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Partner of Principle
Interview with Jeffrey Stanton
Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer
by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin
We met in late April with
Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer Jeffrey Stanton in the Gallery
Conference Room which overlooks the famous Studio C, which is the same
size as the McCaw Opera House stage. There, we espied Noelani Pantastico
and Olivier Wevers rehearsing a pas de deux from "Brahms Schoenberg
Quartet" in preparation for the NYCB Balanchine Celebration of early
May. Perfumed by this rarified atmosphere, we chatted with Mr. Stanton
for a lively discussion about his career.
Please tell us how you came into dancing.
I began dancing in a home studio -- a converted garage actually -- in
my hometown of Santa Cruz where I took tap, jazz, and acrobatics from
the age or 4 or 5. By the time I was 11 or 12, my teacher (who thought
I had talent!) suggested ballet training at another studio in town, which
was called -- and this is true -- The Studio, which was home to Santa
Cruz Ballet Theatre.
I stayed in tap, jazz, and
ballet classes until I was 15, when I took the San Francisco Ballet summer
program. I was pleased to be asked to stay for their year-round course,
and ended up being a full-time student during my sophomore, junior, and
senior high school years. As it was too far from Santa Cruz to commute,
I moved into the ballet "dorm" which was a wonderful old Victorian
house with other ballet students, some of whom came from all over the
As you can imagine, it was
an amazing experience for someone from a smaller town. Richard Cammack
was director of the school at the time and the level of talent of so many
of other students was awesome. Being in San Francisco was also great as
we got to see companies like ABT and the Joffrey while they were on tour,
as well as being directly exposed to San Francisco Ballet itself.
I was hired as an apprentice in 1989 (having first begun performing with
the Company in 1987). There were great role models for me there.
How did you manage to come up north to PNB?
A SFB School faculty member, Jonathan Watts, knew Francia well and thought
PNB would be a good fit for me. One of my friends and colleagues, Kimberly
Davey, had moved here the previous year, and I decided to audition. While
I felt I was doing well at SFB, it seemed to take a long time to get promotions
there; I was in the corps but doing soloist roles. PNB seemed like a good
place to be. We had been hearing what a strong company Kent and Francia
had built. So, I did the audition and as offered a place in the company
and began dancing here in September of 1994. Nearly 10 full years already!
You have a reputation among the company women as being a really
good partner and one that they enjoyed dancing with.
Thank you! As a child, I was often paired off and got to learn early,
I guess, to relate to the person with whom I was dancing. I enjoy the
element of communicating with a partner when dancing. I prepare myself
in advance by putting myself in the shoes of the person being partnered
-- where might she need or want more or less support for example. I think
I have a natural feel for how to partner. I've observed that some guys
have a harder time with partnering and a few just quite never get it,
try as they might. I think being a compassionate person helps.
have been some of the highlights for you here at PNB?
I was fortunate to start getting principal roles right away. I remember
my first performance in a principal part - I was nervous and didn't know
how to pace myself at the time. Suzanne Farrell had come out to stage
"Mozartiana" and I was partnering the our lovely French ballerina
Anne Derieux. I had put too much energy into the steps, and I think I
had nothing left at the end of about 8 counts! My legs gave way and I
ended up in the splits, instead of where I should have been. Boy, I thought
it was over for me at PNB! But PNB has allowed me to take risks, get exposure,
and to learn how to be a principal.
I've enjoyed being Romeo, dancing "Paquita" with Patty (Patricia
Barker); "Swan Lake" which was better for me this second time
around -- it was done earlier this season -- and I got to do it with one
of our up-and-coming stars, Noelani (Pantastico).
For a while, I was the young
male principal partnering more experienced women. Now I find the roles
being reversed and am partnering women who tap into my experience. I've
been able to do just about every role in a ballet that I'd ever want to
dance. A good example of this is "Corsaire." I think this is
because I'm versatile as a dancer and can be a put in a variety of roles.
Kent even drew upon my tap experience for "Silver Lining," and
we collaborated on a great tap solo for me. Sometimes I feel a bit overworked,
but I'm not complaining! Oh, another example is I got to do Basilio in
"Don Quixote" -- another ballet that initially I thought I'd
What about this season?
Again, "Swan Lake" was certainly a highlight, the Balanchine
Rep. (I had never done "Brahms Schoenberg Quartet"), and "Midsummer"
coming up in June. I'm looking forward to "Apollo" and "Prodigal
Son" next season. I've never actually seen Prodigal, so I'm doubly
excited to be a part of this historic ballet. "Merry Widow"
will be fun to do again.
And life outside of ballet, if there is such a thing?!
I've been doing yoga for the past 4 years -- another recommendation by
Jonathan Watts. I've started taking a Philosophy class through Second
Stage program. [College instructors come to the PNB site to teach.] I
have mixed feelings about being in an academic class, as I haven't done
that for years. Now I have to write a paper, which looms overhead! I've
had opportunities to guest perform, with Patty for example in Gala des
Etoiles (Montreal), in Prague, TITAS (Dallas). Very fun to do and to be
around dancers from around the world.
At 33, I feel like I'm dancing better than ever and look forward to continuing
as long as I can!
Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.
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