There is a new tradition brewing around Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Phelps Center this time of year, and that is the beginning of the wonderful process of NEXT STEP. This distinctive performance where PNB Company dancers choreograph new works for our most advanced students in PNB School’s Professional Division is set for June 16, 2012. Although it’s four months away, one of the most exciting aspects of NEXT STEP is the creative process, and we would like to invite you to enjoy the ride with us! This blog will be your all-access pass until you see the final product on stage. To start, I thought it best to go to the source of artistic support for this vital opportunity for young artists; that support comes from PNB’s Artistic Director Peter Boal. Here are a couple of answers to questions I asked him about NEXT STEP, as well as his announcement of this year’s six NEXT STEP choreographers:

“There are three that are brand new to this and I think that is exciting, so they naturally have a heightened sense of nervousness. They are Chelsea Adomaitis, Kyle Davis, and Eric Hipolito Jr. I am eager to see what Eric and Chelsea come up with, and although NEXT STEP pieces are generally more contemporary, Kyle is challenging his dancers in a more classical way. Also I am intrigued to see how the veterans evolve in this year’s process. They are Sean Rollofson, and to watch him grow and draw his message out of the dancers will be fun to watch. Ezra Thomson who did a completely charming piece in 2011 and has terrific potential as a choreographer. Also one that never disappoints, Kiyon Gaines, who inspires and pushes his dancers will be bringing the best out of his cast.”

Why is NEXT STEP important to Pacific Northwest Ballet?
I feel an obligation as Artistic Director to offer opportunities to up and coming choreographers so that they can practice their craft. How else do you develop the next Balanchine, the next Jiri Kylian or Christopher Wheeldon? And even some of the younger ones such as Mathew Neenan and Olivier Wevers who got their first chances at choreographer showcases such as NEXT STEP. I think without that opportunity the art form doesn’t continue to renew itself. We need NEXT STEP in order to invest in the future of our profession.

Can you explain how vital the learning process is for the Professional Division Students?
We look at every aspect of how we educate these young pre-professionals. When we started this process of choreographing on the students, you realize that it’s essential and a key part of becoming a professional dancer. Learning how to work with a choreographer, remembering the new material you have been given in the studio the next day, how to collaborate and make vocabulary come to life for an audience on stage. I think it is one of the most important things we offer and teach them. Also, many of the choreographers are not that far removed from being students themselves, so you have a sort of peer bonding that happens.

Rehearsals have really started to get underway, and it’s not only the students and choreographers who are involved. Nathaniel Solis, a PNB School student, will be taking some of our rehearsal photographs, and the brilliant student artists of the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra will be joining us again for this treasure we call NEXT STEP . Please follow us on Twitter (#NextStepPNB) and on Facebook in order to keep up to date with the process!

Till later,

Nicholas Ade
Coordinator, NEXT STEP
Principal, Eastside School
Pacific Northwest Ballet School

Featured photo: Professional Division student Kiara Felder in rehearsal for NEXT STEP. Photo by PNB School student Nathaniel Solis.