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Batkhurel Bold and Noelani Pantastico Promoted to Principal and Mara Vinson to Soloist

PNB's Season Finale A Midsummer Night's Dream Marks Final Performance for Retiring Dancers Principal Paul Gibson and Soloists Alexandra Dickson and Melanie Skinner

Seattle, WA - Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell announced recently the promotion of Noelani Pantastico and Batkhurel Bold from Soloists to Principal Dancers and Mara Vinson from Corps de Ballet to Soloist. All promotions are effective at the beginning of PNB's 2004-2005 Season.

Noelani Pantastico was trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and attended Pacific Northwest Ballet School Summer Courses as a scholarship student. She joined PNB as an apprentice in 1997, became a full company member in 1998 and was promoted to soloist in 2001. Ms. Pantastico is from Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Ms. Pantastico has danced to rave reviews in many classical and contemporary ballets over the last three seasons, but it was her debut as Aurora in Ronald Hynd's version of The Sleeping Beauty, followed by Odette/Odile in Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, that thrust her and her "1,000-watt smile" (King County Journal) into the international spotlight. Hailed by the Seattle Weekly as "An Egyptian Deity" and "nothing short of mesmerizing" in The Seattle Times, PNB is pleased to include Noelani among its principal dancers.

Batkhurel Bold, originally from Ulan Bator, Mongolia, joined PNB as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 1996 and was promoted to Soloist in 1999. He received his training at the Perm Choreographic Academy in Russia from the age of 10.

Known for his athletic leaps as much as his silent landings, Batkhurel Bold has been heralded in the press as "a dancer whose bravura can be thrilling but is often expressed in a surprisingly serene way." (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) Mr. Bold has distinguished himself in Ronald Hynd's Merry Widow, Jose Limon's The Moors Pavane and the role of Siegfried in Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Mara Vinson is being promoted from Corps de Ballet to Soloist. She joined PNB in 1999 and was promoted to full company member in 2000. She was trained at the Palos Verdes Ballet School in California and on full scholarship at the Kirov Academy and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She is from Redondo Beach, California. Known as a "markedly talented dancer on the rise" (The Seattle Times) amongst the press and ballet fans alike, Ms. Vinson recently received great acclaim for her performances in George Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15, Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, Carmina Burana and the lead role of Clara in Nutcracker.

In addition, apprentices Lucien Postlewaite and Laura Gilbreath will be promoted to full Company members as they join Corps de Ballet. Jessika Anspach, Brennan Boyer, Erin Lewis and Sean Whiteman will join the Company as apprentices at the beginning of the season.

Longtime PNB Dancers Alexandra Dickson, Melanie Skinner and Paul Gibson to Retire

In announcing the upcoming retirements of Alexandra Dickson, Melanie Skinner and Paul Gibson, Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell said, "We are bidding a fond farewell to dancers who have played major roles in the life of PNB. In the order in which they joined the Company: Alexandra Dickson, Melanie Skinner and Paul Gibson, will dance their last performances with us on June 13th. All have been involved in our dancers' transition program, Second Stage, and all have well-thought-out plans for their second careers; but it is difficult to visualize PNB without them."

Alexandra Dickson was born in Whitehorse, Yukon. She was trained at the Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver, B.C. as well as Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Ms. Dickson joined PNB as an apprentice in 1990 becoming a full company member in 1991. Russell recalls, "Alexandra first came into our lives as a tiny, tow-headed soldier in early PNB performances of Nutcracker in Vancouver, B.C. When she was old enough she came to the School and, eventually, when we managed to convince the U.S. Immigration of her outstanding talent, rose through the ranks of the Company." From 1992 to 1994 she danced with Ballet British Columbia where she gained an increasingly diverse dance vocabulary. In 1994 Alexandra returned to PNB as a soloist and has since broadened her repertoire to include works by George Balanchine, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Kevin O'Day, Donald Byrd and Paul Taylor, among others. Her list of favorites includes leading roles in La Valse, Kammergarten Tänze, Subtext Rage, the Four Temperaments, Flora in Nutcracker, Lady Capulet in the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Mercedes in Don Quixote and Helena in A Midsummer's Night Dream. Stowell and Russell praised Ms. Dickson as "a dramatic dancer and interpreter by instinct."

In addition to her role as a dancer, Ms. Dickson has also enjoyed passing on her knowledge and experience through her position as an artistic coach for the young "Claras" in PNB's acclaimed Stowell/Sendak Nutcracker and through her participation in PNB's Education and Outreach program. Ms. Dickson will receive her certification as a Pilates instructor this fall and upon completion begins work in her new position in PNB's Conditioning Program.

Melanie Skinner joined PNB as an apprentice in 1990 after completing her training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School on scholarship. In 1991 she became a full company member and was promoted to soloist in 1994. She was trained on scholarship at the School of American Ballet and North Carolina School of the Arts and is originally from Milford, Delaware.

Ms. Skinner's extensive repertory includes everything from George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco and William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated to Marius Petipa's Paquita, demonstrating a versatility that spans classical ballet to modern contemporary. Stowell and Russell said, "Melanie has for many years been an unassuming, quietly strong and highly respected presence in the Company. Although she is a touching and lovely Helena in Midsummer, the neo-classical works have always been her favorites: Concerto Barocco, Serenade, Violin Concerto, Choleric in the Four Temperaments, as well as the Peacock in Nutcracker. She will be remembered for those roles and for stunning interpretations of the Forsythe ballets: Artifact II and In the middle, somewhat elevated."

Through PNB's Second Stage career transition program, Ms. Skinner has been taking courses at Seattle University and next fall plans to continue full time in Liberal Studies. She hopes to pursue a career that incorporates her knowledge and love of dance with her desire to help young children with limited opportunities.

Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell announce Paul Gibson's retirement as Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer and subsequent hiring as Assistant Ballet Master, effective immediately.

Mr. Gibson joined PNB as a soloist in 1994 and was promoted to principal mid-season in 1996. He was trained at Allegheny Ballet Academy and at San Francisco Ballet School. In 1988, he joined San Francisco Ballet where he was promoted to soloist in 1993. He is from Altoona, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Gibson is known for his many roles in the Balanchine Repertory, including Agon, Four Temperaments, Chaconne, Mozartiana and A Midsummer Night's Dream as well as his mastery of contemporary pieces choreographed by a variety of choreographers such as Nacho Duato, Mark Morris and William Forsythe. He has also enjoyed considerable success as a touring artist, highlighted by his April 1997 performance of Val Caniparolli's Lambarena at the Benois Prize gala at the National Theatre of Warsaw in Poland.

Recently Mr. Gibson has worked as a choreographer, creating Diversions in 1996 and Rush for PNB in 2002. Mary Murfin Bayley, writing for The Seattle Times said of the premiere performance, "'Rush' had such a high voltage energy level, that the stage still felt charged with the complex movement that had just zapped across it." In spring 2004, Gibson restaged E.R.A.R. for PNB after it's original creation for New York City Ballet's Choreographic Institute. Mr. Gibson's latest work will premiere in PNB's 2004-2005 Season in the American Choreographers mixed repertory program. In addition, he has been an AGMA delegate for the last five years, negotiating dancer contracts for the past two years.


Founded in 1972 and under the artistic guidance of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell since 1977, Pacific Northwest Ballet is one the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States. The Company of forty-six dancers presents over ninety performances each year of full-length and mixed repertory ballets at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall and on tour. The Company has toured to Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and throughout the United States with celebrated appearances in Washington D.C. and New York City. Pacific Northwest Ballet School, under the direction of Ms. Russell, is nationally recognized as setting the standard for ballet training offering a complete professional curriculum to over 850 students. The School also provides comprehensive dance education to the greater Seattle area reaching over 10,000 adults and children each year through DanceChance, Discover Dance, Bravo!Ballet and other outreach programs and activities.

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