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Jeff Stanton A Partner of Principle
Interview with Jeffrey Stanton
Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Dancer

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

August, 2004

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 world.

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.

Jeff StantonWhat 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 never do.

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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