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They Lit Up My Life
Tribute to Departing Pacific Northwest Ballet Dancers 2008

by Dean Speer

June 2008

I am distressed and a little saddened to learn that some of my favorite PNB dancers will not be returning to light up the stage of McCaw Hall next year (2008-09).

These include Casey Herd, who is continuing his performing career but with Dutch National Ballet; Noelano Pantastico who is joining Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo; Kara Zimmerman who will be with Cincinnati Ballet; Rebecca Johnston, who is reportedly wishing to pursue a master’s degree, and Brittany Reid who, likewise, is reported to be hanging up her pointe shoes.

Each has given so much of themselves and of their art to the ballet and to the overall artistic health of the organization that their adoring fans – like me – will miss them.

Johnston has been with the company 10 years and quickly caught my attention.  I could easily identify her Salt Lake City training and background by her cheerful, bright, and focused technique and engaging personality.  Everything is always so clear, clean, and centered.  I always enjoyed and looked for her spot-on dancing in whatever assignments came her way.

I really started noticing Reid more and more about three years ago.  “Who was that tall dancer?” I’d be asking myself.  I was so pleased that she was given not only “regular” corps parts but also roles where she led the corps, plus parts at the soloist level and a few at the principal, including her recent shows as Hippolyta in Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  Reid is a fearless, calm performer and has never hesitated to tackle anything given to her.

I wrote about Zimmerman’s endless legs and line a couple of years ago.  Her bright energy and intelligence has infused the countless parts and ballets she’s been in.  I wish her the best as a soloist with Victoria Morgan’s Cincinnati Ballet.

Pantastico will be sorely missed.  She is a true classicist yet adapts herself well to contemporary literature, notably, the recent “Roméo et Juliette.”  She excels in “traditional” parts such as Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty.”  Her proportions and talent remind me of the great Margot Fonteyn, both remarkable for their beauty of line and ability to dig into the “skin” of each character or part.  Fonteyn may often be thought of as the quintessential ballerina in things like “Sleeping Beauty” but we also have to recall that she was in the first cast of many abstract and contemporary ballets as well.   Pantastico has the technique, facility, and temperament to go in both artistic directions.

Herd also hails from Salt Lake City and it is clear that his initial training there has provided him with a superstructure that he’s built on over the past seasons.  I think of him as being well-suited to “heroic” parts but he plays well also in works like Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free.”

My unsolicited advice would be for both Reid and Johnston to not totally give it up.  Reid has principal potential and I’d very much like to see that encouraged and nurtured.

We can wish each the very best in their respective future endeavors and my personal wish and hope is that they will tread our boards again someday.

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