Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Lesley Rausch Announces Retirement

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lesley Rausch has announced that she will be retiring at the end of the 2022-23 season. Lesley joined PNB as a member of the corps de ballet in 2001. She was promoted to soloist in 2007 and principal in 2011. Lesley’s incredible 22-year career will be celebrated at the Season Encore Performance, Sunday, June 11 at McCaw Hall.

“I never imagined 25 years ago, when I attended my first summer course at PNB School, that I would go on to have such a rewarding career with this great company,” said Lesley in her announcement. “I knew that I truly loved PNB and feel immensely fortunate that Kent and Francia took a chance on a very flexible, and somewhat uncoordinated, young dancer. I am beyond grateful for all of the love and commitment they put into nurturing the dancer I would become. I am also extraordinarily appreciative to Peter for the countless and diverse opportunities he has gifted me. You have all helped me to fulfill my dreams in ways I never realized were possible.

“I am blessed to have parents who encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a professional dancer and helped me move to Seattle at the age of 17 to train at PNB School. Thank you to my mom, dad, and sister who have always been there to cheer me on and help pick me up when things were tough.

I have spent my entire adult life at PNB, which has become in some ways my home and family. I have made lifelong friends and most importantly met and married my soulmate. It has been such a gift to share this beautiful career dancing with Bold [former PNB principal Batkhurel Bold], my biggest cheerleader. I look forward to all the years ahead dancing through life together.

“To my colleagues past and present, I have the utmost respect and admiration for you and feel blessed by the incredible partnerships I have shared over the years. To my most consistent partner, [PNB physical therapist] Boyd Bender, thank you. I would never have had the longevity or success in my career without your brilliant dedication to your craft and your unwavering care and support.

“There are far too many people to thank for all of the contributions they have made to allow me the success that I have had at PNB. To the audience, subscribers, donors, rehearsal directors, school faculty, administration, PR, marketing, costume, wardrobe, production, stage crew and managers, musicians, and everyone else that makes PNB the incredible place that it is, thank you. It has been the pleasure of my life to share my passion with you all.”

“Lesley Rausch has elevated countless ballets with her singular presence, extraordinary talent, and unmatched artistry over an impressive 22-year career with Pacific Northwest Ballet,” said PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal. “As she elects to step away from the stage at the close of our 50th Anniversary season, we know, like everything she does, it will be with the utmost grace. In iconic roles in Swan Lake and Diamonds, Lesley is able to sustain legato phrasing with her endless line, uncanny extension, and exquisite port de bras. Quite simply, Lesley is the ballerina version of a Stradivarius. Equally aligned with the nimble electric violin in Red Angels, Lesley’s range as a dancer is extraordinary. The epitome of elegance on stage, she is also a devoted mentor, coach, and champion to her peers in the studio. I can’t quite imagine PNB without her, but we will hold our treasured memories dearly, while offering our profound gratitude to this great artist.”

“When Lesley came to her first PNB School Summer Course in 1997, we immediately picked her out of the crowd,” said PNB Founding Artistic Directors Francia Russell and Kent Stowell. “Visually, her physique looked designed for a career in classical ballet but we soon learned that, in order to tame it, she had many challenges ahead of her. What we did not know was that Lesley had almost unreal will and determination. She also had a temper. When I cast her in a difficult variation for a School Performance she insisted she could not, and would not, do it. I insisted she was going to do it. In the end, that solo brought her to a higher level of technique, as I knew it would, and she was soon in the Company and on her way.

“Through all the years we have worked with her, Kent and I have been impressed not only by Lesley’s devotion and seriousness about her work but her lack of seriousness about herself. No high falutin’ prima ballerina airs about this young woman. She is aware of everyone working with her and has been both a great colleague and, as she proceeded to her peak as an artist, mentor, and inspiration for the Company.

“Lesley has gone from strength to strength as a dedicated and beloved performer in both the contemporary and classical repertoires. As a dynamic technician she has never lost the loveliness of her vulnerability in many roles. Swan Lake was perhaps the most perfect example: her Odette was heartbreakingly, humanly beautiful and her Odile a creature of fire and ice, and all performed with a clarity of technique that pretended to be easy. Last spring revisiting the ballet one last time with Lesley, was a productive and fulfilling experience we can never forget. Also impossible to forget are her radiant and gently humorous Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, her breathtaking ‘Court of Love’ in Carmina Burana, and her power in In the middle, somewhat elevated. And so many, many more!

“Of course Lesley’s most important partner is her husband, Bold. So different in character and background, they have forged a powerful, loving relationship that is a joy to know. Lesley will be missed terribly by everyone at PNB and she will miss dancing for sure. But we have no doubt at all that her life, with Bold, will be as full in the future as the brilliant career she has had with PNB. She leaves a legacy of dedication and perfection to which future dancers will aspire.”

In addition to the Season Encore Performance, audiences will have several opportunities to catch Lesley’s performances during the second half of PNB’s 50th Anniversary season: BOUNDLESS (March 17 – 26); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 14 – 23); and WORLDS TO COME (June 2 – 11).

Lesley Rausch is from Columbus, Ohio. She studied with Shir Lee Wu at Columbus Youth Ballet and also at Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She took summer courses at the School of American Ballet, International Dance School at Jackson, Mississippi, and PNB School. Lesley joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2001. She was promoted to soloist in 2007 and principal in 2011.

Lesley has danced leading roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Concerto Barocco, Coppélia, Diamonds, Emeralds, The Four Temperaments, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, La Valse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Prodigal Son, Rubies, Serenade, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Symphony in C; Peter Boal’s Giselle; Val Caniparoli’s The Bridge and Lambarena; David Dawson’s Empire Noir and A Million Kisses to My Skin; Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven, Red Angels, Serious Pleasures, and Vespers; Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat; William Forsythe’s Artifact II, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, New Suite, and One Flat Thing, reproduced; Kiyon Gaines’ ə{SCHWA}; Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance and Rush; Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty; Jiri Kylian’s Forgotten Land and Petite Mort; Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Cendrillon and Roméo et Juliette; Mark Morris’ Pacific; Crystal Pite’s Emergence and Plot Point; Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH, Don Quixote, and Pictures at an Exhibition; Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, The Concert, Fancy Free, Glass Pieces, and Other Dances; Kent Stowell’s Carmina Burana, Cinderella, Nutcracker, and Swan Lake; Twyla Tharp’s Brief Fling, In the Upper Room, Nine Sinatra Songs, Opus 111, and Waterbaby Bagatelles; and Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia. She originated leading roles in Caniparoli’s The Seasons, Kyle Davis’ Las Estrellas, Gaines’ Sum Stravinsky, Edwaard Liang’s The Veil Between Worlds, Benjamin Millepied’s 3 Movements, Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or Less, and Price Suddarth’s Signature.

Lesley was a finalist in the 1998 Concours International de Danse de Paris. She has performed as a guest artist with Chicago Dancing Festival, Lafayette Ballet Theatre, Nantucket Atheneum Dance Festival, Nevada Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Hawaii.

In addition to her performing career, Lesley has been a guest teacher at Ballet Hawaii, Evergreen City Ballet, New American Youth Ballet, and Punahou Dance School. She also is on the faculty of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Lesley is a Stott Certified Pilates Instructor and a certified instructor in Tai Ji Quan Moving for Better Balance and Madeline Black’s Series One and Two.

Featured Photo: Lesley Rausch © Angela Sterling.
Photos: Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake © Angela Sterling. Lesley Rausch and Dylan Wald in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust. Photo © Angela Sterling. Lesley Rausch and Jerome Tisserand in George Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto © Angela Sterling. Francia Russell and Lesley Rausch rehearsing George Balanchine’s La Valse © Lindsay Thomas. Lesley Rausch and Batkhurel Bold in George Balanchine’s Agon © Lindsay Thomas.