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Diving Into It

Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Lucien Postlewaite

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

The affable Lucien Postlewaite is a newly-promoted Soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet.  We met with him to discuss this and his career, while swirling Snowflakes were rehearsing below in Studio “C” for “Nutcracker.”   This is an edited version of that conversation.

How did you start in ballet?  Please tell us a little bit about your background.

I’m from Santa Cruz, California and used to dance all around the house.  My parents enrolled me at Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre – and my younger sister followed me there as well.

I didn’t have a real idea as to what ballet was as a profession, exactly, until I went to San Francisco Ballet School at the age of 11.  I was there from 11 to 13, then took my first summer course at School of American Ballet.  I remember missing my family!  I moved to New York full-time at 16.  I was at SAB for two years.  I did a summer course here at PNB and found that I loved it here.

Who were some of your influential teachers and what did you gain from their classes?

Robert Kelly, Diane Cypher (Santa Cruz) – worked me every day – and I started to see depth in ballet.  The turning point for me came when I saw that I could throw myself into it.

Peter Boal was great as a person and as a teacher.  He made my parents feel it was okay for me to move away at 16.  He is a very good teacher and loves doing it.  Kramme [Andrei Kramarevsky] saw me as constantly evolving – it is a process.

I never thought about ballet as a career option until I was at SAB.  It was great being immersed in a world dedicated to ballet.

How did you make your way to PNB?

After my first summer course at PNB – I was 17 – I was offered a job, but turned it down, as I had wanted to spend another year at SAB – thinking that if I came back in a year, that job offer would still be there.  But as it turns out, I had to spend another year in the PNB School before being offered an apprenticeship (2003).

One of your first big roles was as the title character in “Prodigal Son” which you did again recently.

The second time around I was more comfortable and took more risks.  The first time, I was only 19 and wasn’t supposed to do it, but ended up doing it only because Le Yin had gotten injured.

What’s your approach to this kind of role?

For me, it’s less acting and more channeling some feelings that people already know.  It’s a chance to become very vulnerable onstage.  The first act, you have to have pride and arrogance; the second, pure glee and a fascination with the Siren; and by the last act, you have nothing left.  “Swan Lake” is not as exposed; you’re more of a character.  For “Prodigal,” everyone brings their own character to the role.

What else is on the horizon for you this season?

It already started out big for me with the Balcony pas de deux from the new production of “Roméo et Juliette” that I did with Noelani [Pantastico] at the Gala.  I came into rehearsals with an idea of what Romeo should look like, but for this version the stagers want Romeo to just be “you.”  I’m looking forward to the completion of the staging.

“Square Dance,” “Agon” – which I’m glad to be doing again; the first time I was terrified!  Olivier [Wevers] is making a new ballet, and I get to do a pas de deux with Kaori [Nakamura].  He’s finding his choreographic voice – is more focused and is evolving.  He’s creating with the dancers: he comes in with a feeling, an energy of what he wants, but then finds movement that amplifies that energy.  In addition to our duet, there is a pas de deux for Chalnessa [Eames] and Jonathan [Porretta], one for Louise [Nadeau] and [Batkhurel] Bold, a solo for Carrie Imler, plus Jodie [Thomas], Josh [Spell], and Ben [Griffiths] are in it.

Congratulations on your promotion!  How long did you know?

I knew I was under consideration about a year ago, and definitely knew when our contracts came out in April.  It was very hard to keep it a secret, although I called my parents!  I want to keep growing as a dancer, do more, and not allow myself to get bored.

PNB has a huge repertory and one that ever is expanding, but is there someone or something that’s on your dance wish list?

I’d love to do some Kylian.  More Forsythe would be fun.  There is lots going on in Europe that interests me.  I like Kylian’s different way of seeing the music.

What’s been different since your promotion?

I wish I’d get more direct feedback and corrections on technique.  I try to avoid being too comfortable.  I target changes and like to evolve and evaluate myself constantly.

Certainly finesse and details are always evolving.  There is a danger of taking class as a warmup, but I try not to waste a moment!  Careers are short; it’s too easy to become stuck in a pattern; I don’t want to spend any time idling along.

You’ve impressed me as a very good natured person.

Personality does come into play a lot.  I try to avoid negative energy.  It’s easy to pull an attitude.  Sometimes, being upset brings up the best work, but attitude just gets in the way.  I don’t want to waste a day.  Having a good attitude and outlook creates a better work environment, especially in partnerships!

What do you like to do outside of ballet?  Hobbies, reading, skydiving?

Actually, I love skydiving!

I was just making that up!

I’ve gone five times.  Olivier and Kaori have gone – even my parents!   I like being outdoors and new experiences.  I like to travel and try new things.  I was in Japan last summer and we did a bizarre food night!

What wisdom might you give to an aspiring dancer?

Listen to yourself.  Consider art as a possibility.  Don’t get stuck in one thing – so many doors can be opened.  You’re in control of your life!

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