on Black Friday. No, what really puts me in the holiday mood is a trip to Seattle Center's McCaw Hall to watch Pacific Northwest Ballet perform its lively Stowell/Sendak production of 'Nutcracker'.

    No matter how many times I've seen it, this perennial favorite never ceases to thrill, delight and amaze me. With sets designed by Maurice Sendak and elaborate props featuring a "growing" Christmas tree, a gigantic Mouse King with sinister tail encircling the stage, to a golden boat sailing along the ocean blue, it's easy to see why Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker is ranked as one of the most beloved productions among its "nutty" peers.

    Maria Chapman and Seth Orza shined in the starring roles of Clara and her handsome Nutcracker Prince. Their final pas de deux was the fuel of dreams - effortless lifts, dazzling smiles and spot-on technique. Together they brought this storybook fantasy adventure to life and carried it all the way through. I even detected a few weeping patrons at the end of Act 2, following Chapman's tearful exit. (That's when you know you've struck that golden chord of connection with your audience! Bravo!)

    Lesley Rauch's interpretation of the Peacock was everything one could hope for - sensuous and beguiling, with a whisper of sadness in her colorful wings. Is she a prisoner? Does she want to escape? Or is she secretly content with her golden confines? If you can make me feel all that, then as far as I'm concerned, you've embodied the role of Peacock!

    Snow on stage!  Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers in the Kent Stowell/Maurice Sendak Nutcracker. Photo © Angela Sterling


    Gorgeous port de bras and swirling tutus made many a young girl gasp during the Waltz of the Flowers with Carrie Imler as "Flora". What I love most about Imler is her innate sense of timing and control. She can go from lightening "quick-quick" turns into a deliberately slow "melt" on.a.dime! She's amazing, folks. Truly amazing.

    Whirling dervishes Jerome Tisserand, Kyle Davis and Ezra Thomson made the little boys in the audience sit up and pay attention. Their electrifying leaps, turns and jumps were perfectly executed and received a boisterous round of applause.

    And speaking of children, it just wouldn't be right NOT to mention the talent and dedication of the Pacific Northwest Ballet school students. Their roles ranged from adorable to breathtaking - from the sweet young Clara and her friendly party guests (with bouncy ringlets and big smiles for the girls and plenty of spirited hijinks from the boys), to the battling soldiers engaged in a fierce war with the creepy giant Mouse King, from the Chinese Tiger's exotic attendants to the charming Toy Theatre dancers. I think it's great to see the school students perform; they not only bring a fresh layer of excitement to the production, but they also inspire the youngest audience members in a way that polished adults cannot.

    Awesome sets, gorgeous costumes, spirited dancing, whirling snowflakes and that famous musical score - I can't think of a better way to ring in the holiday season!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker runs through December 27th. Great seats are still available! Visit for more information.

  • Pacific Northwest Ballet's Love Stories - A Delicious Romantic Treat

    Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Lucien Postlewaite and Carrie Imler in the Black Swan pas de deux from Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake. Presented as part of LOVE STORIES, November 4-13, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling


    Pacific Northwest Ballet's Love Stories serves up a luscious 5-course feast of romance, seduction and passion!

    Opening Night's performance of Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée featured the talents of principal dancers, Kaori Nakamura and Jonathan Poretta in the headlining pas de deux. Nakamura is such an amazing dancer - delicate yet oh-so-strong; she looked like she was fully enjoying herself up there. Poretta of course, is just pure magic. (Seriously, if I could have my own life-size Poretta doll to wind up and watch him dance during random moments of levity, I would. Oh, and a Lucien Postlewaite replica, too. But I'm getting ahead of myself...) I was equally impressed by corps de ballet members, Jessika Anspach and Brittany Reid.  Their performance provided the soul to Nakamura and Poretta's "heart" and brought a sense of balance to this beautiful, lively piece.

    Next up was the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. For this the stage was stripped down to a bare  bones backdrop featuring a full silvery moon against a blue-black sky. Now, I have to be honest and admit that I felt a tad cheated by the lack of splendor associated with this scene - at first. But then, once principal dancers, Lucien Postlewaite and Carrie Imler entered the stage the message was clear: Who needs props and scenery when you've got these two dancing in front of you? And oh my goodness gracious, what a performance it was!!

    Imler was cunning, sexy, fiery and captivating - the perfect evil temptress, Odile. (Dazzling fouette turns and fluttery swan arms? To die for!) Postlewaite leaped and turned with the agility and grace of a gazelle - light, powerful and commanding all at once. And his expressions - are you kidding me? Schoolboy sweet and head over heels for Imler's charms - his Siegfried was brilliant!

    I couldn't tear my eyes away from their coy exchange and was eager to see how it would end, while hoping at the same time that perhaps - just perhaps - it wouldn't...Ah! Such delicious torture!  And as that final note echoed from the orchestra pit, the entire theatre exploded with a very boisterous, very appreciative standing ovation. Bravo and bellissima!

    Pacific Northwest Ballet corps de ballet dancers Jerome Tisserand and Kylee Kitchens in Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun. Presented as part of LOVE STORIES, November 4-13, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling


    Afternoon of a Faun offered a rare treat in the form of corps de ballet members, Kylee Kitchens and Jerome Tisserand. Sensually riveting (and sans shirt), Tisserand's performance gave the female audience members something to smile about. I was especially impressed with the way he carried, swooped and scooped Kitchens across the stage (gorgeous!), while Kitchens managed to channel the likes of Darci Kistler, creating a character that not only had great hair, but an almost ethereal quality to her as well.

    It was tough following Swan Lake, that's for sure! But they managed to pull it off with superior aplomb.

    During the balcony scene from Romeo et Juliette we saw the return of Lucien Postlewaite and Kaori Nakamura. Again these two gifted dancers brought the house down with their depiction of rapturous, all-consuming young love. Playful yet bold, teasing yet shy, Postlewaite's "Mr. Touchy-Feely" is equally matched by Nakamura's "Look But Don't Touch - Okay, Perhaps Just a Little" Juliette. They gave an incredible performance, one that - again - I did not want to end.

    The crowning moment of the evening, complete with resplendent sets, props and plenty of sparkle was Aurora's Wedding from The Sleeping Beauty. In the spotlight were principal dancers, Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold as Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund.

    Rausch's portrayal of the sixteen year old Princess was breathtaking and believable, while Bold's Prince was the definition of debonair and confidence. Their series of fish dives across the stage were beautifully executed. I especially enjoyed marveling at Rausch's sweet expression, incredible extensions and go-for-miles lines! She brings a decidedly fresh layer of charm to the stage that I hadn't realized was lacking before now.

    The Gold & Silver Pas de Trois featured Lindsi Dec, William Lin-Yee and Seth Orza. The men were every bit as superb as you would expect and in fact, I was especially pleased with how well corps de ballet member, Lin-Yee kept up with the likes of principal dancer, Orza who, let's face it, reached god-like status long ago. If he felt any intimidation about dancing alongside Orza, he didn't show it. Orza, of course, looked fantastic and made his variation look like child's play.

    Dec was joyful, delightful and effervescent as always. I love and appreciate how she makes every performance look like it's her happiest moment on earth.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lindsi Dec in Aurora’s Wedding from Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty.  Presented as part of LOVE STORIES, November 4-13, 2011. Photo © Angela Sterling


    Tied for best variation within this section goes to Puss in Boots & White Cat (Ezra Thompson, Sarah Ricard Orza) and The Bluebird and Princess Florine (Jerome Tisserand, Rachel Foster). First up - Puss in Boots & The White Cat. Corps de ballet member, Ezra Thompson and soloist, Sarah Ricard Orza really outdid themselves with this number! These two have more "character" in their little fingers than others have in their entire body. Ricard-Orza's White Cat was all sass, "slapping" Thompson's "Puss" on the hand - er, paw - whenever he got a little too frisky. In the end, no kitty can resist a choice little mouse which Puss happily presented to Her Royal Divaness, the White Cat.

    As the Bluebird, Tisserand once again did not disappoint, while principal dancer, Rachel Foster's Princess Florine was absolutely flawless. She seems to have the Midas Touch when it comes to execution, technique and inner fire; it all turns to gold, baby! Love it...

    Love Stories runs through November 13th with excellent tickets still available! To learn more, please visit

    Reviewed by Denise Opper

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