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Voice of Her Passion Through Dancing
An Interview with Louise
Nadeau, Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer
Speer and Francis Timlin
Finding a center of calm in the
sea of excitement as PNB prepares for its Balanchine Centenary celebration,
we recently chatted with Louise Nadeau in a conference room overlooking
the company's main rehearsal hall, the famous "Studio C" (which
replicates the size of the McCaw Hall stage) at The Phelps Center, PNB's
Seattle home. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.
Please tell us how you started ballet.
I grew up in western Massachusetts, in the Berkshires, and had a lot of
energy and began taking lessons of various sorts at a local girls club.
I was about six or seven and in addition to ballet, I took skating. For
ballet barres, we held on to the backs of folding chairs, and I found
that I just loved ballet! My parents later investigated ballet schools
and we were lucky to find a good ballet school in town (Pittsfield) and
with a good teacher, Madeline Cantarella Culpo. This was the Berkshire
Ballet (now known as the Albany Berkshire Ballet), which was a "regional"
ballet school and company.
My father's work took our family to St. Louis when I was twelve, and I
studied with Alexandra Zaharias for three years. About this time, the
movie "The Turning Point" came out, and that really did it for
me! I recall being very quiet on the way home from seeing it, and finally
my mom asked me about this, and I replied, "That's [dance] what I
want to do!" I began auditioning for summer courses and got into
SAB, where I was asked to stay on after the summer.
What were some of your first performing experiences?
I remember being a faun in a ballet called "Satyrs and Fauns"
and adoring my little fur leotard outfit with my antler headpiece. I'm
sure I was cute as a bug! I actually did my first Clara there, when this
company did its first "Nutcracker." Guest artists were brought
in from Boston Ballet for the major parts.
Who were some of your SAB teachers? Any favorites?
Oh, boy! So many!! Danilova, Tumkovsky, Muriel Stuart (whom we both noted
gave grand battement after pliť!), Stanley Williams, Suki Schorer, Helene
Dudin, and Andre Kramarevsky. I particularly loved Suki's classes as I
had a real affinity for the way she taught and explained things and found
that it fit my body very well. I still carry with me now the things I
learned and absorbed then.
What was Basel Ballet like?
It was a good experience for me. I had finished the last level at SAB
but hadn't yet come up with a job and was getting discouraged. Heinz Spoerli
had a huge turnover that year, and as the Basel Ballet at that time had
no school, he asked SAB for two dancers, and one of my best friends and
I were it!
I found Basel very sedate compared to New York -- almost boring. If I
wanted to go out and buy a toaster at three in the morning in New York,
I could. Not in Basel! It was a very good first experience for being in
a ballet company. We toured all over Europe and we did quite a lot of
different kinds of works, including those of Hans Van Manen, Mr. Spoerli,
of course, and some Balanchine. I like to think of this period as a fortunate
one in my life. However, after about a year and a half, it became apparent
to me that it wasn't going to work out for me in the long term, as Mr.
Spoerli and I did not see things the same way.
I then had to decide to try to continue my career in Europe or to return
to the United States. I did return to New York, where I took class with
David Howard while looking for work. I have to say that I'm one of those
dancers that needs to rehearse and perform, and not just take class, as
I find the most satisfaction in this.
Una Kai, from the Kansas City Ballet, was looking for two men and one
woman and she observed me taking class from Diana Cartier. I thought I
really didnít want to go to Kansas City, but needed and wanted the work.
It turned out to be great! I was there for five years -- maybe two years
too long (I became a big fish in a small pond). Todd Bolender and Diana
Adams were both there. Both were mentors and had great stories from their
NYCB days. I worked with Ruthanna Boris in her "Cakewalk" and
in a lesser-known work of hers, "Cirque de Deux."
I also got to know Alvin Ailey a bit and was invited by him to dance with
his company one time in one of his works called, "Memoria."
I was a bit unsure about doing this -- not sure I'd fit in -- but was
encouraged by Mr. Ailey, so I did do it, and had a wonderful time!
ballets or roles have you particularly enjoyed recently in the PNB season
and are looking forward to doing in the near future?
I loved getting back to "Swan Lake." I like dissecting roles
and find this ballet to be a good mental and physical challenge. Certainly
Artifact II -- where I feel I become a human extension of the music. I
enjoyed working with stager Glen Tuggle and how you can explore the boundaries
of how far you can push the body and still call it ballet.
With the Balanchine repertory, I feel as if I'm in my element! I'm dancing
the pas de deux in "Agon" with Olivier Wevers; the second movement
of the "Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet" with Christophe Maraval.
I donít know about "Carmina." Of course I love "Serenade,"
and the divertissement pas de deux in Act II of "Midsummer Night's
Dream" is like the perfect duet.
I've observed what seems to be a lot of team effort here, in a
very positive atmosphere. Your observations?
Yes, PNB has retained an atmosphere in which people are willing to help
others. The dancers here feel a responsibility to help pass things along
How was working on the photo shoot for Eleven?
I had a wonderful
time on the photo shoot. The photographer ultimately chose the final photographs,
but we did collaborate on the choice of outfits. And in my case, because
they didnít realize how petite I am, the clothes that had been brought
in did not initially fit, so I got to go to Mario's and select some things!
Your performances to me are marked by a sense of occasion and
high artistry. Where does your inspiration come from? Coaching and/or
Dancing is a response to the music and the choreography. The music needs
to be saying something to me. I always have a story going in my head,
and I translate the emotion of the music into movement. By the time I
get to performance, I let the music carry the dancing. I'm blessed with
indulgent and sensitive partners, as I usually don't dance exactly the
same way twice, and each performance is a new experience. I like to go
with how I'm feeling that night.
Please tell us about your daughter Emma and any hobbies or pets
you may have.
Emma, who is a very energetic six-year old, is the love of my life! She
has begged me for a long time to put her into dance classes, so this year
I've started her in Creative Movement here at PNB School. I tried to put
this off as long as possible, but she really wanted to do it!
We have one cat, Maxine, and I have no time for hobbies right now. I have
gone back to school by participating in PNB's Transition for Dancers,
where professors from Seattle University are brought in to teach us here,
on site, Monday evenings after rehearsal. This is a pilot program we began
last year, and it's just great! I had once thought of becoming a lawyer
and did very well in high school.
Teaching and coaching don't appeal too much to me right now, although
I've done a little of each. I think I'll be here as long as I'm able to
perform and it will be "in the moment" as I decide what do to
Edited by Lori Ibay
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