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2017-18 Promotions and Roster Changes

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Last night in the pause between "Emeralds" and "Rubies" Peter Boal announced that Sarah Ricard Orza has been promoted to Principal, Ezra Thomson has been promoted to soloist, and last year's apprentices Madison Rayn Abeo, Amanda Morgan, and Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan have been promoted to corps, with Christopher D'Ariano joining as an apprentice.  It was a family affair:  Sarah Pasch presented flowers to her new husband, Thomson, and Seth Orza and their daughter Lola presented flowers to Ricard Orza.  (I saw Seth Orza high-fiving Lola in the lobby before the performance and was hoping that's one of the reasons she was there.)


In her first years with the company, it was clear that Ricard Orza had come from NYCB, where there's a certain casualness that blurs the specifics, and where the trade-off is momentum.  Also, with its punishing schedule of mostly mixed rep, NYCB corps would keel if they were "on" two-three times a night for seven-eight performances a weeks for two-three months in a row.  PNB dancers in general are specific in the transitions while maintaining the momentum and dancing to the same tempi, and with a less grueling performance schedule, have room to breathe between the two weekends.  More often than not there's a debut in weekend one -- even from casts doing all three performances in weekend one -- and growth and bloom by weekend two.


Of all of the dancers who've joined PNB from NYCB, Ricard Orza has been the most transformed to PNB style in every good way, while retaining her unique musicality and illuminating phrasing.    In the most unassuming way, she invokes pathos and brings the audience into her character, whether the role be character-driven, like Giselle, narrative-light, like in "Carousel:  A Dance," or in non-narrative ballets, like "Appassionata."  At the same time, in strictly abstract ballets, she doesn't impose character, and becomes the dance instrument in service of the music and choreography.


Last night, her solo in "Emeralds" in the Mimi Paul role was the highlight of night of many highs. 


Ezra Thomson has been frequently in the unenviable position of being cast in roles that have either been created for other dancers, like in "Waiting for the Station," or are considered iconic roles for those dancers, like Mercutio in the Maillot "Romeo et Juliette."  Many dancers when challenged that way aim for the rafters.  Thomson is among the few I've seen who make these roles their own not only through distinctive style, but also by the detailed, nuanced, and integrated choices they make from the overall arc of the role to the micro details and pull you into that role and that moment like a great character actor does.  He's been a great role player, too, going from featured roles to corps to demi roles, again like a great character actor, making his mark on each in the most appropriate way, like last night, in "Rubies" male corps and as a demi-soloist partner in "Diamonds."


Balanchine's "Coppelia" isn't structured like Ratmansky's "Don Quixote," to make Dr. Coppelius as central and less of a comic foil.  At the beginning of Act II, Thomson does a very rare thing:  he brings me back to where Dr. Coppelius was the end of Act I, where he had been roughed up by Frantz and the neighborhood boys.  My own litmus test for Dr. Coppelius is whether, in Act III, when he enters the town square with a broken Coppelia in his arms, and the mayor gives him a bag of gold, whether I think he's happy because he's going to use it to try again, not because he's greedy for money, and, in Thomson's portrayal, I never had any doubt.  On the other end of the spectrum, a huge shout-out for his dancing in the "Brief Fling" quartet.


A bit of homerism:  two of the three apprentices are from the Seattle area; Amanda Morgan is from Tacoma, but was substantially trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet School.  I think this is wonderful news for the company, having local dancers with such great talent -- the school and company, as their reputations have grown, have the luxury of being very choosy -- joining dancers who were finished in the Professional Division, some of whom, like Ryan, join other PNBS returnees, like Madison Taylor and Miles Pertl, who also are from the area.


Congratulations to them all on their well-earned promotions. :flowers::flowers::flowers::flowers::flowers:.


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Here's the press release:


Pacific Northwest Ballet Announces Two Promotions at Opening Night of Jewels.


Seattle, WA (9/22/17) – “It gives me great pleasure to announce two well-deserved promotions.” During a pause in the program following the performance of George Balanchine’s Emeralds, Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Director Peter Boal made a special announcement to the opening night audience for PNB’s 45th season. Mr. Boal informed the audience that soloist Sarah Ricard Orza has been promoted to Principal dancer, and Ezra Thomson has moved from the corps de ballet to the rank of Soloist.


“Sarah Ricard Orza joined PNB a decade ago after several years with the New York City Ballet,” said Mr. Boal. “Her innate elegance, lush musical phrasing and ease of technique are in evidence in every role she inhabits. In Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance)Sarah offers both the uncertainty and unbridled joy of first love. She is wickedly funny in Jerome Robbins’ The Concert and truly enchanting as the Sugar Plum Fairy in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. In Benjamin Millepied’s Appassionata, she seemed to reach a new artistic plateau. Sarah has also waited a long time for this promotion, and throughout her extensive career she has continued to grow as a dancer, as an artist and as a person which makes this promotion so well-deserved. Please join me in congratulating PNB’s newest Principal dancer, Sarah Ricard Orza.”


Sarah Ricard Orza is from Amherst, Massachusetts. She trained at Amherst Ballet School and on full scholarship at the School of American Ballet.  In 1999, she joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice. She became a member of the corps de ballet in 2000 and danced with the company until 2006. In 2007, Ms. Orza joined PNB as a member of the corps de ballet and was promoted to soloist in 2010. She has danced leading roles in Peter Boal’s Giselle; George Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Coppélia, Emeralds, The Four Temperaments, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; David Dawson’s Empire Noir and A Million Kisses to My Skin; Ulysses Dove’s Serious Pleasures and Vespers; William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and New Suite; Kiyon Gaines’ Sum Stravinsky; Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance; Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty; Jiri Kylian’s Forgotten Land, Petite Mort, and Sechs Tänze (Six Dances); Jessica Lang’s Her Door to the Sky; Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette; Benjamin Millepied’s Appassionata; Mark Morris’ Pacific; Justin Peck’s Debonair and Year of the Rabbit; Crystal Pite’s Emergence; Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote and Pictures at an Exhibition; Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, Dances at a Gathering, Fancy Free, In the Night, Opus 19/The Dreamer, and West Side Story Suite; Kent Stowell’s Carmina Burana, Cinderella, Nutcracker, and Swan Lake; Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or Less; Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, Opus 111, and Waiting at the Station; and Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance), Polyphonia, and Variations Sérieuses. She originated leading roles in Millepied’s 3 Movements and Price Suddarth’s Signature.


Mr. Boal continued his announcement by calling out Ezra Thomson: “Ezra has been in virtually every new Company creation since he joined PNB as an apprentice eight years ago. This season he steps to the front of the studio to choreograph his first work on the Company. Ezra has been a model of professionalism, leading his peers in the corps de ballet, dancing multiple roles in every rep and bringing deep investment to each part he is assigned and to every choreographer he is asked to work with. He’s taken many star turns as Mercutio, Riff, Doctor Coppelius and the protagonist in Twyla Tharp’s Waiting at the Station. Despite his considerable successes, Ezra has never wavered from the groundedness and generosity that defines him as a dancer and as a person. Our sincerest congratulations to Ezra on his promotion to Soloist.”


Ezra Thomson is from San Bernardino, California. He studied on scholarship at Riverside Ballet Arts, Orlando Ballet School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School and attended summer courses at PNB School, the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet School (Canada), the Rock School, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Burklyn Ballet Theatre. Mr. Thomson was a 2009 recipient of the Flemming Halby Exchange with the Royal Danish Ballet School. He danced with Orlando Ballet before joining PNB as an apprentice in 2009. He was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2010. In 2007, Mr. Thomson won the gold medal in the regional Youth America Grand Prix competition. As a choreographer, he is a regular contributor to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s NEXT STEP showcase. He will make his PNB mainstage choreographic debut during DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, March 16 – 25, 2018.


Prior to the opening night announcements, Mr. Boal also hired Christopher D’Ariano to join the Company as an apprentice.


Christopher D’Ariano is from Yonkers, New York. He studied at Ballet Tech, the School of American Ballet, and PNB School, and attended summer courses at Ballet Tech, Boston Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, and PNB. He was the recipient of the School of American Ballet Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise. While a student, Mr. D’Ariano performed corps de ballet roles with PNB in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto; Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Cendrillon; Jerome Robbins’ Opus 19/The Dreamer and West Side Story Suite; and Twyla Tharp’s Brief Fling. He also performed a leading role in Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie and originated a role in a new work by Ezra Thomson for PNB School’s annual School Performance, and he originated roles in works by Angeli Mamon & Dammiel Cruz and Jerome Tisserand for PNB’s NEXT STEP. Mr. D’Ariano also has danced with Lunge Dance Collective, and he has choreographed for the Seattle International Dance Festival.


PNB congratulates our newly promoted and hired dancers!

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The program for the 37th Annual School Performance listed the four dancers who will become PNB Apprentices in this coming season.  From following the programs, sometimes they start at different times in the season, but I think they're all on the roster by "Nutcracker."

  • Abby Jayne DeAngelo
  • Luther DeMyer
  • Juliet Prine
  • Yuki Takahashi
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I haven’t had time to post reviews much this season.  At the encore I thought: “Wow, PNB has an embarassment of riches, promotions will be tough choices.”  

But I think it will be Miles Pertl and Dylan Wald to soloists.  PNB needs more tall partners and they have been given some good parts this season.  

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