Pacific Northwest Ballet Dancer Nicholas Ade
by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin
June 2006 -- Seattle, Washington
Retiring from performing at the conclusion of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s run of Balanchine’s “Jewels” (June 11, 2006), dancer Nicholas Ade is moving into his new role as Principal of PNB’s Eastside School. We caught up with him a few short hours before their opening night show.
Tell us a little bit about your background: where you are from, how you got started in dancing and ballet, and of your journey to PNB.
I was born in Los Angeles and started fairly young with ballet, at first in order to help me with my sporting activities – I played basketball, baseball, and football. I started taking ballet seriously when I was 13. It’s a slow process. [Smiles.]
Who was your first teacher and where was this?
It was Helen Clarke in Orange County. I spent two summers at Houston Ballet and then went to North Carolina School of the Arts when I was 15, where I graduated from high school. I then went to San Francisco Ballet School for their regular school year and stayed for two years. During this time, I also attended summer sessions at SAB [School of American Ballet] and Boston Ballet.
[PNB Artistic Directors] Kent [Stowell] and Francia [Russell] saw what was my final SFB School Performance and signed me to a contract in 1996.
Who were some of teachers that were outstanding to you and did you have separate boys’ classes?
At North Carolina School of the Arts, Duncan Noble and Melissa Hayden come to mind. Hayden would mostly work with us when she staged Balanchine ballets. At SFB School my teachers included Ricardo Bustamante and Jorge Esquivel. We did have separate classes for boys but were integrated with the girls two days a week.
Let’s talk about some of your PNB career highlights...
I believe I would not have danced as much or had the amount of guidance elsewhere as I did at PNB. I was given lots of opportunities to test my limitations and was nurtured and helped along the way to be a good, clean dancer.
One of my favorite choreographers to work with is Val Caniparoli. I got to be in his “Lambarena,” “The Bridge,” and “Torke.” I don’t know of a “bad” Caniparoli work – all of his ballets that I’ve seen have been solid. His choreography is very pure, inspired by the music and has a natural and organic flow.
I wasn’t exposed to a lot of Balanchine growing up – I had some at North Carolina – but I really fell in love with it here. We’re so fortunate to be close to the original choreography with Francia setting things.
I’ve always enjoyed “studying” the process – in order to get the most knowledge out of the choreography.
Tell us about your teaching – how you got into it and of your new role as Principal of the Eastside School.
I began teaching when I was 21 for Debra Rogo for her summer program in the Tri-Cities and initially went for one week. Debra gives a lot of opportunities for PNB dancers to experiment with teaching on her students – to try their wings as teachers.
I decided by 1999 that I really liked teaching and tried to get as much experience as possible. I told Francia in 2002 that I wanted to do more. I’ve taught for Regional Dance America Festivals, the Craft of Choreography Conferences in Utah, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Ballet Academy East in New York.
I like to bring structure to class and recognize the importance of the analytical side too. In ballet, you learn how to do through doing and I try to bring useful information to the students – the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of doing it.
What gets you excited about teaching and how do you inspire your students?
I enjoy helping a student accomplish what they have been wanting to do. As I said earlier, it’s a slow process and we celebrate the small victories. I hope that my excitement and energy will feed the students. It’s a reciprocal relationship.
Where do you see the Eastside School being five years from now?
Being the Eastside School Principal is a dream come true at age 30! I’m excited to be able to spend more time with students. I’ve had my hand in a lot of different things and it will be nice to be able to focus on one thing.
Passion and enthusiasm are infectious and Peter Boal has it. We will be trying to fulfill Peter’s vision for the School, which will be a natural continuing arc of progress.
And working with the parents?
I’m excited to get to know the parents as well as the students. We meet regularly with both the students and their parents, and it’s a good way to keep communications open.
The Eastside enrollment is actually higher than the Seattle School by about 50 children. Multi-focused students are a challenge – I think we need to not be afraid of asking for a commitment similar to soccer, gymnastics, etc. The Francia Russell Center is a great place to be [where the school resides].
Tell us about your newest “role” – being a father.
My wife [former PNB dancer Paige Parks, who danced with the Company from 1992 to 2000] and I were thrilled to welcome Rory Margaret on the 23rd of May. She’s just a little over a week old and already a dancer! We’d put on music while Paige was expecting her and whenever Tchaikovsky came on, she just started moving.
Paige and I met at North Carolina School of the Arts, when I was 15 and she was 16, but didn’t start dating until we were both at PNB. She went into fashion marketing and worked for Macy’s after her retirement from dancing.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and to being in one place!
Any hobbies and interests outside of ballet?
I like reading. “Catcher in the Rye” is one of my favorite novels. I enjoy movies and like jazz music and have been a collector of LPs – about 2000. I like classical music as well as rap.
I wanted to mention that while I was dancing, I was also involved with administering the Choreographers’ Showcase, Bravo Ballet, Eyes on Dance, which is a once-a-year education performance for school children, and Discover Dance. Teaching has been a hobby and passion and it will be nice to focus on it full-time.
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