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Press Release: Principal Dancer Carla Körbes to Retire at End of the 2014-2015 Season

By (Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Thursday, Sep 18 at 11:07 AM

PNB Principal Carla Körbes

Special Tribute to be part of Season Encore Performance, June 7, 2015

SEATTLE, WA — Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Director Peter Boal and principal dancer Carla Körbes have announced that Ms. Körbes will retire from the Company at the end of PNB’s 2014-2015 season. Ms. Körbes joined PNB as a soloist in 2005 and was promoted to principal in 2006.

"I have had unforgettable moments with Pacific Northwest Ballet,” said Ms. Körbes regarding her decision. “I am thankful and honored to have shared the stage with all the dancers at PNB and have had the opportunity to work with such a generous staff. At this moment I am ready to start a new phase in my life. My body is ready to move on, so I need to respect that. Ballet has been my life, so I hope to continue to explore the art form in new ways and try new artistic endeavors."

“I've been in denial about Carla's insistence that this season be her last,” said Mr. Boal in his announcement. “When I think about the many exquisite moments she has afforded us over the past decade, I think I might be selfish to want more. One more Kitri, one more Odette/Odile and one more In the Middle, please? Yes, we may have those, but I trust Carla with this difficult decision. After all, she's always had impeccable timing.”

Mr. Boal continued: “Our story began almost twenty years ago when I arrived in Porto Alegre, Brazil to perform Apollo with ‘a local girl.’ I was apprehensive to say the least, having performed with a few too many ‘local girls’ in my day. But when a stick of a girl named Carlinha entered the stage with a blonde bun the size of a brioche and arches to match, I was in awe. Trust me when say that I'm not the kind of person who would summon a translator to tell a fourteen-year-old she needed to leave her home and her family in order to move to New York City to train at the School of American Ballet, but after one seamless run-through of the pas de deux in Apollo, I knew I needed to take action. Carla was that rare bird with a gift greater than she, her parents or even her teachers understood. She offered the very essence of the Balanchine aesthetic coupled with true graciousness and instinctive musicality. She was a breath of fresh air and continues to be just that almost twenty years later at the height of her career. How fortunate we are to have her artistry on proud display in our city, on our stage and on stages around the world. Carla is an absolute treasure.”

Audiences will have several more opportunities to see Ms. Körbes perform during the 2014-2015 season, including the upcoming Jewels (September 26 – October 5), Nutcracker(November 28 – December 28), Don Quixote (January 30 – February 8, 2015), and Swan Lake (April 10 – 19), among others. (She will also be appearing in the preview performances of Justin Peck’s Debonair at The Joyce Theater in New York City on October 8 – 12, and in the work’s premiere in Seattle, November 7 – 16.) During the run of Jewels, Ms. Körbes is scheduled to dance the lead role in Diamonds on Friday, September 26 (opening night) and Saturday, October 4; and Emeralds on Saturday, September 27 (matinee), Thursday, October 2, and Friday, October 3. (For up-to-date casting information, check performance details on Schedule and casting is subject to change). The season will conclude with PNB’s annual Season Encore Performance (6:30 pm on Sunday, June 7) which will feature Ms. Körbes reprising some of her signature performances. Tickets to Jewels, in addition to the rest of PNB’s season offerings, may be purchased through the PNB Box Office, 206.441.2424, online at, or in person at 301 Mercer Street. Tickets to the Season Encore Performance are on sale now for PNB’s season subscribers only, and will go on sale to the general public on January 19, 2015.

Carla Körbes was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and began her ballet training at age five with local teachers. At age eleven, she began studying at Ballet Vera Bublitz. In 1996, Peter Boal danced with her as a guest artist of the school and encouraged her to come to New York to study at the School of American Ballet. For academic year 1997–1998, her tuition was paid by Alexandra Danilova so she could continue studying at the School of American Ballet. In 1999, she was the Mae. L. Wien Award recipient and was made an apprentice with New York City Ballet. She joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet in 2000 and was the Janice Levin Dancer Honoree for 2001–2002. She was promoted to soloist in 2005 and later that year joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a soloist. Ms. Körbes was promoted to principal dancer in 2006. 

In 2006, DANCE magazine selected Ms. Körbes for their annual “25 to Watch” feature, and she appeared on the cover of DANCE in February, 2010. Gia Kourlas, in a New York Times profile, described Ms. Körbes as “one of America’s most remarkable ballerinas. When she burst onto the scene, seeing her glittering intensity and silky phrasing was like watching Balanchine with new eyes.”  In a 2012 review of her performance at the Vail International Dance Festival, Alastair Macaulay, dance critic of The New York Times, wrote that “There’s no question that she is one of the finest ballerinas appearing in America today; some think her the finest, and last weekend I felt in no mood to contradict them.

For PNB she has originated leading roles in Paul Gibson's Sense of Doubt, Benjamin Millepied's 3 Movements, Christopher Wheeldon’s Tide Harmonic, and Twyla Tharp's Opus 111. She has performed leading roles in the majority of PNB’s repertory, including the works of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Kent Stowell, and Twyla Tharp.  She has danced leads in all of PNB’s full-length repertory, including Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake (Odette/Odile), Nutcracker (Clara, Flora), and Cinderella (Cinderella); George Balanchine’s Coppélia (Swanilda); Peter Boal’s Giselle (Giselle); Ronald Hynd's The Sleeping Beauty (Aurora, Gold and Silver pas de trois, Lilac Fairy); Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette (Juliet); and Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote (Kitri).

At New York City Ballet, Ms. Körbes first danced leading and featured roles in Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15EpisodesA Midsummer Night’s Dream (Titania, Helena), and Serenade; Peter Martins' Concerto for Two Solo PianosSinfoniaThe Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake; and Jerome Robbins' Antique EpigraphsFanfareThe Four SeasonsI’m Old Fashioned, and Interplay. She originated leading roles in Albert Evans' Haiku, Peter Martins' Chichester Psalms, Susan Stroman’s Double Feature, Richard Tanner's Soiree, and Christopher Wheeldon's An American in Paris and Shambards.

Other leading roles have included George Balanchine's Agon, ApolloConcerto BaroccoDiamonds, Duo Concertant, EmeraldsA Midsummer Night’s Dream (Divertissement pas de deux), Prodigal SonSerenade, Slaughter on Tenth AvenueLa SonnambulaSymphony in Three Movements, and La Valse; Val Caniparoli's The Bridge; Merce Cunningham's Inlets 2; Sonia Dawkins' Ripple Mechanics; David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to my Skin; Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels and Serious Pleasures; Nacho Duato's Jardí Tancat and Rassemblement; William Forsythe's Artifact II and In the middle, somewhat elevated; Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort; Mark Morris' A Garden and Pacific; Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH; Jerome Robbins' Fancy FreeGlass PiecesIn the Night, and West Side Story Suite (Anita); Kent Stowell's Carmina Buranaand Hail to the Conquering Hero; Susan Stroman's TAKE FIVE…More or Less; Richard Tanner's Ancient Airs and Dances; Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs and Waterbaby Bagatelles; and Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain pas de deuxCarousel (A Dance), and Polyphonia

In 2002, Ms. Körbes performed Richard Tanner's Ancient Airs and Dances for the nationally televised PBS Live from Lincoln Center broadcast, "New York City Ballet's Diamond Project: Ten Years of New Choreography." In addition to her performances with New York City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ms. Körbes has performed with Peter Boal and Company and in the debut performance of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. She has also performed as a guest artist on the Vail International Dance Festival’s “International Evenings of Dance” galas and at the “Dance Open” Gala in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2010.

All performances are at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street at Seattle Center.

  • George Balanchine’s Jewels runs September 26 – October 5.  Carla Körbes is scheduled to dance the lead role in Diamonds on Friday, September 26 (opening night) and Saturday, October 4; and Emeralds on Saturday, September 27 (matinee), Thursday, October 2, and Friday, October 3. (For up-to-date casting information, check performance details on Schedule and casting is subject to change).
  • Season Encore Performance will be presented one night only, Sunday, June 7 at 6:30 pm. The performance will include a special tribute to Carla Körbes. NOTE: Tickets to the Season Encore Performance are on sale NOW to PNB’s subscribers, and will go on sale to the general public on January 19, 2015.

Tickets may be purchased by calling the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at

Programming and casting are subject to change. For further information and casting, please visit

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To download a PDF of this press release, click here
To read the New York Times' feature, click here

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 2014-2015 Season is proudly sponsored by ArtsFund and
Microsoft Corporation.

Publicity Contact
Gary Tucker, Media Relations Manager
Tel: 206-441-2426 / E-mail:

Programming subject to change. For further information, please visit:


Laura Tisserand on Suzanne Farrell

By (Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Monday, Aug 18 at 2:15 PM

Suzanne Farrell & Laura Tisserand
              I’ll never forget how I felt walking into the studio at the Kennedy Center so many Augusts ago. I was an eager 14 year-old ready to start my three-week summer intensive at Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell (EBSF). For me, this was the chance of a lifetime. I knew that Suzanne only picked about thirty young dancers to participate in the program, and the day my acceptance letter came was one of the happiest days in my young life. I had attended School of American Ballet for four summers prior to attending EBSF, so I was not new to Balanchine technique, but this was going to be a completely new and wonderful experience—learning from Mr. Balanchine’s muse herself! This was the person I had devoted an entire science fair project to and whose book (Holding On to the Air) was visibly worn from being read so much. Needless to say, she was my idol; I knew it would be an enlightening as well as challenging summer. EBSF was all that and more, and every day proved to be a test both physically and mentally. Suzanne’s classes were unlike any I had experienced before. She would demonstrate a confusing combination at the barre once, very quickly, and then look at you and ask, “what’s the pattern?”  I was thrilled and terrified. Back then I don’t think I could fully recognize the benefit we gained from this unorthodox way of teaching, but as I think about it now, it’s quite clear to me what she was trying to achieve. She never wanted a dancer to perform the same combinations by rote; rather she wanted dancers to always be “on their toes,” so to speak, and ready to pick up challenging choreography quickly. But the fourteen-year-old in me still gets heart palpitations just thinking about it!

Laura Tisserand in Diamonds © Angela Sterling

            Fast-forward fifteen years: a little (okay a lot) older and with an established professional ballet career under my belt. You would think I would be as confident as can be upon returning to the Kennedy Center, but as I entered that exact studio I was in all those years ago, I had the same butterflies and feelings of excitement and anticipation I’d had as a young student about to be in the presence of a legend once again. I wasn’t sure she would remember me, but it turned out she not only remembered me, but also recalled the audition city where she had first seen me. I was astonished at how good her memory was, since she sees hundreds of students every year at audition tours. She simply said, “I never forget a face.”  This is one of the amazing things about Suzanne—she couldn’t care less about how many pirouettes you do or how high you jump. To her, spirit, musicality, and individuality are what make great dancers, not perfect technique. At EBSF, I remember her saying that there would always be dancers better than you, but there is ONLY ONE YOU. I love that she celebrated us all as individuals and didn’t see us as faceless, nameless dancers with no personality.

Suzanne Farrell in Diamonds
This struck me working with her this time on Diamonds. She definitely clarified steps and cleared up some musicality that has become murky throughout the years, but she made it known that there is room for interpretation. When I asked her about whether or not there was a glissade before the developpe in the scherzo section, she kind of shrugged her shoulders and said, “well one night the music might be a little slower and you will probably need the glissade to fill the time, where the next night it might be faster so no glissade is needed.” In other words, listen to the music and let that always be the driving force in your dancing. It seems like such a simple concept, but nowadays music is often overlooked by dancers and treated as an afterthought to the movement. This was definitely not how Mr. Balanchine felt about music, as is evident in his genius choreography. He made the music and the steps harmoniously blend as one, and Suzanne continues to pass on these ideals to future generations of dancers. When the CD we were using was so ridiculously fast I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up, she said that in rehearsals she likes to put in a really slow CD one day and a fast one the next, so that her company never becomes too comfortable with one tempo. Dancers have to be adaptable and able to dance at any tempo since you never know how the orchestra will play from night to night. And even though it was probably not my cleanest dancing or the most technically proficient I’ve ever been, it was kind of thrilling to see how fast this 5’10” body could move!
Laura Tisserand in Diamonds © Angela Sterling
              As I reflect back on my time with Suzanne as a young student, and now as a professional dancer, I’m struck by what a full circle moment this is in my life. It drives home how lucky I am to have had both of these experiences. Not many people get the chance to share with their idol how much they mean to them, much less be coached by them. A career in ballet is fleeting, so it’s important to soak up every ounce of inspiration and knowledge that we can. As I embark on these rehearsals and performances of Diamonds, I’ll be focusing on musicality and, above all, individuality. Suzanne always said you have to be fascinating before you’ve even done anything, so that’s what I will be thinking of the moment I slip that glittery tiara on my head.

NEXT STEP Choreographer: Ezra Thomson

By (Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Thursday, Jun 12 at 11:11 AM

As has been discussed on this blog before, Company dancer Ezra Thomson’s interests are diverse to say the least. In addition to dance and music, Ezra enjoys cooking, working on his family’s Gig Harbor farm, fixing up his 1965 Mustang, and creating goods to sell in the Etsy shop he runs with his girlfriend Sarah Pasch, who is also a member of PNB's corps de ballet.  “I can’t not do something,” he says.

Ezra Thomson with PNB School Professional Division students at Next Step 2013

INFLUENCES: Ezra’s omnivorous tastes extend to the musical influences he drew on for his Next Step premiere, titled Win Lose or Draw. Blues, Spanish, and jazz guitar melodies composed by Ezra himself accompany and accent his choreography, which he describes as “pedestrian movements turned into dance.” Inspired by his own experiences, Win Lose or Draw presents a loose narrative based on the everyday events in a relationship – “You bump into each other in the kitchen, or throw a pillow, or have a funny hug” – but left ambiguous enough for audiences to create their own interpretation.

Ezra Thomson rehearses in the PNB Studios with Elle Macy.

INSPIRATION: The title Win Lose or Draw resulted from Ezra’s own experience choreographing the piece. Beginning with nine dancers, injuries and other commitments ultimately left him with two dancers and required a rethinking of his concept, which evolved into the piece as it is now. He moved from a straight narrative concept to more of a collaborative process with “two fantastic dancers, open to new ideas.”

Jahna Frantziskonis and Andy Garcia in Passages, Ezra's 2011 NEXT STEP premiere.

COLLABORATION: Ezra's openness to change is reflected in his choreographic process, which has evolved over the years. He talks about the need to follow his own style and not necessarily adhere to classically prescribed methods in his own work. To that end, it makes perfect sense that the perfect accompaniment to Ezra’s choreography would be his own compositions. Starting from a practical standpoint – “It removes constraint and makes it easier to fit what I want into the piece,” – composing his own music also allows Ezra the freedom to write for specific dancers, movements, and moods without being bound by a particular musical genre or time frame. When composing and playing, he strives for a simple yet lush sound that keeps the focus on the dancers’ movements.

Kaylee Skelton in Ezra's 2012 NEXT STEP premiere, ich Liebe dich.

COMING UP: Ezra’s next project is right in line with his style, which is to say something totally different at which he will no doubt excel. Collaborating with Massive Monkees’ Jerome Aparis, Ezra will present a new commission combing ballet and street dance Friday, June 20th at the Seattle International Dance Festival. We can’t wait to see this new work, and what Ezra does next!

See the premiere of Win Lose or Draw on NEXT STEP 
Friday, June 13 at 7:30 pm. 
Only at McCaw Hall! 


Photos by Rex Tranter. Blog post by Kristen Ramer Liang.


NEXT STEP Choreographer: Margaret Mullin

By (Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Wednesday, Jun 11 at 9:16 PM

Company soloist and NEXT STEP choreographer Margaret Mullin sat down with me recently to discuss her upcoming premiere of Rorshach, a contemporary duet for two women based on the famous psychological test. Moving to music by Bartók, the two dancers command the audience's attention as they mirror each other's movements while staying true to their own idiosyncrasies. The result is a captivating piece that manages to be simultaneously thought-provoking and playful.

Professional Division students Jessica Pelluer and Abby Cockrell rehearse
Margaret Mullin's premiere Rorschach at PNB's annual Teen Night
“I was definitely trying to have a bit of fun with this piece…I wanted it to be quirky, I wanted it to be a little odd, to tap into the diversity of what a young female dancer can do that may not be instantly thought of when you think of a ballet student…I wanted to bring out a lot of versatility in them, and a lot of ferociousness that they have.”

Professional Division students Andy Garcia and Jahna Frantziskonis rehearse
a premiere by Margaret Mullin at Teen Night 2011

The Rorschach test, a psychological test involving the subject’s interpretation of a series of inkblots, provided the inspiration for Margaret’s choreography.

“I’m definitely playing with their [the dancers’] ability to hold the audience’s attention in many different ways, and I think that played a lot to the Rorschach concept, because it’s all entirely based on perception.

Last year it was all male choreographers and there were a lot of questions about why there weren’t any women. I’ve received a lot of encouragement to do what I do, but there’s still some thought that women don’t do it [choreograph] because we’re not comfortable with authority. So I was thinking, we’re gonna do an all-girls’ piece this year, for girls by a’s been something that really interests me and it’s a fun idea – it lends itself so well to creative movements. [In rehearsals] we spent a lot of time talking about the other participant and thinking about how they perceive your work – the basis of the test is all about that.”

Professional Division student Jessica Pelluer rehearses Rorschach at Teen Night 2014

Margaret brings a wealth of experience to the studio when working with PD students, having choreographed on both students and Company dancers at Ballet Tucson and PNB.

“I think I enter the studio with that [teaching] frame of mind, where I enjoy an authority position as much as I enjoy nurturing other dancers. A lot of my choreographic process is that too, which actually helps me feel more creative...when I feel like they’re engaged and I’m helping them, I feel more energized, and I can tell that they’re more energized. I think the love of teaching and nurturing has been the biggest factor in my process and shapes what I do.

Margaret Mullin rehearses with Jahna Frantziskonis and Andy Garcia at Teen Night 2011

They’re students so you want them to feel their best, to enjoy themselves, and have the chance to be seen…Everyone is so different and that’s the part that I enjoy a lot.”

"Choreography, for me, is something I feel like I can’t help but do…whenever I try to stop is when I start getting more ideas than I should...artistically there’s an undeniable need to do it. I really enjoy working with the students on NEXT STEP…it’s the ultimate tying-in of those things where I’m creating a new work, and they’re students so it’s a huge learning time for them still versus seasoned professionals, so it’s something that marries my two loves.”

 Andy Garcia and Jahna Frantziskonis perform at Teen Night 2011

Next up for Margaret is something completely different: for the next few years, in addition to dancing, teaching, and choreographing, she’ll be working on a documentary with Nel Shelby (resident videographer for Jacob’sPillow) about dancer and choreographer Ian Horvath, whose passion for the art form helped to further dance in America. 

See Margaret's premiere on NEXT STEP
Friday, June 13 at 7:30 pm. 
Only at McCaw Hall! 


Photos by Lindsey Thomas and Rex Tranter. Blog post by Kristen Ramer Liang.

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