SEATTLE, WA—Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Director Peter Boal has announced that principal dancer Kaori Nakamura will retire from performing at the end of PNB’s 2013-2014 season. Ms. Nakamura joined PNB as a soloist in 1997 and was promoted to principal in 1998.  Following her retirement, Ms. Nakamura will be joining the faculty of PNB School.

In his announcement, Mr. Boal made the following statement: “I remember many of us from the New York City Ballet peeking into the studios of the School of American Ballet many years ago to see the young Kaori Nakamura, the youngest winner of the Prix de Lausanne, who had selected SAB for further study. She was so very tiny and perfect; a rare gem, with impeccable technique and a fierce work ethic. Now, 25 years later, I am so honored to have worked with Kaori as she continues to ascend to new heights of artistry and excellence. She remains the consummate professional. Though we will miss her exquisite performances, I am thrilled to know that she will join our School faculty and bring her unique wisdom and experience to our students.”

Audiences will have several more opportunities to watch Ms. Nakamura perform during the 2013-2014 season, including the upcoming The Sleeping Beauty (January 31 – February 9) and DIRECTOR’S CHOICE (March 14 – 23) among others. Ms. Nakamura is scheduled to dance the lead role of Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty on Friday, January 31 at 7:30 pm (opening night) and Saturday, February 8 at 1:00 pm. Other upcoming roles include the Divertissement pas de deux in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (April 11 – 19) and the lead role in Giselle (May 30 – June 8). The season will conclude with PNB’s annual Season Encore Performance (6:30 pm on Sunday, June 8) which will feature Ms. Nakamura reprising some of her signature performances.

Tickets to The Sleeping Beauty and DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, in addition to the rest of PNB’s season offerings, may be purchased through the PNB Box Office, 206.441.2424, online at, or in person at 301 Mercer Street. Tickets to the Season Encore Performance are currently available for purchase by PNB’s renewing subscribers, and go on sale to the general public on March 3.

“To try to sum up the extraordinary talents of Kaori Nakamura is like asking to capture all the beautiful butterflies in the world with one swoop of a net…impossible,” said PNB principal dancer Jonathan Porretta, who has partnered Ms. Nakamura in several ballets. “Kaori embodies both artist and athlete. She is the epitome of grace and lightness, strength and fierceness. Getting to perform with her on opening night of Coppélia (June, 2010) was a dream; she is the most humble and gracious partner. She has taught me so much about having a genuine relationship on stage with your partner. I have had some of the most amazing and fun times dancing with her. She has a twinkle in her eyes that is both full of mischief and love all at the same time. She is truly a dream come true. In a word, I would call her my idol.”

Kaori Nakamura is from Gumma, Japan. She trained at the Reiko Yamamoto Ballet Company and the School of American Ballet. In 1986, she won first prize at the 14th Prix de Lausanne competition in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1988, she won a bronze medal at the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Ms. Nakamura joined Royal Winnipeg Ballet in 1990, where she was made a principal dancer. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a soloist in 1997 and was promoted to principal in 1998.

“Kaori was my partner in Winnipeg (1992-1995) and a good friend,” said celebrated choreographer Alexei Ratmansky, who most recently directed her acclaimed performance as Kitri in Don Quixote (February, 2012). “I’ve always admired her dancing – effortless, light, sharp and feminine. Technically she could do anything, but artistically she was able to develop fully only in Seattle and I am glad she dedicated her talents to PNB.”

Ms. Nakamura performed the role of the Butterfly in the BBC’s 1999 film version of PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, filmed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. She has performed as a company member of Whim W’Him, a guest artist at the Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Melbourne Ballet Festival and with Dancers for Life in Vancouver, British Columbia.

For PNB she has originated leading roles in Stephen Baynes’ El Tango, Val Caniparoli’s The Seasons, Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance and Mozart Pieces, Kent Stowell’s Silver Lining, Kevin O’Day’s [soundaroun(d)dance], Twyla Tharp’s Afternoon Ball, and Olivier Wevers’ Shindig.

Other leading roles have included George Balanchine’s AgonBallet Imperial, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Concerto Barocco, Coppélia (Swanilda), Diamonds, Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée, Divertimento No. 15, The Four Temperaments, A Midsummer Night’s Dream(Butterfly, Hermia, Divertissement pas de deux), Rubies, Serenade, Square Dance, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Theme and Variations, La Valse, and Who Cares?; Peter Boal’s Giselle (Giselle); August Bournonville’s Flower Festival Pas de Deux; Val Caniparoli’s The Bridge andTorque; Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels and Vespers; Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat and Rassemblement; Eliot Feld’s Intermezzo; Nicolo Fonte’s Almost Tango; William Forsythe’s In the middle somewhat elevated and One Flat Thing, reproduced; Kiyon Gaines’ M-Pulse; Paul Gibson’sSense of Doubt; Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow (Valencienne) and The Sleeping Beauty (Aurora); Robert Joffrey’s Remembrances; Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort; Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Cylindrical Shadows; Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid; Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette(Juliet); Peter Martins’ Fearful Symmetries; Mark Morris’ A Garden and Pacific; Vicente Nebrada’s Lento a Tempo e Appassionato; Marius Petipa’s Don Quixote (Kitri), Esmeralda Pas de Deux (staged for PNB by Ms. Nakamura and Olivier Wevers), and Le Corsaire Pas de Trois; Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote (Kitri); Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and In the Night; Kent Stowell’s Carmina BuranaCinderella (Cinderella), Coppélia (Swanilda), Delicate Balance, Firebird, Kammergarten Tänze, Nutcracker (Clara, Flora), Palacios Dances, Pas de Deux Campagnolo, Quaternary, Swan Lake (Odette/Odile), and Zirkus Weill; Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or Less; Richard Tanner’s Ancient Airs and Dances; Lynne Taylor-Corbett’s The Ballad of You and Me; Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, Nine Sinatra Songs, and Waterbaby Bagatelles; and Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia.

  • Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty runs January 31 – February 9. Kaori Nakamura is scheduled to dance the lead role of Princess Aurora at the 7:30 performance on Friday, January 31, and the 1:00 performance on Saturday, February 8.
  • DIRECTOR’S CHOICE featuring Ms. Nakamura in Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or Less along with three additional ballets, runs March 14 – 23.
  • George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream  runs April 11 – 19. Kaori Nakamura is scheduled to dance the Divertissement pas de deux at select performances.
  • Peter Boal’s reconstruction of Giselle, featuring all new sets and costumes, plays May 30 – June 8. Kaori Nakamura is scheduled to play the title role at select performances.
  • Season Encore Performance will be presented one night only, Sunday, June 8 at 6:30 pm. The performance will include a special tribute to Kaori Nakamura. NOTE: Tickets to the Season Encore Performance will be available for purchase by PNB’s subscribers beginning February 12, and go on sale to the general public on March 3.

Featured photo: Kaori Nakamura with Seth Orza in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, photo © Angela Sterling.