Pacific Northwest Ballet

Hard corps: The baddest dancers you never heard of

Sep 22, 2016
Pacific Northwest Ballet

Gorgeous photos and gifs of Pacific Northwest Ballet's corps de ballet. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet's corps de ballet dancers in George Balanchine's 'Nutcracker.'
Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet/Angela Sterling

Rock stars have back up bands.

Most Broadway musicals have a chorus.

The ballet version of these supporting artists is the corps de ballet; "corps" is French for body.

Philipp Mergener, 13, as the lead in the Village Theatre production of the hit musical 'Billy Elliot.'
Courtesy of Village Theatre/Mark Kitaoka

The hit musical, “Billy Elliot,” tells the story of a British coal miner’s son who dreams of being a ballet dancer.

Billy has to keep that dream secret from from his family and most of his friends, or risk their ridicule. Thirteen-year-old Seattle resident Philipp Mergener can relate.

The outside of the Francia Russell Center in Bellevue. The Francia Russell Center is part of Pacific Northwest Ballet and will soon have to move because it is in the light rail pathway.
Google Maps

UPDATE: On Monday, Jan. 25, King County Superior Court Judge Theresa Doyle ruled against Pacific Northwest Ballet. The judge said Sound Transit may use fair market value for PNB’s eastside school, rather than the replacement value of the facility. The ruling only determines the method of assessment for the property value. A jury may still place a higher value on the school. A court hearing on the issue is set for June.

Pacific Northwest Ballet has performed in a lot of places.

But Friday the dance company will be on a new stage: a King County Superior Court room.

PNB wants a judge to settle a dispute with Sound Transit.

Jonathan Porretta was the only boy in his dance class in Totowa, New Jersey. Dance was his refuge, where he could shine. He ended up at School of American Ballet in New York City, where he was scouted by Kent Stowell of Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Courtesy Jane D'Annunzio

A dancer stands alone on the stage. He is dressed in black tights only; his bare chest is broad and muscular.

As the bassoonist plays the first plaintive notes of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” the lights come up and the dancer’s body undulates like a stalk of wheat in the wind. Slowly, he lifts his shoulders, and his extended arms drift up like wings of a bird.

Pacific Northwest Ballet company members in George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker."
Angela Sterling

You take a chance any time you swap out an old favorite for something new.

Make a change during the holiday season and a nonprofit arts group could risk a significant portion of its annual income if tickets don’t sell. But play it safe and there’s the risk of producing stale art.

A 'Snowflake' dress waits for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's new version of 'The Nutcracker.'
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

The winter holidays are months away, but at Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers and crew are working at a fever pitch on the annual production of "The Nutcracker." 

This year’s version is brand new to PNB. Choreographed by the late George Balanchine, it features new sets and costumes by children’s author/illustrator Ian Falconer.

See how these costumes are coming to life:

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Carla Korbes and Batkhurel Bold in George Balanchine's "Diamonds."
PNB/Angela Sterling

When Seattle ballerina Carla Korbes dons a white tutu in the classic ballet, “Swan Lake,” she can make you believe she’s a swan.

That uncanny ability has made Korbes a darling in the ballet world – so beloved that New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay regularly flies out to see her perform. He calls her one of the world’s greatest ballerinas today because of how she feels the music and embodies the characters.

PNB soloist Kiyon Gaines in Twyla Tharp's "Waiting at the Station."
Courtesy PNB/Angela Sterling

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Kiyon Gaines says he didn’t find ballet -- ballet found him.

The Baltimore native didn’t start dancing until he was 10. He studied tap and jazz. Somebody told him that ballet lessons would help him with how he carried his arms. So his mother enrolled him in a local class.

photo @ Angela Sterling

I’ll admit it: I am a fan girl.

Last week, I got to sit down with one of my choreographic heroes, William Forsythe.

I came away from that conversation with renewed admiration for both Forsythe’s dances, and his respect and love for dancers – and theirs for him.

photo courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet

When Kent Stowell and his wife, Francia Russell, took over artistic leadership at Pacific Northwest Ballet more than 30 years ago they wanted to build the tiny regional dance company into a national ballet powerhouse. To help them reach that goal, they decided to create a signature holiday production at PNB, a ballet that would distinguish them from all the other American ballet companies.

The logical choice was a new adaptation of "Nutcracker," the story of a young girl who's given a nutcracker doll that magically comes to life. Different versions of this Christmas story are performed across the country.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Photo/Lindsay Thomas

Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Kaori Nakamura remembers the day she got her first pointe shoes.

Pacific Northwest Ballet/Jerry Davis

When Pacific Northwest Ballet artistic director Peter Boal arrived in Seattle in 2005, he was ready to lead Seattle's premier dance company into the 21st century. It was a challenge that excited him, but becoming the head of his own company meant that Boal had to leave behind his own long and celebrated career with New York City Ballet.

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet/Copyright Lindsay Thomas

Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite might actually be better known in Europe than here on the North American continent. The Vancouver Island native trained in ballet and danced with Ballet British Columbia before moving to Europe to perform with legendary American choreographer William Forsythe.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Photo/Lindsay Thomas

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Studio C is a big rehearsal hall, with the same dimensions as the stage at nearby McCaw Hall where PNB performs. Despite its size, on this afternoon the room feels packed to the gills.