For Every Swan, A Song:
Patricia Barker's Farewell to the Pacific Northwest Ballet Stage
by Dean Speer
When I got the news that someone who had once worked in our office – and who had gone on to a very impressive singing career in opera – had retired earlier this year, at what I consider to be a much too young age, I promptly went into a blue funk.
I’ve been dreading Patricia Barker’s “Farewell” event for awhile. Now that it’s nearly upon us, I’m strengthening my resolve to courageously meet and greet the passing of her talent from the Pacific Northwest Ballet boards. Each time someone leaves the stage, it’s a loss to the art and to the greater public, regardless of the reason(s) for doing so.
Barker’s 26 years at PNB nearly spans the entire history of the organization. Their legacies are intertwined. We can hope that perhaps there will be some passing along of that legacy to aspirant talent through teaching and coaching.
Certainly one of the hallmarks she has impressed on our memories is that of her brilliant technique. Also, her ability to step – literally – out of the box of typecasting and to embrace many styles and choreographic visions, in new work and old, and her clear love of dancing. Her extension – that was scientifically measured – has given her an impressive range of motion in all directions. Those high-arched feet that once seemed almost bizarre but now seem normal and are now the envy of every ballerina (and ballerino). An overall dancing facility that has raised the ballet barre.
Some of my favorite roles of hers have included Titania in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” – how her duet with the smitten Bottom is a testimony to artistic humor; any of the “leotard” Balanchine works – for which she is bred and in which she appears most comfortable; works that have challenged her such as Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty;” new works that were either created with her as a part of the original cast or works that were brought to PNB and added to the repertory.
Often asked about Barker’s longevity on the stage, Francia Russell once observed that, “She does what she needs to do to take care of herself. She never misses class...” It’s clear she brings intelligence, dedication and diligence to the workplace, and glamour to the public. We’ll miss her style and quick wit.
We have enjoyed your dancing and have gained insight from your performances – into both you and ourselves – to a considerable degree. We wish for your future to be as bright.
Thank you, Patty!
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