After about five months away, PNB has begun slowly welcoming dancers back into our studios at the Phelps Center. Safety is paramount. PNB is following local health and safety mandates, consulting public health advisors and partnering with AGMA (dancers’ union) on strict return-to-work protocols including screening measures, timed entry into the building, dancers divided up into pods made of four to five dancers each, and everyone in the building wearing masks made by our very own costume shop.

On rehearsing Be Still from F O I L

PNB corps de ballet dancers Juliet Prine, Amanda Morgan, and Cecilia Iliesiu (and cover Abby Jayne DeAngelo) are currently working together to rehearse an excerpt from choreographer Eva Stone’s work F O I L. All four movements of F O I L had their world premiere at PNB last fall as a part of our Locally Sourced program. Eva Stone and the dancers are working on learning (or relearning in the cases of Amanda and Cecilia) and restaging the second section of F O I L, a trio entitled Be Still.

In this restaged version of the work, the dancers will not touch each other for safety, though all three dancers insist that it only adds to the feeling of the work. Be Still is a trio performed completely facing away from the audience, and without touching or fully looking at each other, Juliet, Amanda, and Cecilia have to stay aware of where their partners are by breathing and moving altogether. “The same intention is there,” says Amanda on the slightly restaged piece. “We still have the same energy.”

Amanda Morgan and Cecilia Iliesiu were both in the original case of Be Still when it premiered at PNB last fall. “The movements really do come back and I think, ‘Oh, I remember how that goes.’ And after the first run through I can really get into it a little bit deeper and I really enjoy sharing my knowledge with others,” says Cecilia about revisiting the piece.

The women of Pod F are fortunate enough to be able to always physically be in the room with Eva Stone for rehearsals. With such a small cast, all four dancers and Stone can work in the same studio without exceeding the five-person-maximum safety rules. There’s a half-circle marked with yellow tape on the floor at the front of every studio where choreographers like Eva Stone stay while they’re working with dancers to keep their distance.

The small cast of only three dancers in the final piece is unique and gives Eva Stone an opportunity to take the time to focus on each dancer in the work. “She can really see each person individually,” says Amanda Morgan. “That’s what she did today [in rehearsal]. We ran it through and Eva watched one individual each time and then gave her notes.”

On returning to the PNB studios & dancing at home

All three dancers commented on the lack of social interactions in taking class online versus having class in person at PNB. “At home, I lacked a lot of motivation to take class. Alone in my apartment I didn’t have my friends around me,” says Juliet. “It’s never going to be the same. But being back in the actual environment makes all the difference to me.”

“I honestly didn’t take class for a while at home because of the state of the world,” add Amanda. “I trusted my body to know what to do when I came back.” Amanda went on to add that she misses being able to have alone time in the studio. Studio time at The Phelps Center is fully booked with the class and rehearsal schedules for the various pods of dancers. Having alone time in the studio is one of Amanda’s favorite things since she started creating her own dance works. (Look for Amanda’s new site-specific piece as a part of our Dance Happens Everywhere digital season!)

Amanda, Cecilia, & Juliet’s hopes & goals for the season

Amanda, Cecilia, and Juilet all had similar hopes for how the new season will reach new audiences for PNB. Juliet says, “My goal for PNB is to see PNB grow.” “We have the chance now to have so many people see what we’re doing, not just in McCaw Hall. And now we can be accessible and reach a lot of people. I think it’s really great, in a way, that this virtual season can happen,” adds Amanda. “And also these works we’re working on and are making we’re seeing more diversity and seeing different narratives, not just ballet from a heteronormative standpoint so I think that’s going to be something really exciting.”

Cecilia continues, “I’m most excited about hopefully reaching a broader audience. I hope that’s the result of PNB’s virtual season. Not necessarily only reaching out to a Seattle audience but to others out there.” Amanda and Cecilia are also excited to continue to mentor students of the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Their mentorship meetings currently take place over video chat and include sharing personal experiences as professional dancers, dance opportunities to students, and relationship building between the PNB School and the Company.

Last, all three dancers spoke about the opportunity to slow down, consider the needs of their bodies, and revel in the process of taking class and rehearsing. Cecilia’s personal goal for the season is to, “Stay true to myself and accepting where my body is physically and mentally and letting that take over not being down about what I used to be able to do. It’s ok that I’m in a different place now.” Amanda goes on to say, “I’m excited about choreographing in general and dancing again, and I’m enjoying the process more and more instead of just the product. I’m going to try to be more mindful in the process and enjoy the time involved.”

Juliet ends by saying, “I thought that I would take a lot more class in quarantine but I think I needed not to. I feel so lucky to be able to come into the studio and learn again.”

Interviewed & written by Maris Antolin.
Featured photo: Cecilia Iliesiu, Margaret Mullin, & Emma Love Suddarth in Be Still from Eva Stone’s F O I L. Photo ©Angela Sterling.