PNB Black History Month Profile: Zsilas Michael Hughes

PNB invited employees who celebrate Black History Month to share their stories with us – we hope you enjoy.

How long have you been with PNB?

I am currently in my 3rd year with the company.

Do you have a favorite ballet or ballets?

My favorite ballets include Allegro Brilliante by George Balanchine, and my own production Piano Concerto Appasionata in B Minor.

Who or what inspires you?

A plethora of things inspire me, ranging from music to historic visual art to the simplicity of the company of my friends and family.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is the acknowledgment of those heroes who came before me, paving the way for me to live in my blackness unapologetically and unfiltered.

Anything else you’d like us to share?

Black History Month is a great time for reflecting over the ages of turmoil that black people have gone through and still suffer today. But what is most important while reflecting is accepting the beauty in that struggle that provided the strength, agility, and perseverance that myself and my communities have built that has propelled us into the future of greatness.

Bio: Zsilas Michael Hughes, 22, is an African American non-binary dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet born in Flint, Michigan, but raised in the south of Little Rock, Arkansas. After joining the company in 2021, their career took flight as a dancer, shining in spritely roles such as Candy Cane Lead and Coffee in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Through performing in works such as Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing, Dwight Rhoden’s world premiere Catching Feelings, as well as their Pointe debut in Fairies from George Balnchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hughes provides a new image of diversity in ballet. They continue to mesmerize audiences with their solo in Khepri by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.

When off stage, Zsilas enjoys the wonders of problem-solving, also known as choreographing. Since the age of twelve, they have created a total of 22 works, including solo works and ensemble pieces ranging from lethargic to contemporary ballet. Zsilas’ known works include Dream, an award-winning solo, Break The Mold, performed by the students of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Piano Concerto Appasionata in B Minor performed by the Professional Division students of Pacific Northwest Ballet. Starting at the age of ten, Zsilas began training in styles of jazz, tap, modern, and hip-hop progressing the intricacies of tutting and voguing. Prior to focusing on a career in ballet, Zsilas was shaped to be in the entertainment industry. Through many award-winning competitions with clear, stylized training in contemporary, modern, ballroom, liturgical, and many more, Hughes dazzled audiences with their ability to create a timeless and elemental performance. At the age of 16, Zsilas decided to pursue full-time ballet training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Since then, Zsilas began training full-time en pointe at the age of 20, becoming of the most one of the most diverse dancers to date.

Photos provided by Zsilas Michael Hughes.