November 3, 2023 – Seattle, WA: “It gives us great pleasure to be able to promote three dancers in our company this evening.” Before the curtain-raiser performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy on opening night of LOVE & LOSS, Pacific Northwest Ballet Artistic Director Peter Boal and Associate Artistic Director Kiyon Ross announced to the audience that corps de ballet dancers Clara Ruf Maldonado and Kuu Sakuragi have been promoted Soloists, and Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan has been promoted to Principal dancer.
Each promoted dancer is currently featured in LOVE & LOSS, running through November 12. For performance casting information, visit PNB.org/season/love-and-loss.
“There are dancers who leave audiences awestruck with every performance,” said Boal, after bringing Kuu Sakuragi out in front of the curtain. “After sustained cheering, I see people fumble for casting inserts to see who just defied gravity, sustained intensity, or executed an uncountable number of pirouettes. The name they so often find is Kuu Sakuragi. And if you miss his name in the program, you might hear his peers chanting ‘KUU’ from the sidelines. As humble and kind as he is talented and engaging, this remarkable dancer is headed for even greater heights.”
Continued Ross: “Like Peter I have had the great honor to watch Kuu develop from a young student in our DanceChance program into an extraordinary artist. Kuu is a powerfully dynamic and explosive dancer. Watching his performances is a thrilling experience, particularly in roles that allow him to demonstrate his magnificent jumps, which seem to defy gravity. Beyond this, Kuu possesses a wonderful work ethic, a beautiful spirit, and is a joy to be around. We are excited to announce Kuu’s well-deserved promotion to Soloist this evening. Congratulations, Kuu!”
Ross then called Clara Ruf Maldonado to the stage. “Clara is from New York City. She trained at the School of American Ballet, and Pacific Northwest School. She joined the company as an apprentice in 2018 and later that year was promoted to the corps de ballet. Clara is an extremely versatile dancer able to deftly tackle both classical and contemporary rep with ease and grace. Clara’s warmth can be felt in her personality both onstage and off. We are proud of Clara’s many artistic achievements and know there are many more to come.”
Added Boal: “Floating atop a sea of dancers looking out through the snowfall in Crystal Pite’s The Seasons’ Canon, playing with pal Christopher D’Ariano in George Balanchine’s Duo Concertante, or hopping on one toe with rolling shoulders and a winning grin in Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy, Clara is simply transcendent. We see art and music through her and we can’t wait to see where she takes us next. Clara, our heartfelt congratulations on your promotion to Soloist.”
Finally, Boal addressed Ms. Ryan. “Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan was an instant standout in her first PNB School summer course in 2015,” said Mr. Boal. “Her sheer joy of movement comes through in every step and with each new challenge. She is fearless, focused, undaunted, and willing to laugh when a little laughter is needed. She is wonderfully supportive of those around her. Watching Sarah triumph in the multi-faceted title role of Giselle last season opposite Kyle Davis signaled the emergence and arrival of a new principal dancer.”
“Sarah-Gabrielle is the epitome of power and grace in a ballerina,” continued Ross. “She has beautiful lines and excellent technique, but what really sets Sarah-Gabrielle apart is the energy and presence she possesses each time she takes the stage. She is magnetic and it’s this quality that makes it impossible to take your eyes off her when she is performing. It has been a great joy and pleasure watching her artistry blossom and mature and it is an even greater honor to witness her ascend to the rank of Principal dancer tonight. Congratulations, Sarah!”
Prior to opening night, Boal also announced that – effective November 20 – PNB will be hiring Emerson Boll and Samuel Portillo from the ranks of the PNB School’s Professional Division, to join the company as apprentices. PNB congratulates all of our newly promoted and hired dancers!
Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its 2023-24 season with a triple-bill of works that all sprang to life as a result of PNB’s New Works Initiative. LOVE & LOSS runs November 3 through 12 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. The program will also stream digitally from November 16 through 20. For tickets and additional information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online 24/7 at PNB.org.
Clara Ruf Maldonado is from New York, New York. She studied on scholarship at the School of American Ballet, where she was a 2015 Mae L. Wien Award recipient, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She attended summer courses at Ballet Academy East, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Chautauqua Institution, Houston Ballet Academy, Miami City Ballet School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Clara was an apprentice with New York City Ballet before joining Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2018. She was promoted to corps de ballet later that year.
Clara has performed leading roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Duo Concertante, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Kyle Davis’s A Dark and Lonely Space, William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing, reproduced, Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty, Anabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Khepri, Crystal Pite’s The Seasons’ Canon, Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, and Price Suddarth’s Signature. She originated leading roles in Donald Byrd’s Love and Loss, Jessica Lang’s Let Me Mingle Tears With Thee, Vincent Michael Lopez’s Op.21, Amanda Morgan’s This Space Left Intentionally Blank, and Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy.
Kuu Sakuragi is from Bellevue, Washington. He studied on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, where he began as a DanceChance student at the Francia Russell Center. He attended summer courses at Houston Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, San Francisco Ballet, the School of American Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. He was a recipient of the Flemming Halby Exchange with the Royal Danish Ballet School. In 2017, Kuu joined Alberta Ballet as an apprentice and was promoted to company dancer in 2018. He joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2020.
Kuu has danced featured and leading roles in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker®, Peter Boal’s Giselle, Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, Jessica Lang’s Ghost Variations, Edwaard Liang’s The Veil Between Worlds, David Parson’s Caught, Crystal Pite’s The Seasons’ Canon, Kent Stowell’s Carmina Burana and Swan Lake, Twyla Tharp’s Sweet Fields and Waiting at the Station. Kuu originated roles in Jessica Lang’s Let Me Mingle Tears With Thee, Vincent Michael Lopez’s Op.21, Amanda Morgan’s This Space Left Intentionally Blank, Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy, and Dwight Rhoden’s Catching Feelings.
Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She studied on scholarship at the Rock School for Dance Education, Metropolitan Ballet Academy, and the School of Pennsylvania Ballet; she attended summer courses at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Ellison Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the School of American Ballet, the School of Pennsylvania Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Sarah-Gabrielle joined Pennsylvania Ballet II in 2014 and joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2016 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2017 and soloist in 2021.
Sarah-Gabrielle has danced leading roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Allegro Brillante, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rubies, and Tarantella; Alejandro Cerrudo’s Little mortal jump, One Thousand Pieces, and Silent Ghost; Peter Boal’s Giselle; Kyle Davis’ Sylvia Pas de Deux; David Dawson’s Empire Noir; Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven; Alexander Ekman’s Cacti; William Forsythe’s New Suite and One Flat Thing, reproduced; Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty; Jessica Lang’s Ghost Variations; Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing; Miles Pertl’s Wash of Gray; Crystal Pite’s Emergence, Plot Point, and The Seasons’ Canon; Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy; Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite; Eva Stone’s F O I L; Kent Stowell’s Carmina Burana, Cinderella, and Swan Lake; and Twyla Tharp’s Brief Fling and Waiting at the Station. She originated leading roles in Donald Byrd’s Love and Loss, Kyle Davis’ A Dark and Lonely Space, Amanda Morgan’s This Space Left Intentionally Blank, Matthew Neenan’s Bacchus, Noelani Pantastico’s Picnic, and Ezra Thomson’s The Perpetual State.
Sarah-Gabrielle has performed as a guest artist at Shut Up & Dance in collaboration with MANNA, Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival, and the Seattle International Dance Festival. In 2021, she performed for Matthew Neenan’s residency at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, South Dakota Ballet, and Ballet Sun Valley. She was named as one of Dance Magazine’s On the Rise in 2018 and was on the March 2021 cover of Pointe Magazine.
In 2020, Sarah-Gabrielle choreographed Before You Know It for PNB’S NEXT STEP to music by PNB’s violist Alex Grimes and Solo commissioned by Gonzaga University Dance Program and Department of Theatre and Dance. In addition to her dance work, Sarah-Gabrielle earned a certificate for Management of Successful Arts and Cultural Organizations from the DeVos Institute of Arts Management and is the Vice-Chair of Community Engagement for the Moulin Belle Arts Residency in Périgord, France.
Emerson Boll is from Bellevue, Washington. She studied at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and attended summer courses at School of American Ballet, Chautauqua Institution, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Ballet Austin, Cincinnati Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. While a student, Emerson performed leading roles in George Balanchine’s Serenade and Christopher Wheeldon’s Scenès de ballet, and the titular role in Bruce Wells’ Snow White. She originated a role in Noah Martzall’s The Difference Between. Emerson has performed with the company in works by George Balanchine (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker), Peter Boal (Giselle), Crystal Pite (The Seasons’ Canon), and Kent Stowell (Carmina Burana, Swan Lake).
Samuel Portillo is from Denver, Colorado. He studied at Colorado Ballet, Rocky Mountain Ballet Academy, Colburn Dance Academy, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. He attended summer courses at Colorado Ballet Academy, School of American Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. While a student, Samuel performed leading roles in George Balanchine’s Serenade, Justin Peck’s Pulcinella Variations (Colburn), and originated roles in Mark Cuddihee’s Traverse, Kyle Davis’s What is Here Today, and Amanda Morgan’s Unfinished Symphony. Samuel performed with the company in works by George Balanchine (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker), Crystal Pite (The Seasons’ Canon), and Kent Stowell (Swan Lake). Samuel won the YAGP Denver First Place Senior Men’s Division in 2020.
All photos © Angela Sterling.