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Noelani Pantastico returns to PNB

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Here's the press release

Dear Friends –

PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal has just sent the following announcement to our staff and subscribers:

“When I announced the 2015-2016 season last week, I didn’t think the season could get any better. Believe it or not, it just did and I cannot wait to share the news. This isn’t about the programming, but about a very special dancer who is making a happy homecoming to PNB: Noelani Pantastico will be returning to Pacific Northwest Ballet as a principal dancer this coming November. After her dazzling run as Juliette in the PNB premiere of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, Noelani was invited to join his company, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo where she’s been dancing since 2008. If you haven’t seen Noelani dance, you’ll soon know why we are so delighted to welcome her back home to Seattle. Noelani’s return to the McCaw Hall stage will be in PNB’s new production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Please join me in welcoming Noelani back to PNB!”

Noelani Pantastico is from Oahu, Hawaii. She trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and attended summer courses at Pacific Northwest Ballet School from 1994 to 1996. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 1997. She was promoted to corps de ballet in 1998 and to soloist in 2001. In 2004, she was made a principal. In 2008, she joined Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in Monaco as a soloist. Among her many credits, Ms. Pantastico has danced leading roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Ballet Imperial, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Chaconne, Concerto Barocco, Duo Concertant, Emeralds, The Four Temperaments, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rubies, Serenade, Square Dance, Stars and Stripes, Symphony in C, Symphony in Three Movements, Theme and Variations, La Valse, and Who Cares?; Val Caniparoli’s The Bridge, Lambarena, and Torque; Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat and Rassemblement; William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated; Paul Gibson’s Rush; Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow and The Sleeping Beauty; David Parsons’s Caught; Marius Petipa’s Paquita; Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free and In the Night; Kent Stowell’s Carmen, Carmina Burana, Cinderella, Coppélia, Firebird, Hail to the Conquering Hero, Silver Lining, Swan Lake, and The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet; Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries; Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Nine Sinatra Songs and Waterbaby Bagatelles; and Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. Ms. Pantastico was featured in the BBC’s 1999 film version of PNB’s production of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, filmed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. In 2004, she performed the second movement of Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet as a guest artist for New York City Ballet’s Balanchine Centennial.

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I truly love her dancing. I was wondering, though, about her age. I think she is about 35. With several other principal women approaching retirement age (I believe there are a few women right around 35-36), it would seem that her hire might be short-sighted? I realize they are doing Maillot's Romeo & Juliet next season, so that's an obvious.

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It depends on what you might think he's got in mind for long-term development. There are several young artists that he's been advancing, who aren't quite ready to step into principal dancer roles on a regular basis. And in the meantime, he's losing a very popular mature artist, likely before he anticipated. And so he's hired a very popular, experienced principal artist. She may be returning to the US to complete her career, but, barring an injury, she's likely going to have a few more years at full throttle -- I think it's a pretty smart strategy.

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All of the Principals except the Tisserands (2003/2006) started their professional careers between 1995 and 2001, and I think it's safe to say those that did are in their 30's.

While they are very different dancers, Pantastico is, at most, two years older than Korbes, and they are at about the same place in experience and performance maturity, and in that sense, that Principal "slot" has a type of continuity.

Whether Pantastico's second PNB career is more like Weese's first, or if she will dance into her 40's like Nakamura, is still to be seen. I think one factor is how hard it will be to regain the level of classical technique she had when she left (or close enough) after dancing Maillot, and whether this will be a limiting factor in whatever rep is chosen. Farrell and Mejia did a daily "Balanchine" barre on their own when they danced with Bejart to maintain their technique, and Farrell was able to step back in as a result. I hope Pantastici approaches this with a solid plan and doesn't push too fast. On the other hand, her schedule at PNB may feel easier, without having to expend energy in touring and dancing on different stages.

Promotions at PNB are almost always recognition of having danced at the new level for at least several seasons. I think that Leta Biasucci is as equipped to step into any lead role as all but a few dancers in the company, and she's already proven she can that she can carry a full-length. If tradition holds, she'll have to keep doing this as a Soloist. Neither Laura Tisserand nor Lindsi Dec, for example, are conventional choices for classical ballet leads, like Moore and Poretta aren't conventional choices for classical cavaliers, which is not to say they can't be compelling in them. If PNB didn't promote until a dancer was a perfect fit for the Aurora/Odette-Odile/Giselle trifecta, there would be few Principal women, and few even if that was extended to a perfect fit for Myrtha and Lilac instead of Giselle and Aurora.

Next year's rep is interesting in its lack of classical full-lengths, with "Coppelia" a great strategic choice to showcase the younger phenoms while having Act III roles and "Romeo et Juliette" for most of the experienced Principals. The company is thriving in the Forsythe rep, with 29-31 juicy roles, and the four mixed bills next season will give a lot of opportunities to a lot of dancers. The rep next season also mitigates the impact of bringing in a Principal, even as a homecoming, where the lost opportunity among her peers or the first-in-line up-and-comer would be to one Juliette, rather than two-three full-length leads in one season.

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As usual, a very smart analysis.

I agree with your description of promotions here -- they come after a significant time spent already performing at that level. Since we've had Forsythe here this last couple weeks, I've been thinking hard about his repertory, and was reminded of that cohort at the Paris Opera Ballet that Nureyev promoted "over the heads" of the standard process -- what a furor that caused!

At PNB, it's less about the label, and more about the rep you dance. They can't afford to be lavish with promotions, but people do seem to get chances at the rep. Especially this last few programs, with so many women out on maternity leave, we've seen so many corps dancers featured in roles that are technically above their paygrade...

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