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Vala Dancewear Blog

  • Review: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Cinderella

    Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Pacific Northwest Ballet brings its version of the classic fairytale, “Cinderella” back to the stage following a nine year absence.

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch as Cinderella and principal dancer Jeffrey Stanton as the Prince in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella.  Photo © Angela Sterling


    This beloved story, with its well-known plot and charming cast of characters, provides audience members an exciting evening of romance, comedy and whopping dose of “happily ever after”.

    Soloist Lesley Rausch gave an outstanding inaugural performance as the long-suffering, mistreated heroine. Her interpretation of “Cinderella” was rich and complex, allowing the attributes of humility, strength, love and fortitude to shine through. With this performance, Lesley Rausch proved she’s got the chops to handle principal dancer status in the near future.

    Our handsome prince, performed by the superb Jeffrey Stanton, was every bit as dashing and powerful as you’d expect. While employing an attitude that’s borderline “high school crush”, Stanton’s expressions are so arresting, I heard more than one woman whisper, “Wow! I wish someone would look at me like that!” The final moments of their wedding pas de deux performed high among the clouds while sprinkles of fairy dust (aka glitter) cascade all around them was to die for!

    The cruel stepmother was portrayed by the perpetual crowd favorite, Ariana Lallone. There’s just something about Lallone that screams “regal”, “classy” and “confident” which is perfect for a role like this. As a matter of fact, her interpretation of the stepmother was so convincing, I almost started to hate her and wished “Cindy” would stand up to her for once.

    Uko Gorter made a fantastic Father. His love and affection for Cinderella is so gentle and sweet; it’s just a shame he was so spineless when it came to his wife, the stepmother. But before I could dismiss his character completely, “Big Daddy” finally musters up the courage in Act Three to stand up to this bratty wife and her equally wretched offspring. {Woohoo!}

    Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Lesley Rausch as Cinderella in Kent Stowell’s Cinderella.  Photo © Angela Sterling


    Lindsi Dec and Chalnessa Eames were beyond perfect as the wicked step-sisters. It was incredibly humorous watching these two pretend as though they couldn’t dance or hold onto a man’s {positive} attention to save their lives. My personal favorite moment came during Act two’s ballroom scene when Lindsi Dec tossed the Jester {I’ll get to him in a moment, I promise} over a chair as punishment for keeping her away from the Prince. Ha! Both Dec and Eames shine brightly in this role and received plenty of laughs for their outstanding efforts.

    And now, the Jester! Principal dancer, Jonathan Poretta pulled out all the stops on this one, creating a fully developed character not just some witless goofball. While Poretta’s court Jester is indeed lively, high spirited and completely hilarious, there’s a genuine feeling of devotion and protectiveness emanating from him toward the Prince as well. These two behave like the brother the other never had, and the Jester makes it his responsibility to protect the Prince from the stepsister’s unwanted advances.

    Carrie Imler took on a triple whammy as the Godmother, Memory Mother and Good Fairy. I must say, it takes a certain level of awesomeness to pull that off and Imler does it with style! Imler completely transformed herself each time and embodied every one of her roles to the fullest. There’s really nothing more to say about that except, “Wow!”

    The four seasons - Rachel Foster (Spring), Brittany Reid (Summer), Sarah Ricard Orza (Autumn) and Laura Gilbreath (Winter), looked radiant up on that stage, each one uniquely suited for the spotlight. However, Sarah Ricard Orza and Laura Gilbreath were the clear standouts that night. There was just a little extra edge weaving its way through their performances that night.

    Jerome Tisserand (Evil Sprite), James Moore (Harlequin) and Rachel Foster (Columbine) and Carrie Imler’s “Good Fairy” captivated the audience’s attention during the third act’s “Theatre of Marvels”. The pas de deux between Moore and Foster was incredibly fun, and Tisserand’s solo variation was fierce and dynamic. However it was their pas de quatre that really kicked things up a notch! {Love.these.dancers!}

    Last but by no means least, were the Memory Children, Bugs, Clock Children, Evil Sprite attendants and the Good Fairy attendants. Or to put it another way, the children! These little ones performed their hearts out in some of the most entertaining roles ever created for Pacific Northwest Ballet School students. The Sprites and Good Fairy Attendants looked like elegant miniatures of their respective masters; the Bugs performed their own charming interlude; the Memory Children brought happy moments from Cinderella’s childhood to life, and the Clock Children—or the enchanted pumpkins—provided Cinderella with the stern warning to be home by midnight.

    Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to view one of the most dazzling fairytales come to life! Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Cinderella runs through Sunday, February 13th. For ticket information, please visit

  • Married to Normal Folk

    happyhearts "Romances between dancers feel natural, almost inevitable. You’re cloistered with your fellow company members all day in the studio, rehearsing swoon-y ballets, so why not marry one of them? Relationships with “civilians,” however, seem more complicated..."

    Just in time for Valentine's Day! Discover how four ballerinas really feel about being married to a "normal" guy in this article from Pointe Magazine.

  • Discovered: Long Lost Film Footage of Ballets Russes

    The Ballets Russes perform Pulcinella in Monte Carlo in 1924, under the direction of Diaghilev. Photograph: Sasha/Getty Images.


    Extra, extra! This just in! Long lost film of the great Ballets Russes has been discovered! The 30-second black and white performance clip dated 1928 was "...wrongly labelled in the British Pathé online archive by a dance enthusiast, and identified by Jane Pritchard, curator of the recent exhibition about the company at the V&A museum in London." ~ Read all about it here. {Now if they'd just post this little clip on YouTube, we'd have it made! Hee hee}

  • Pirouetting Through Life on a Strict Routine

    Kim Joo-won By Lee Chan-weon


    We stumbled upon this fascinating interview with Korea National Ballet principal dancer, Kim Joo-won and thought it was well-worth sharing. In it she shares facts about herself and her career, including her strict practice schedule: "The 33-year-old ballerina has followed a strict, self-imposed routine for the past 23 years that includes up to eight hours of practice a day and the need for roughly 15 pairs of ballerina toe shoes each month.Wow! I wonder if those eight hours are in addition to company class and rehearsals...? What do you think?

    “My father is someone who is not generous when it comes to compliments. But he says he respects me for having repeated the same daily routine ever since I started ballet,” she said.

  • CNN: The Ballerina & the Shoemaker

    freedCNN's "Icon" offers an exclusive inside look at the relationship between the ballerina and the world famous shoemaker, Freed of London. Click here to feast your eyes upon the delicious video. ;)

  • Behind the Scenes with PNB's Media Relations Manager, Gary Tucker

    Gary Tucker--or "Sir Gary" as he is affectionately known around Vala Dancewear--is one of the many faces behind Pacific Northwest Ballet's success. As the media relations manager, Gary spends his days developing innovative PR campaigns, writing newsy press releases (can't forget those press releases!), and providing folks like me with stellar press photos. ;)

    While Gary's many talents play a crucial role in PNB's favorable status within the dance community, his sparkling sense of humor and charming wit are the icing on the cake!

    So who is the man behind the press release? How does the world of ballet--and the arts world in general--look from his perspective? We decided to go straight to the source to find out! Ladies and gentlemen, the honorable Gary Tucker... {Insert thunderous applause here}

    St.GarySo how did you become the Sir Gary of PNB?

    That’s only a title that you have bestowed upon me. My preferred title is ‘Lord High Peon’. Well, let’s see…how I got started at PNB. About four years ago, I was working for the Film Festival and then I wasn’t working for the Film Festival. Let’s leave it at that! {Laughs} Then I was enjoying the summer, did a couple of freelance gigs. And just when I was starting to think, “I should get a job because I’m running out of money!” my friend Ellen Walker - the Director of Marketing and Communications here at Pacific Northwest Ballet - called me. We’ve known each other for a thousand years and she called me in kind of a panic; I mean her message just sounded urgent. She said “Gary, you have to call me immediately!” Apparently their PR gal had given her two weeks’ notice and it was something like—ten days before the opening of Nutcracker! {Laughs}

    Oh my goodness…!

    I told Ellen I’d help with Nutcracker and then we’ll see how it goes. You know, to see if I liked it or not. And within about a day Ellen was asking, “You’ll just take the full-time job, won’t you?” {Laughs} So once I made it through that, I thought, “If I can make it through Nutcracker, then full-time should be a breeze!” Which it hasn’t been, of course! {Laughs}

    Famous last words, right?

    Yeah, it was! I’ve worked for a lot of arts organizations in town doing PR but I’d never worked on a show as big as Nutcracker, in terms of both size and expectations. As a matter of fact, when they told me what their number goals for Nutcracker were, I actually laughed because I thought it was a joke. And then I realized…it wasn’t a joke! {Laughs} But it’s fun; this is a great place to work. Everyone said I’d get the hang of it and I did, so–here I am!

    Would you say you thrive in a busy environment? Do you like to constantly go, go,go?

    Well I would like a little slow, slow, slow once in awhile! It would be nice to catch up because you’re never on top of everything. You’re constantly distracted. You’ll say to yourself, “Today I’m going to put out the Tharp press release!” Then you get to your desk, turn on your computer and the first thing that pops up is something else you have to do, right then and there. Then someone else needs something, or a photo need comes up for a magazine, and then the next thing you know, it’s the end of the day and you haven’t even looked at that press release!

    But I do like the atmosphere. I like working for arts organizations and have been working for them almost exclusively my entire career.

    What brought that about? Were you into the arts like drama or theatre when you were younger?

    I was totally into theatre when I was in school! I wanted to sing, I wanted to dance, I wanted to act-- even though I wasn’t a very good dancer or singer. I was an okay actor, though. I took ballet for 2 years at the University of Washington with Eve Green, as well as jazz with Edna Daigre. Okay, funny story; at the end of the term, there was a faculty dance concert. Well, I did not dance in the ballet portion; I danced in the jazz portion. And at the end of the show, someone from the ballet class came up to me and said, “Umm…you should stick with jazz.” Which was their kind way of saying, ‘You should get out of ballet!’ {Laughs}

    You’re right, that’s pretty humorous! I thought you had a background in dance, judging by our previous conversations. You always sound like someone who knows the business well—not just because it’s your job.

    I’m not what I would call a “dance scholar” by any stretch of the imagination, not even close! In fact, I have my little glossary of ballet terms so I can look up how to spell them. I’ll put it this way - I know enough about it that it serves me well in this position.

    How did you get from there to becoming the PR guru you are today?

    Please - You can’t call me a “guru”! (You can call me a “kan-guru.”) My first job after college was working with the city parks department putting on the Concerts in the Park series. I did this back home in Hawaii as well. Yes, I’m an island boy. :) The concert program was fun but very short-term. Then I worked for an ad agency as a receptionist, and from there I started working for a small, local theatre company [the late, great Skid Road Theatre]. Then I started working for The Egyptian Theatre just to have some additional income. I ended up working there for a long time, and it led to other film-related jobs. Fast forward (because this story could go on forever!)—I was taking a summer off from the film biz, working for the underground tours when I heard that Intiman Theatre was looking for a PR guy. I’d never worked in PR before, but at that time I was an Intiman subscriber and I thought to myself, “You know what? The Egyptian was an independent theatre and we were doing all our promotion ourselves. I can probably sell theatre!” And from that point on, I’ve been in arts PR. I’ve had stints at many fantastic arts organizations around town. But hopefully I’m here at PNB for good!

    What advice would you give to anyone who wants to get into PR and “do what you do”?

    First of all, I do this because I love working for performing arts organizations. I don’t necessarily “live” to do PR. Obviously I’ve made a good career out of it, but my choice was to work in the arts: PR was just the avenue I got to take. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they want to do. If you want to get a job, any job, in the arts, develop more than one skill so that you’ll be the right candidate no matter what the position is that they’re hiring for. If you want to get a job doing PR, well there are many, many opportunities out there for the right people. (Although they might not actually pay a living wage!) But if you want to get a job doing PR in the arts, I wouldn’t look for PR jobs with a steel manufacturer or something like that.

    I would also suggest you learn how to talk on the phone, learn how to communicate clearly via e-mail (so many people do not), learn how to write a press release, and have a good attitude.

    How does your typical day begin?

    I always start off my day by…listening to NPR and reading the newspaper! I read various publications so I can keep on top of everything; that’s what you have to do in this business. That and writing press releases! I do like my diet Coke and my lattes on occasion but I don’t start my day with caffeine. Shocking! {Laughs} I like to get going on my own, without additional stimulation.

    Speaking of coffee, there was an article or little contest in Seattle Magazine awhile back called “Match the PNB dancer to their favorite coffee drink”. How did that come about?

    Well, it was more of a quiz than a contest, because the only prize was a sense of self-satisfaction, and it was on PNB’s Facebook page. Seattle magazine was doing a coffee issue and asked a bunch of Seattle celebrities what their drink of choice was, and they’d asked if I could get a dancer to do one. Not knowing the intimate details of our dancers’ caffeine habits already, I decided to just send the query out and see who replied. Well, I got about five responses and they were all pretty interesting, but the magazine was only going to use one. So I thought, “Why don’t I just see how many I can get, and we can turn it into a little quiz on our Facebook page!”

    And then we provided a link from our Facebook page to the Seattle Magazine article online, so there was a little tie-in. And Seattle magazine was so thrilled with that, that they sent a link back to us from their site.

    Wow! So that was your idea?

    It was my idea, but I got lots of help implementing it from my cohorts here at PNB, particularly Judith [Austin] who manages our Facebook presence!

    Any other interesting ballet-related PR stories?

    Last year when I was reading the sports section—I mean, how often would I find anything of use in the sports section?—But I was going through it and there was a little interview with Quincy Pondexter [then University of Washington basketball player; current team member of New Orleans Hornets]. And I thought to myself, “This guy sounds smart and funny, and he probably has a good sense of himself. I wonder if he’d be willing to be a guest Grandfather in Nutcracker!”

    I wondered how that all came to be! How did you get him to do it?

    I contacted the press department at the Huskies and they told me that, “Of all the players, he’d be the one to do it.” Quincy jumped at the idea and it was great! PNB’s Nutcracker got mentioned in so many places—including the New York Times sports section—because of Quincy. While I don’t watch sports on a regular basis, I do go through that section every day.

    You literally are a fountain of wonderful ideas, aren’t you?

    Well, thanks for the flattery, but they’re not always wonderful; For every good idea there are several more bad ones. For every “Yes” that you get, there’s at least three “No’s”. So, you just have to keep on persevering and don’t allow yourself to be dejected by defeat.

    Don't you just love him, folks? Let's give him another round of applause, shall we?  Thanks, Gary! You're the greatest!

  • Cupcakes & Conversation with Seth Orza

    Check out this fun interview with Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer, Seth Orza. Check out Seth's answer to, "What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?" "In Fancy Free, a ballet I performed with New York City Ballet, I was doing my solo and was about halfway into it when my pants split right up the back. I was wearing only a dance belt, so you could probably see everything. I had to finish the ballet with the pants ripped, which was hard to do without laughing."

    Oh my! To read more interesting tidbits from Mr. Orza, click here.

  • Christopher Wheeldon In 'Wonderland'

    Christopher Wheeldon with Sarah Lamb as Alice, rehearsing 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' in London. Photographs by Mary McCartney for The Wall Street Journal.


    The famous choreographer breaks down the process of creativity during a rehearsal for his new production, 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' which opens at London's Royal Ballet in March.

    "Mr. Wheeldon began work on "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" about a year ago, even though he'd already read several books about Lewis Carroll and had been thinking about the story for a production that fell through at another company.

    He brought in playwright Nicholas Wright and composer Joby Talbot to his apartment to establish the scenario and synopsis. "We spent about four or five days going through the story, deciding on which moments and which character we wanted to bring to life." You can read more here.

  • Super Mario Bros + Ballet = No Joke

    Photo: Reino do Cogumelo


    This is just too cool! Check this out:

    Children from the Maria Imaculada School in Porto Alegre, Brazil performed their own unique ballet meets video game fusion. {That's certainly one way to "one up" your student enrollment, now isn't it? Better than eating a crazy looking mushroom, that's for sure!}

  • A Whimsical Dye Job

    cjdldesignHave you ever wondered how much work goes into creating the perfect costume? Then check out this fun article on the eWhim blog, home of the Whim W'him Dance Company.  It chronicles Christine Joly de Lotbiniere - one of Seattle's favorite costume designers - and the dyeing process she used on the men's costumes for 'Cylindrical Shadows'. “Choosing colors can be a difficult task, it relies as much on visual processing skills as it does on personal artistic license. So much is based on appearance . . . think of color in food, how it is often used to determine the ripeness of fruit and is one of the most visible characteristics of raw and/or cured meats. I find that in costume design work, color choice and particularly chromatic contrasts is the fundamental thing that drives attention." Read this fabulous post in its entirety here.

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