My daughter, Sarah, is part of a very chatty carpool to and from ballet classes. According to one mom, the girls were discussing the foot pains that serious ballet students have to endure. (They were nine at the time.) Swapping stories, Sarah chimed in, “My friend, Twyla, has some of the worst bunions ever!” We parents are usually not part of the chatting, but on Tuesday, mom felt compelled to ask, “Do you mean Twyla Tharp?” “Yeah, Twyla…real big bunions.”
In the summer of 2008, we were fortunate as a ballet company and as a community to host one of the great dancemakers of our time for eight weeks. During that time, Twyla not only showed Sarah her bunions but created two distinct world premieres for PNB. She threw herself into the process, attending fundraising events and sharing wisdom with our marketing department, photographers, young choreographers, musicians, designers, and dancers. She attracted and gave interviews to the press and lectured to the general public on the creative process. Honestly, she brought out the very best in every aspect of our institution.
I tell the bunion story not to drop celebrity gossip but to illustrate the point that we got to know Twyla really well. I'm not just talking about the Boals, either. Hundreds of us got to know how Twyla thinks and what she likes and dislikes. She was encouraging to all and understood the scope of creating art and having the public included in the process. There were a handful of regulars who would gather on the viewing balcony in our largest studio to watch the process unfold over two months. Twyla welcomed this interest and often spent her five-minute breaks greeting guests and offering insight. After leaving Seattle, Twyla wrote a book about a year of collaborations. The book looks at four collaborations with ballet companies during 2008. We learn from the chapter on Pacific Northwest Ballet that our appreciation of Twyla was reciprocal. In fact, PNB proves to be the most fruitful and satisfying of the collaborations for all involved.
When we remember Afternoon Ball, we probably think about the extraordinary talent and stage presence of Charlie Neshyba-Hodges. Charlie premiered in the piece alongside Kaori Nakamura, Olivier Wevers, Ariana Lallone, and Stanko Milov. After spending the past year on Broadway starring in Twyla’s latest show, Come Fly with Me, he found time to rehearse casts for our current revival. Charlie’s another one who knows how to bring out the best in dancers. He approaches coaching completely without ego and guides dancers to their greatest potential.
Another favorite stager has been with us for the past few weeks bringing Waterbaby Bagatelles back to life. Shelley Washington staged our very first Twyla work, Nine Sinatra Songs, in 2006. Shelley was an incredible dancer who helped define Twyla’s unique style of movement throughout the 1980s and 1990s. She was as refreshing onstage as she is in the studio today. We welcome Shelley back to PNB and thank her for her excellent and inspiring work.
With her choreography in the repertories of scores of companies around the globe and performed by students at countless universities, with a list of Broadway and film successes almost as long as her list of honorary doctorates, and with an extensive lecture circuit and a handful of books penned, Twyla is a prolific artist, to say the least. She is a singular voice among choreographers and even more so among female choreographers. She has earned and deserves a place among the greats. PNB is lucky to have five ballets by Twyla in our repertory, and two of those were made for us. Hopefully, we'll be seeing more from this great artist in the future. Seattle loves Twyla. -- Peter Boal
Friday, November 5, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
|Jonathan Porretta and Kaori Nakamura in |
George Balanchine's Coppélia.
Photo © Angela Sterling.
I started with ballet/tap and then in my little school in New Jersey, Totowa Dance Center, and then I went to For Dancers Only too, another little school in Little Falls, New Jersey. I started with ballet and I loved ballet from the very beginning — it was the first thing I ever did. And then I got into jazz and tap and lyrical. I even did a little pointe because my Russian ballet teacher wanted me to know what it was like for the girls. I just wanted to slap a pointe shoe on, so it was fun!
I loved jazz and everything, and for awhile there I thought, “Well, maybe I do want to do Broadway,” because my favorite part is to be on stage. Performing is the best part — the scariest, the most comfortable, greatest, safest place ever is the stage. In front of an audience, it’s awesome. Then I got into the School of American Ballet and it was just a whole new world of ballet — it was neoclassical, George Balanchine, it was this whole world I had never seen. And I just love it. I just love the technique side to it and the history and the beauty. And ballet can be everything — you can do everything in ballet. It’s special.
What has been your most rewarding performance and why?
I have a bunch. Most recently, the most amazing performance would have to be getting to do Franz in Coppélia at the end of last season. I got to work with Judy Fugate [Coppélia stager] who I adore, and I was dancing with Kaori Nakamura. It’s so easy to work with her and so fun. And it was really special for me because I never get to be the male lead; I always get to be the supporting actor because I’m shorter. I’m never the prince, I’m always the jester. So it was really special for me, it was just magical. I got to dance on opening night which was just a gift.
How has ballet affected your attitude?
You definitely have highs and lows in ballet. I think with anything, you have highs and lows. And sometimes you just get into a rut almost. I just I had knee surgery a few months ago, at the end of last season. And it really helped me focus a lot more on just realizing how blessed I am, how blessed we all are, and to just enjoy every moment on the stage cause you’re not going to be doing it forever. To really respect my body, respect your instrument, take care of yourself. It was a lesson. It made me really appreciate everything that I have. Ballet is a gift, performing each show is a gift. Lighten up — we’re not performing brain surgery!
It’s either a banana or a string cheese, or one of these vegan meatless beef jerky things that’s in our vending machine here. They’re really good. There’s barbecue flavor and teriyaki flavor — it’s really good.
What are you reading now?
The last book that I read was in May when I was on vacation. It was “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang,” the brand new Chelsea Handler [book]. I’ve pretty much read all of her books. I love her. I am reading right now another book, just started with it. It’s a prequel to Sex and the City. It’s called “The Carrie Diaries.” It’s about Carrie Bradshaw when she was a teenager in high school.
What are your holiday plans?
Probably cooking dinner at my apartment with my boyfriend. Usually I actually will cook meat, not for me though [Jonathan is a pescatarian], but for my boyfriend and whoever comes over. There’s at least got to be a turkey if it’s Thanksgiving, and a ham if it’s Christmas. Then my mom’s sweet potatoes and candied yams and then I always make beef in a Crockpot for the gravy for the mashed potatoes. So good. Green bean casserole is a must.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It used to be my grandmother’s holiday and back when I first joined PNB we used to not do Nutcracker right after Thanksgiving. We used to have a day off, so a lot of us were able to sneak home and then sneak back before Nutcracker started. So it was just really nice to spend the holidays with your family. Nothing will beat grandma’s Thanksgiving.
They [my family] could [visit] but in New Jersey, when you retire you move to Florida, so half of my family‘s in Florida, the other half is in Jersey still. But my mom comes to visit me at least once a month every month. She doesn’t miss a rep since I’ve been here for the last 12 years now.
What do you enjoy doing outside of PNB studios?
I love going to different restaurants in Seattle, grabbing dinner with friends, grabbing a drink with friends. I like to go hiking with my boyfriend. In the summertime we try to go every weekend for our hike. Growing up in Jersey, we had horses too so I would horseback ride. I used to do shows. Every time I go home I do horseback riding whenever I can.
Best memory of the past two years?
Waking up the day after my Lasik surgery and seeing 20/15. That was pretty awesome. I just had Lasik less than a month ago, me and Carrie Imler. King Lasik — very good to us.
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years I would love to be the director of a company, a ballet company. I’d love to be the director of PNB, actually. I would love to have a condo in Maui that I could vacation in. I’d love to have German shepherd. And just be happy.
Posted by Pacific Northwest Ballet at 5:49 PM