PNB Celebrates Kiyon Ross

Kiyon Ross has had an illustrious career at PNB: from Company Soloist (you may remember him as Kiyon Gaines) to PNB School faculty member, Next Step Program Manager, and most recently PNB’s Director of Company Operations, he has moved our organization and art form forward over the past twenty years. Kiyon is also an established American choreographer, having created over 25 works at dance companies across the country.

In honor of his birthday month, we are celebrating Kiyon’s personal and professional excellence as well as his many contributions to the field of dance. This blog post is a companion to the interview conducted by Kiyon’s best friend, Jonathan Porretta, which you can view below – we hope you enjoy both. Happy Birthday, Kiyon!

Kiyon grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. As he shares in this interview, his mother and aunt originally signed him up for tap lessons as a Christmas gift when he was 10. He loved tap classes, and when his instructor recommended ballet classes as additional training, he immediately fell in love with the art form – as he says, “I liked the challenge!”

What I loved about (ballet) was that the harder you worked, the better you were able to become. That right there was addicting to me and from that moment on, at 12 years old, I thought ‘yep, ballet is the thing for me’

Kiyon studied at Baltimore School of the Arts, School of American Ballet (where he first met and studied with Peter Boal), and Pacific Northwest Ballet – where he would eventually become an Apprentice, Corps de Ballet member, and Soloist. Pictured above: Kiyon as a young child. Pictured below: Kiyon at Baltimore school of the Arts, age 13. Photos courtesy of Kiyon Ross.

Kiyon joined PNB in 2001, along with Lindsi Dec, Joshua Grant, and Lesley Rausch, and spent the next 15 years making his mark in works as varied as Puck in Kent Stowell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Twyla Tharp’s Waiting At The Station. He and Jonathan reminisced about dancing in many of her works, including Brief FlingOpus 111, and In The Upper Room.

It’s not about me, it’s about us.

Kiyon is also an established American choreographer: since creating his first work in 2001, he has made ballets for PNB, PNB School, New York Choreographic Institute, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Cornish College of the Arts, Spectrum Dance Theater, and Ballet Arkansas. He created his first works, blitz…Fantasy{SCHWA}Infinite Intricacies, and Interrupted Pri‘si’zh‘en, for PNB’s annual Choreographers‘ Showcase performances, which later became known as the Next Step program. His work {SCHWA} was taken into PNB’s repertory during the 2007 Celebrate Seattle Festival, and in 2008, Kiyon choreographed M-Pulse, set to a commissioned score by Cristina Spinei, for the company repertory. In 2013, Kiyon was commissioned to choreograph a new Bolero on Ballet Arkansas and went on to become resident choreographer for the company from 2015 – 2018. Back at PNB, he created unforgettable works including Sum StravinskyNo Holds Barre’d, and the site-specific Do.Not.Obstruct, performed at Olympic Sculpture Park in 2016.

Based on his own experiences as a young choreographer, Kiyon used his time as Next Step Program Manager to further professionalize the program and create mentorship opportunities for Next Step participants. In 2019 he sat for an interview about his work with the Next Step program, which you can read here.

 Anything I can do to help move our organization forward, to share, to be at the forefront of our art form – I want to do it.

Kiyon continues to support the art he loves in his role as Director of Company Operations, and has found a new athletic outlet in tennis. We could go on for another twenty paragraphs – but instead we’ll just suggest that you enjoy a few final photos, then watch his interview and find out why Kiyon celebrates his birthday all month long!

Photos from top: Kiyon Ross © Lindsay Thomas. Kiyon Ross in Twyla Tharp’s Waterbaby Bagatelles © Angela Sterling. Kiyon as a child, at age 13 at Baltimore School for the Arts, courtesy of Ross’ personal collection. Kiyon Ross and David Schneider in the 2001 PNB School Performance © Barry Thompson. Kiyon Ross with Casey Herd and Batkhurel Bold in Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room; with PNB Company dancers in George Balanchine’s Symphony in C; in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake; with Rachel Foster in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; with Rachel Foster in Twyla Tharp’s Opus 111; in Twyla Tharp’s Waiting At The Station, all © Angela Sterling. Kiyon Ross in rehearsal with Leah Merchant and PNB dancers for his work Sum Stravinsky, © Lindsay Thomas. Sum Stravinsky Opening Night, © Angela Sterling. Kiyon Ross interviews PNB dancer and choreographer Amanda Morgan at Teen Night for the Next Step program. © Lindsay Thomas. Kiyon Ross playing tennis and with best friend Jonathan Porretta, courtesy of Ross’ personal collection.