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Sneak Preview: New Choreography from Anne Mueller

April 21st, 2014

On Monday, April 21st, The Portland Ballet will premiere “Pause, Play,” a new work by Anne Mueller, at the SOAR collaborative dance concert.  A former principal dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre, Mueller is now the Managing Director at Bag & Baggage Productions.  She’s been working intensively with six dancers from The Portland Ballet to develop a new contemporary work.  Tickets for SOAR are available via Polaris Dance Theatre.

We sat down with Mueller to talk about the piece, her process, and her hopes for the premiere.

The Portland Ballet: This is your last rehearsal before the performance on Monday.   How are you feeling about the process so far?

Anne Mueller: I feel very good about it.  I told the dancers that they’re going to warm up here and then do class with Nancy [Davis, Artistic Director of The Portland Ballet].  Then I asked them to do a run of the piece here in the studio where they can concentrate on dancing really hard.  That way, when we’re in the theater, they can deal with lights and the black of the house and still be comfortable.

TPB: Can you describe a little about the piece.  What was your inspiration and what gave you the ideas?

AM: When we first started the conversation, Nancy had three couples in mind.  I thought that sounded like a lovely scenario.  From project to project I like to not get too stuck with any configuration of numbers or genders because you can get stuck in a rut.  Three couples sounded like lots of different possibilities.  We had an idea costume-wise for a sleek Neoclassical look, which told me what world we were going to be living in for the piece.


[An early rehearsal of "Pause, Play" at the TPB studios]

I wanted classically-based music, but not anything that was too traditional or too familiar.  I really like the [former] cellist from the Kronos Quartet Joan Jeanrenaud, so I was trying to find people of a similar style, and I found this violinist Cornelius Dufallo.  I had to dig around and listen to lots and lots of piece of music so it would work format-wise.  Then I found the music I wanted and pieced it together, which told me what the format of the piece was going to be.  It’s a dance for three ladies, a dance for three men, and then a dance for three couples.

TPB: You’ve done lots of choreography before – have you worked with pre-professional dancers before?  What’s the difference for you between working with professional and pre-professional dancers?

AM: Every group of dancers that you choreograph on is different.  It’s not just their level of experience; it’s their style and their training and what choreographers they usually work with and how comfortable are they with contemporary motifs…I try to approach each situation by assessing what the given skillset and stylistic strengths of the dancers or group is.  Rather than coming to rehearsal with a lot of really set ideas, I try to sketch it out a little more broadly than that.  I use exercises – like we did one that was “rise and fall.”  There’s no rocket science there – but it’s a starting point.  You give people a set of directions and see how they move, and then you kind of learn about them and create a vocabulary that’s hopefully comfortable.

TPB: You have an accomplished dance career of your own.  What’s the difference between choreographing and dancing?  Do you feel like there’s a strong connection between the two, or are they pretty separate disciplines?

AM: They are pretty separate.  You have to be thinking from a totally different place.  Dancing is very personal experience.  You’re assessing yourself and your instrument and your interpretation of whatever material all the time, so it’s very introverted in a way…Choreographing needs to be more outside of yourself.  What feels good to you, what feels comfortable to you, and what looks good on you is not necessarily going to look good on other people, and if you hold on too tightly to those ideas, you’re going to get very frustrated.

TPB: What are your hopes for the premiere of this piece on Monday?  What do you hope the audience takes away?

AM: Well of course I hope the audience enjoys it and has an interesting experience.  I’ve really enjoyed working with this group of dancers, and I’m more interested right now in their journey with the piece.  I want to see them really attack it and take command.  They’re very good, capable dancers, and they’re at a place in their development where they can start to own their dancing a little bit more and infuse themselves and their personalities into it.  I want them to have a confident presence and show themselves off — because they’ve done some very good work.

The world premiere of Anne Mueller’s “Pause, Play” is April 21st at 7:30pm at the Newmark Theatre in Portland, Oregon.  Tickets for SOAR are available via Polaris Dance Theatre.  Buy your tickets now!

For more information about SOAR, please visit

Cross-Training & Dance: Part 3

April 16th, 2014

In her first post on cross-training, Melissa Framiglio, TPB instructor, professional dancer, and certified GYROTONIC® instructor, wrote about her own experience with cross-training and how an injury helped her to become a stronger dancer.  She also talked about avoiding injury through cross-training.

Now, Melissa talks about two key elements of a dancer’s strength: upper body and mental.

TPB students in a floor-intensive move during the 2013 Masters Performance - photo by Blaine Covert

TPB students in a floor-intensive move during the 2013 Masters Performance – photo by Blaine Covert

Strength training is something both male and female dancers should address.  Ladies, it is not just the guys who need a strong upper body.  I was in a very classical company, but between those full-lengths there were programs with contemporary works that involved floor work.  These pieces required tons of upper body strength.  Paul Taylor’s Esplanade comes to mind as one of the the most demanding things I have ever danced in my life.

Before the the repetiteur came to stage it, she told our director to require us to cross-train – so the company was standing in front of the TV in the studio before class, doing grueling Jane Fonda videos.  I kid you not!  As much as we hated them, I think they saved us from being even more broken than we already were.   Taylor’s athletic study of “running and baseball slides” was grueling.  Upper body strength was essential for that piece.  If you couldn’t hold yourself, and for some sections, someone else, then you were not cast.  (In contrast, after a short, 15-minute intermission, Raymonda was the next ballet on the program.   I don’t think there could have been a greater stylistic contrast.)

TPB students in George Balanchine's Raymonda Variations - photo by Blaine Covert

TPB students in Raymonda Variations, Choreography by George Balanchine, © The George Balanchine Trust - photo by Blaine Covert

Upper body and upper back strength are essential for fluid port de bras and for partnering.   The men need strength to hold the women, but ladies, if you can’t hold your own back in a whip turn or a hand-to-hand promenade, it isn’t going to happen.  Using light weights, an elastic band, or even your own body weight are all great ways to develop strength without bulk.  Please consult a PT or trainer to know you are using correct form.

TPB students in class

TPB students in class – photo by Blaine Covert

There is one last component of cross training I want to address: it can be so therapeutic mentally.  The repetitive, almost hypnotic quality of swimming can be very calming – or the high energy and music of a Zumba class can be just what you need to blow of some steam after a bad turning day.  Taking a bike ride outside on a nice day (wear a helmet!) can give you some much needed vitamin D after being cooped up in the studio all week.  All of these activities remind us that there is more to life than ballet.  Even if dance is your passion, balance is very healthy to remember.

How do you cross-train for upper body strength?  Do you find cross-training provides mental balance?

TPB Senior Profile: Ruby King

March 26th, 2014

TPB is proud to present Ruby King, one of our seniors for the 2013/14 Curriculum year!

Ruby King, photo by Blaine Covert

Ruby King, photo by Blaine Covert

Ruby: what a wonderful name she has and what a wonderful performer she is! Ruby was with us when she was very young, decided to explore other interests and then returned to The Portland Ballet. She had a lot of catching up to do, but never let that discourage her and worked her way up to our Level 5. Ruby has always loved to perform, in fact she performs in each and every class, not just on stage. It is evident she is very expressive, loves ballet and loves the music. Ruby has been a demonstrator for one of Michelle Davis’s Pre-Ballet classes and is a natural born teacher. The little ones always seek her out and sit with her when we do our big holiday production rehearsals and the full cast is in one studio together. As Ruby embarks on her next exciting adventures all these great traits will go far. We wish her much success wherever her wonderful spirit moves her. - Nancy Davis, Artistic Director

Name, Age, Year in School?
Ruby King, 17, senior.

When did you start dancing?
I started taking ballet as a seven-year-old.

When did you start at TPB?
The same time I started taking ballet classes!

How has being a dance student affected your school life? Social life?
In terms of academics, I definitely have to plan ahead and stay organized; balancing ballet with a rigorous school schedule is not easy! I’m not the only one at school with a demanding extracurricular passion, so all of my friends understand that I have to put ballet first in the majority of situations. I’ve missed my share of Friday night football matches, but in the end I’d always rather be dancing in the studio.

Ruby King, photo by Blaine Covert

Ruby King, photo by Blaine Covert

What are your other hobbies besides dance?
My second love in life is fashion, if you’d like to call that a hobby? I’m always keeping up with couture and ready-to-wear collections throughout the year and I have a major weakness for beautiful shoes. I’d also consider myself quite the Francophile. I’ve been studying the French language for a long time, and don’t plan to stop until I’m fluent!

Influential master classes?
The first time I took John Clifford’s class was definitely a shock. I am so used to really filling out the music in class, so learning to express myself with limited counts has been something I’ve been working on!

Or teachers?
All of the teachers I’ve studied with at TPB have all given me something that has gone into creating my style! But I have especially enjoyed Elizabeth Guerin for her constant attention to the importance of upper body presentation, and Natasha Bar for the dramatic and expressive flare she adds to each combination. The drama of ballet is the thing I love most!

Ruby rehearsing 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' photo by Blaine Covert

Ruby rehearsing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Or SBI programs?
I’ve only participated in TPB’s SBI program, but it was always an enriching program. I adored dancing everyday!

Why do you dance?
It’s simply a matter of love and passion; and it’s one of the only ways I can express myself! Outside of the studio I’d consider myself a rather shy person, but as an artist, I live to tell stories without words. Ballet isn’t just something I choose to do, it’s literally become part of my identity. I’d be nothing without it! On a humorous note, many people at school identify me as the “ballet girl” who always wears high heels.

Favorite role or ballet danced?
For a role I’ve never danced, I’d have to say Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, especially Kenneth MacMillan’s version. What a dream! I also learned Can-Can for The Enchanted Toyshop this year– it’s such a lovely role! I love the drama and the coy nature to the dance, not to mention the absolutely stunning costumes.

Ruby (far right) as a Can-Can dancer in 'The Enchanted Toyshop,' photo by Blaine Covert

Ruby (far right) as a Can-Can dancer in ‘The Enchanted Toyshop,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Favorite part of class? Barre? Center? Do you love to jump or turn or both? Adagio?
At the barre, I actually adore ronde de jambes, There is so much opportunity to create this beautiful fluidity with the legs, port de bras and head movement. My other favorite step would be bourées en pointe! I just get so caught up in the music and emotion that I get to create.

Favorite TPB moment?
The last time we did The Enchanted Toyshop, there was a rehearsal one Saturday that included all of the small children. I remember it started to snow outside and everyone gathered excitedly around the foggy windows. It was just such a lovely, small moment to see everyone possessed with  such wonder by the delicate snow flurries as Rossini’s absolutely gorgeous score played in the background.

Do you have a favorite dancer- friend at TPB or professional dancer? Any favorite ballet companies?
My favorite dancer, without a doubt, is Evgenia Obraztsova, who dances with the Bolshoi Ballet. She has lovely technique, but really stands out by putting emphasis on the importance of putting soul into dance. Technique can be memorable on its own, but the passion put into each role, to me at least, is what really sets the truly magnificent dancers apart from everyone else.

Plans for after graduation?
I plan to attend college, ideally in a large metropolitan area!

Pursue dance professionally?
While I do not plan to pursue ballet as a career, it will always be a part of who I am.

Dream job- where would you like to see yourself in five, ten years?
My ultimate goal is to work in the fashion industry. It’s quite a reach, but ideally I’d like to see myself working for Vogue magazine, either as a writer or with something in the Creative Department. But really, just to be involved with fashion or art would be more than wonderful!

Any advice for young TPB dancers?
Please put all of your love and your passion into this art form! Expression is so important, but so many dancers forget about it because they’re focusing so much on the steps. You have the opportunity to really inspire people, so make sure to put just as much passion and attention into every movement of the head, every breath of the arm. I promise you, people will remember you if you show them that this is what you really love!

Thanks Ruby! Best wishes for next year! Any comments, questions, encouragement for Ruby? Please leave them here! 


My First Professional Performance: Gavin Larsen

March 21st, 2014

Last year, Gavin Larsen, former principal dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre, introduced us to the world of auditions – and how a dancer makes the transition into the professional world.  Now, she continues her story with this riveting tale of her first performance as a professional dancer.  Thanks, Gavin, for sharing your story with The Portland Ballet!

My first few weeks as a professional dancer were spent in rehearsal for a series of summer performances.  They were held at an outdoor theater on the breathtakingly beautiful grounds of the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville, WA.

As I described in my last blog post, the rehearsal period was pretty brutal on me: endless hours in pointe shoes and learning more choreography at one time than I’d ever had to do before equaled greater fatigue than I had previously thought possible.   I became familiar with ice buckets, aching legs, and the bliss of letting my body sag into the couch at the end of a day.  But I got stronger, tougher, and more acclimated to the life of a corps girl as the weeks went on, and by the time the performances arrived, I was excited and ready to make my professional debut.

(Photo: Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery – courtesy of Chateau Ste. Michelle)

The program we were presenting at Ste. Michelle that summer was excerpts from Swan Lake and a ballet by Kent Stowell called Over the Waves.  I had understudied a “short girl” corps spot in Over the Waves and was, of course, a swan in Swan Lake.  The setting for these performances was incredibly scenic (the stage looked out over an enormous, sloping expanse of lawn with trees in the distance, mountain ranges beyond, and vineyards on either side) while also fairly… unusual.  Our dressing “rooms” were curtained-off areas in the winery’s barrel room, adjacent to the tasting room, and to get to and from the stage we had to walk through the barrel storage area—which was concrete, chilled, and very aromatic from the wine.  From there, we trudged outside and up some rickety stairs to get “backstage”, which was in nearly full view of the audience.  Needless to say, the atmosphere was casual, jovial, and felt a bit like going to summer camp without the campfire songs.  I packed my dance bag each day stocked full of every conceivable amenity I might need—water, food, extra tape, extra warmers, waterproof booties, a blanket to stretch on, gloves (it got really cold).  It was as if I was going to a third-world country and never knew what I might encounter.  I would have taken bear spray if I had any, and I definitely did take bug repellent.

Dress rehearsal went fine, from my point of view, and the next morning I went to class feeling the anticipation of opening night.  After class, we were to have a two-hour rehearsal for the night’s program, beginning with Over the Waves.  As I was only an understudy for that ballet, I stood in the back of the studio ready to mark the part I covered.  The ballet master stopped the music, came over to me, and said, “Gavin, this is where you enter.”  Huh?  This wasn’t the section I learned — this was the “tall girls” part!

“Well, you’re learning new spot,” the ballet master told me.  Um….what?!

Yup.  A girl in a different section of the ballet had thrown her back out during dress rehearsal, and for some reason I was being put into her place for opening night’s show, which was now only a few hours away.  Not only had I not learned this particular section, I had barely even WATCHED it in rehearsals, needing to save as much brain and memory power as I could for my own parts.  What the tall girls did was completely different and utterly unrelated to my own “short girl” part.  Now I had to learn, essentially, an entirely new ballet.

They began to teach me my new part, one step at a time, with an amazing amount of patience.  The rehearsal went into “spillover,” which meant everyone was suddenly earning overtime.  I don’t recall how long we went, but it wasn’t too long — because although I got the entire ballet crammed into my head, I knew it wasn’t very secure there.

(Photos: Gavin Larsen with Paul Destrooper and Kent Stowell in rehearsal – photos by Blaine Truitt Covert)

The girl whose part I was stepping into was amazing — she drove me home after rehearsal, while I ceaselessly reviewed the steps in my head and out loud, asking her for prompts when I hit a blank.  She made me lunch while I kept reviewing, and we kept at it during the hour’s drive out to the winery.  I tested my memory by quizzing myself on what came right before or right after various moments in the ballet.  I knew the only way I’d be able to manage this was by keeping it in my head, running an endless loop tape until the curtain went up.

At the winery, I tried to stay calm, but nerves were creeping up on me.  Anytime someone spoke to me, it was as if their voice was coming from far away– I could barely hear anything but “sauté, pas de chat, step cross lunge, pose B+ hold- 7, 8, 9, kneel…”.  Someone wished me “merde” and my eyes filled with tears of anxiety.  After putting on my makeup, I found an empty space in the barrel room to go over the ballet one more time and hit a blank spot—I panicked, quivering—and realized I’d have to keep myself calm in order to think straight and get through this.

Photo courtesy of Chateau Ste. MichelleThe ballet started, and something took over—I suddenly had a confidence that surprised me.  My first step onstage was a humungous sauté arabesque out of the fourth wing, by myself (each girl came out on her own from the four corners of the stage), and I relished the moment to say, “Here I am!”  The other corps girls onstage with me were whispering cues throughout and sort of “nudging” me into the right spots if I started to go astray.

(Photo: Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery stage – courtesy of Chateau Ste. Michelle)

My brain was running a mile a minute, but the previous five hours of intense learning had worked.  Although I couldn’t stop thinking, I did know what steps came next, and next, and next. I danced big, fully and with energy, knowing that even if I made a mistake, I’d already succeeded.  The only thing I could do wrong would be to hold back.

I remember the finale of the ballet the best, because the music was so rousing, the steps so exhilarating, and the girl next to me in line had to almost shout for me to hear her: “Sailor step!  Crossovers!  Lunge!  Paddle turn and kneel!”  I was so happy to be nearly done with the ballet that I thought I would explode.

And then it WAS done, and I’d made it and not even ruined anything!  The relief was immense, and finally I could hear clearly and see straight again.  People congratulated me on my professional debut, which I had totally forgotten about—my first time on stage as a professional dancer was not anything like I had imagined or anticipated.  I’d rehearsed for weeks, only to do my first performance in a part I learned in the last five hours!

Photo courtesy of Chateau Ste. Michelle

(Photo: The Portland Ballet dancers prepare backstage to dance Swan Lake – photo by Blaine Truitt Covert)

But it wasn’t over yet.  Swan Lake was still to come, after a short intermission.  I raced back to the dressing room/barrel room/makeshift tent where our white tutus were lined up for us to pull on as fast as possible.  Towels and tarps lined the runway from stage to dressing room in an attempt to keep us from tracking mud onto all that white tulle.

I tore my hair out of its high bun and whipped it back into the low swan hairdo, someone helped me pin on the feathered headpiece, I jumped into my tutu, and with a deep breath, took my place in line to enter in Swan Lake:  arabesque hop, emboite, arabesque, emboite, arabesque, emboite…

En Pointe Newsletter: Winter 2014

February 28th, 2014

The Portland Ballet Premieres The Wardin Studios at Smash-Hit Gala!

Over 300 people attended The Portland Ballet’s Grand Re-Opening Gala on January 25, smashing attendance expectations and welcoming a new era for The Portland Ballet. TPB’s Youth Company performed twice to standing-room only audiences. The show included performances of Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, When I Close My Eyes, and other works, as well as original piano compositions by Principal Pianist Robert Huffman.


Video by Hot Flash Films PDX

Apart from the dancing, guests got the opportunity to view the new studios – over 75% expanded since 2013. New dressing rooms, administrative space, and of course refitted dance spaces were on display. Patrons and guests broke in Studio C with champagne and snacks from local Hillsdale businesses such as Baker & Spice and Food Front. The Gala surpassed expectations, said Managing Director Jim Lane.  “This really showed off the direction that TPB is headed,” said Lane.  “We’re ready for the next step.”

Auditions for the Summer Ballet Intensive are coming in March

Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert

Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert

Dancers are busy preparing for the competitive Summer Ballet Intensive (SBI) auditions, coming March 9 to the TPB studios. These auditions qualify dancers to take part in a four-week summer program, which provides intensive training in a challenging and disciplined environment.

SBI dancers receive concentrated, individual attention from teachers and choreographers. The program offers core/stretch classes, ballet technique, pointe, variations, men’s technique, partnering, modern, jazz, and character, as well as a lecture series that includes music appreciation, dance history and dancer wellness. Dancers spend the last part of each day in workshop rehearsals, preparing for the performance at the end of the program.

Dancers can audition in person at The Wardin Studios on March 9 from 12:30 – 2:30 pm; the auditions cost $25. Out-of-state dancers can send in video auditions by March 9. For more information on the upcoming SBI auditions, please visit The Portland Ballet’s website.

TPB Dancers Will Premiere New Work at SOAR Concert


The Portland Ballet has teamed up with Polaris Dance Theater and Hot Flash Films PDX to help produce a concert and documentary film finale for SOAR.  This amazing documentary tells the story of two sisters, both dancers, with unique challenges and an inspiring relationship.  Hot Flash Films PDX has followed the dancers for two years – and now, a Kickstarter campaign is helping to fund the end of the film.

The evening will feature TPB dancers in original contemporary choreography - six dancers in an all new work choreographed by Anne Mueller, created specifically for this event (for more on Anne and why we’re excited about her choreography, see below).   In addition, the evening will feature dance by Polaris Dance Theater, the Jefferson Dancers, Kemba Shannon Ensemble, & the stars of SOAR, Kiera and Uriah, in the piece that inspired the film, choreographed by Melissa St. Clair.  Hot Flash Films PDX will film the concert live as the culmination of the documentary.

The event takes place Monday, April 21st at Portland’s Newmark Theater.  Tickets will be on sale soon, so stay tuned for more information.  In the meantime, watch the video and donate now to the SOAR Documentary & Dance Concert on Kickstarter!

Anne Mueller joins The Portland Ballet with new Open Ballet Class

Blaine Truitt Covert

Blaine Truitt Covert

The Portland Ballet is adding new instructors to its already prestigious faculty.  The expanded studio means TPB has more space for jazz, modern, and additional ballet options. The first new class to appear on the schedule is Open Ballet, led by former OBT dancer Anne Mueller.

Mueller danced professionally for 18 years, including many with Oregon Ballet Theatre. She helped found the Trey McIntyre Project, and served on the artistic staff at OBT as Artistic Coordinator, Director of Artistic Operations, and Interim Artistic Director. Anne is currently is Managing Director for Bag & Baggage Productions, as well as a guest artist and choreographer.

Mueller’s Open Ballet Class runs every Saturday at 10 AM. Meanwhile, TPB favorite adult classes will continue, including Josie Moseley’s Modern class, Mondays at 10 AM. Keep your eyes and ears open for more Open Class options coming soon to The Portland Ballet!

Creative Ballet Classes Now Available for Spring

© Ty Milford

© Ty Milford

The ever-popular Creative Ballet sessions start next week – and spaces are filling fast.   In Creative Ballet, the littlest dancers learn cooperation, creativity, and self-expression in a fun and safe environment.  The sessions are already selling out, so sign up now to reserve your spot!

WEDNESDAYS 3/5 – 4/30

12-12:45 (ages 3-4)

12:45-1:30 (ages 5-6)

SATURDAYS 3/8 – 5/3

8:30 -9:15 (ages 3-4)

9:15-10 (ages 5-6)

SUNDAYS 3/9 – 5/4

9-9:45 (ages 3-4)

9:45-10:30 (ages 4-5)

10:30-11:15 (ages 5-6)

Sign up now!

TPB Senior Profile: Samantha Baybado

February 22nd, 2014

TPB is proud to feature Samantha Baybado, one of our seniors for the 2013/14 Curriculum year!

Samantha Baybado, photo by Blaine Covert

Samantha Baybado, photo by Blaine Covert

Samantha has been such a lovely addition to our school. Everyone likes “Sam” as we call her; she’s a gem. Not only is Sam an accomplished ballet dancer but she also excels in Modern. Sam’s gorgeous shock of red hair really sets her apart, as well as her wonderful performing skills and ballon. (Ballon is the light, elastic quality in jumping.) In addition to Sam’s full load with school and Curriculum classes, she has assisted and demonstrated for our Levels 1 & 2 teacher, Patti Jones, for several years, and is a natural, doing a superb job. We will miss Sam enormously but wish her much success in life no matter where her passion leads her.   - Nancy Davis, Artistic Director

Sam in 'The Enchanted Toyshop,' photo by Blaine Covert

Sam in ‘The Enchanted Toyshop,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Name, Age, Year in School?
Samantha Baybado, 17-years-old, 12th grade.

When did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was three at a community center and then switched over to Contra Costa Ballet when I realized just how much I loved to dance.

When did you start at TPB?
I started with TPB when I was 14. It was the summer before 9th grade.

How has being a dance student affected your school life? Social life?
Being so busy with dance has helped me manage my time and that’s been a big help with school work, but at the same time it has made it pretty difficult to have a social life outside of dance. I always try to get as much school work done at school so I don’t have to worry about it when I’m at TPB taking class.

What are your other hobbies besides dance?
I love photography. I’ve been taking pictures since I was about four-years-old. To be able to capture a moment and preserve it is magical. I’ve taken some classes and it has really opened up another world to me. Just like dance, photography is an art form that is another way to express yourself. I’ve always been involved in some form of art whether it be drawing, painting, or taking pictures.

Influential master classes? Or teachers?
Patti Jones has been a major influence for me. She has all these genius ways to make your body do what it’s supposed to do. I’ve been re-working my technique with her and it has made me a stronger dancer. Also, working as her demonstrator, I learn how to not only improve my technique, but to help teach it to younger dancers which is an incredibly valuable skill. Josie Moseley has also helped me grow as an artist over these past few years. It’s important for a ballet dancer to be able to move in ways that are outside that of classical technique. It is a different form of expression, modern dance, and by working with Josie, I feel like I can really show myself through my movement. It feels like second nature.

Samantha assisting Patti Jones, photo by Blaine Covert

Samantha assisting Patti Jones, photo by Blaine Covert

Or SBI programs?
One of the first summer programs I went to was with Oregon Ballet Theatre and I completely loved it. I felt like I was really learning and that I was improving my technique because the teachers had different ways of presenting information that made sense to me. It’s always good to get a different perspective. Everything was so focused on details and the movements are so clean and clear. They also have a lot of professional dancers teaching the students and taking class with them. I find it interesting to take class from someone I’ve seen perform onstage because then you can get an idea of how they think when they are dancing. You can learn also about performance quality by taking classes with professionals.

Why do you dance?
Dance is magic. For me, when I dance everything just feels right. No matter what’s happening, I can be having a bad day or be in a bad mood, but once I start to dance, it all gets better. I can’t explain it any better than that. Just whatever is going on in the “real world” seems to not matter anymore once I get into the studio. I can be me. It’s another world where music and movement are the guiding forces. Dancing has gotten me through some tough times. It’s like a good friend. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Favorite role or ballet danced?
I really loved dancing Bluebird from Sleeping Beauty with Lucas Pitts in the summer of 2011. It’s such an energetic piece with great music. For the same reasons, I enjoyed doing Little Swans in Swan Lake. They both take precision and musicality and are just plain fun to dance.

Samantha (center) in 'Swan Lake,' photo by Blaine Covert

Samantha (center) in ‘Swan Lake,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Favorite part of class? Barre? Center? Do you love to jump or turn or both? Adagio?
I don’t think I have a preference as far as barre versus center but I do love to jump. At my studio in California, it was normal to do a minimum of half an hour of allegro each class. Most of that time was spent on medium and grand allegro. There’s just so many cool tricks that you can do with jumps. Sometimes I get jealous of all the fun things guys get to do in their variations. That’s part of the reason I try to take men’s class with Jason Davis as often as I can. Plus, you can get so much stronger and you need that stamina for performances. Also, with the more contemporary choreography that is becoming popular as of late, it isn’t uncommon for girls to be doing bigger jumps. We need to be able to keep up with the guys! (Too true!)

Favorite TPB moment?
I don’t think I can pin-point a specific moment, but I love the atmosphere of performance weeks. Spending time with your friends between shows, watching each other perform, the adrenaline of being onstage doing what you love… that’s when the best memories are made. I do have to say though, watching Marina DiCorcia dancing Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year from the wings was one of my favorite dance moments. There’s nothing like watching a friend perform and be so on like she was during those shows.

Plans for after graduation?
I want to audition for training programs and companies and then maybe online college if I dance. Either that or go to school and dance while studying something like physical therapy or nutrition. I definitely want to take a break from academic school for a while though.

Pursue dance professionally?
I would really love a chance to dance professionally. I’ve worked all my life with that goal and to get to this point now and to not try to pursue my passion just feels like it would be a waste. Whether it be ballet, contemporary, or modern, I want to get a chance to perform as a professional.

Samantha in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' photo by Blaine Covert

Samantha in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Dream job- where would you like to see yourself in five, ten years?
I’d like to dance with Company C Contemporary Ballet. I grew up watching them and I fell in love with the way that they move. It’s such an amazing blend of modern and balletic movements. The Company C dancers are all so strong and they have to be with their repertoire. I’ve seen the dancers in pieces ranging from classical ballets to Twyla Tharp and David Parsons. I remember going to see one of their shows for my birthday and one of the pieces in it was called “boink!” It was the most hilarious piece I’d ever seen. I remember trying so hard not to laugh and at the end they all came out and posed with martini glasses. I would also like to teach dance. I’ve had some practice working with the younger kids and I really enjoy it. Being able to pass on what you know so that someone else can learn to love dance as much as you do is a real joy. Also, I’m super detail oriented when it comes to dance so being a ballet master or doing work with a company setting pieces is something I’d like to do.

Any advice for young TPB dancers?
I would have to say that if dance is your passion, don’t let anything get in your way. There are going to be some roadblocks and you’re not always going to be happy with how things turn out but just keep at it. There is something out there for everyone, just don’t give up. There are going to be times when you’re going to be asked to do something different. Don’t let that throw you, just give it a chance. You are going to have to be open-minded about change because you never know when something might just work for you. This goes for different styles of dance as well. I used to hate modern. I would block out anything the teacher would say and I would shut down during those classes and by doing so, I missed out on some valuable lessons. But one day, I just decided to give it a shot. Now modern is one of my favorite classes and I feel like it has helped me grow as a dancer. Other styles of dance can work to improve your ballet technique. A dancer’s greatest tool is themselves. Make sure you take care of yourself because nothing is more devastating than getting injured and being told that you can’t dance. Cross-training is a factor that can really help when it comes to staying on top of your game. By cross-training, you strengthen your muscles outside of dance classes so they can better handle what you do during class. It can be doing barre in the pool, going to the gym, or taking Pilates classes. I didn’t start cross-training until recently and I wish I’d started sooner. I have found numerous advantages such as being able to find my center, hold a position better or longer, and also keeping up stamina for performing.

What wonderful advice, Samantha! We wish you only the best! Any comments, congratulations, questions for Sam? Leave them here!


Cross-Training & Dance: Part Two

February 18th, 2014

In her first post on cross-training, Melissa Framiglio, TPB instructor, professional dancer, and certified GYROTONIC® instructor, wrote about her own experience with cross-training and how an injury helped her to become a stronger dancer.

Now, Melissa shares her expertise with us, offering some tips for dancers on increasing flexibility and strength and avoiding injury through cross-training for ballet.

Since I recovered from injuries early in my career, I have dabbled in almost every kind of cross-training there is: pilates, yoga, running, walking, elliptical, weight training, step aerobics, TRX, biking, cross country skiing, Zumba, and (my personal favorite, and now my profession) the Gyrotonic® system.  Now, as a retired dancer, I can’t emphasize  enough to my students the importance of cross training.

Melissa using her Gyrotonic® equipment. Photo by Michael Dahlstrom

Melissa using her Gyrotonic® equipment.
Photo by Michael Dahlstrom

In ballet we use the same muscles all the time every day, and the body has a breaking point.  I like to refer to an analogy from Juliu Horvath, the creator of the Gyrotonic Expansion System®.  Think of a door on a hinge: it only moves one way in the same range of motion.  Eventually the hinge wears out and simply breaks.  However, if you can make it move through a fuller, more varied range, it lasts much longer.

Our bodies are the same way.  If we only move with external rotation all the time, there are muscles and areas in our hips that become weak and neglected.  Our strength becomes unbalanced, with some muscles fatigued from overuse and others atrophying from lack of use.  Will using muscles in parallel or even (horrors) internal rotation cause of a loss of turn-out?  Absolutely not!  As a matter of fact, it may improve it.

If you embrace other methods of exercise, you may just find yourself suddenly progressing at a much faster rate.  Ballet class is often anaerobic, meaning it is like sprinting.  You have bursts of effort and then rest periods.  Think of the prince palling around with his buddies at his birthday party, then suddenly breaking out into a virtuoso 1½ minute variation. It’s not easy to improve your stamina with only this kind of training.

Photo by Vita Liminovica

Photo by Vita Limanovica

Adding some cardio (aerobic exercise) to your routine can make it easier to get through that long piece – the one you’ve been rehearsing and struggling to finish – with the energy you would like.  Some popular methods among dancers are brisk walking outside or on a treadmill (try going backwards or at an incline), cycling, the elliptical machine (which is low impact and a nice parallel workout), swimming, and cross-country skiing.  Running works for some; it can vary body to body whether running is tolerable and safe.  You really need to experiment with what is fun, comfortable, and also a bit challenging for you.

Core strength and flexibility are also key components to a healthy dancer.   Yoga is great for stretching in different planes and building upper body strength.  Pilates is core focused and brings awareness to how to stabilize the spine while moving the arms and legs; it addresses breath control as well.  The Gyrotonic® system mobilizes and strengthens the body while bringing awareness to how the breath can change the quality of movement.

Stay tuned for future posts from Melissa about strength training for dancers and the mental effects of cross training. 

TPB Senior Profile: Juliet Forman

January 15th, 2014

TPB is proud to present Juliet Forman, one of our 2013/14 Curriculum Ballet seniors.

Juliet in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' photo by Blaine Covert

Juliet in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Juliet has been with The Portland Ballet since age three and to see her mature into such a lovely dancer and young adult is always so rewarding for me as one of her teachers and coaches. Juliet is proof that dancers are very, very smart, focused and ahead of the curve. She is graduating a year early and is applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the fall of 2014. Juliet has always been a hard worker and wonderful performer; standing out in a crowd for sure. Her love of ballet is evident. She also enjoys assisting me in rehearsal and mentoring a role in a ballet she has performed before with the younger dancers. Everyone at The Portland Ballet wishes her much success in the future and congratulations on all her achievements. - Nancy Davis, Artistic Director

Name, Age, Year in School?
Juliet Forman, 16, Senior.

When did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 3.

When did you start at TPB?
My first dance classes were at TPB, the year the school opened.

How has being a dance student affected your school life? Social life?
It has made trying to balance my time between school and dance very difficult. The time I spend dancing comes out of my sleep time, and prevents me from participating in school activities that I would otherwise enjoy doing, but to me it’s worth the sacrifice.

What are your other hobbies besides dance?
I am a Student Leader at Outdoor School, where I spend a school week living with and teaching 6th graders in a camp environment. I also tutor, babysit, and am a Peer Mediator. I love working with children.

Influential master classes?
The class I took a few years ago from Jacques d’Amboise was very inspiring. I have also taken classes from NYCB principals Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild for the last few summers.

Juliet with Jacques d'Amboise, photo by Blaine Covert

Juliet with Jacques d’Amboise, photo by Blaine Covert

Or teachers?
Several of my teachers at the SBI program I have done for the last 6 years have been very influential, including Francine Kessler and Sophie Monat.

Or SBI programs?
For the last 6 summers, I have attended the Westside Ballet summer intensive in Santa Monica, California.

Why do you dance?
I dance because it has always been a part of who I am. I started so young that I simply cannot picture myself not going to classes and being a part of performances.

Favorite role or ballet danced?
My absolute favorite role I have danced was Can-Can in The Enchanted Toyshop/La Boutique Fantasque in 2010. I felt like the role was made for me, and wish I could dance it again and again.

Juliet as a Can-Can dancer in 'La Boutique Fantasque,' photo by Blaine Covert

Juliet as a Can-Can dancer in ‘The Enchanted Toyshop/La Boutique Fantasque,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Favorite part of class? Barre? Center? Do you love to jump or turn or both? Adagio?
My favorite part of class is grand allegro and across-the-floor turning combinations.

Favorite TPB moment?
When I was younger, my parents would sometimes be late to picking me up from class, so I would help Heather Jackson clean the mirrors. (In hindsight, I probably just made more work for someone else, but I had a really good time.)

Do you have a favorite dancer- friend at TPB or professional dancer? Any favorite ballet companies?
I am really inspired by Marina DiCorcia’s dancing. I watch her in class when I get the chance and try to emulate her gracefulness.

Plans for after graduation?
I plan to go to a four-year college and study physics or engineering. I hope to get into MIT.

Pursue dance professionally?
I don’t intend to pursue dance professionally, but I plan to continue taking classes for many years to come.

Dream job- where would you like to see yourself in five, ten years?
In five years, I see myself either going into grad school to pursue my Ph.D. or else entering the work force as an engineer.

Any advice for young TPB dancers?
To pursue ballet, you have to be committed. Dance requires a lot of time, effort, and sacrifice, so you have to be passionate about it.

Thanks Juliet! We’re so proud of you! Any thoughts, questions or well-wishes for Juliet? Leave a comment!


Barre Food: Pesto Zucchini Mini Roll Ups

December 31st, 2013

2014 is right around the corner, which means it’s time to celebrate and make some resolutions for the coming year. Whether you’re planning your hors d’oeuvres for the midnight celebration or looking for healthy foods to start the year off right, try making these flavorful, easy, and vegan veggie treats.

Pesto Zucchini Mini Roll Ups
by Caroline MacDonald

Pesto Zucchini Roll Ups

2 large zucchini, sliced into long, thin strips
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2.5 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 T lemon juice
1 package cherry tomatoes, equal to number of zucchini strips
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tooth picks

Step 1: In a blender, combine basil, olive oil, garlic, beans, and lemon juice and puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pesto Zucchini Roll Ups

Step 2: Spread a thin layer of the puree on one side of each zucchini strip. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Place a tomato at one end of the strip and roll the zucchini until it resembles sushi. Stick a toothpick through to secure all ingredients.

Pesto Zucchini Roll Ups

Serve cold or at room temperature.

Enjoy and have a healthy and happy new year!


photo by Kayleigh Danowski Caroline MacDonald danced with The Portland Ballet for five years before graduating in 2012. Currently, she is dancing in the graduate division of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School in Pittsburgh, PA. Caroline also works at Barre, A Real Food Barre, a company started by two Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre company dancers. She is their official “bloggerina” and helps run the social networking side of the business. A lifelong vegetarian, Caroline also has her own blog, Caroline’s Vegetarian Kitchen, where she shares her recipes and other food-related knowledge. You can visit her blog at of Caroline MacDonald by Kayleigh Danowski 


TPB Senior Profile: Devin Packard

December 16th, 2013

TPB is proud to present Devin Packard, one of our seniors for the 2013/14 Curriculum Year!

Devin with Lauren Lane, 'Goldberg Variations,' photo by Blaine Covert

Devin with Lauren Lane, ‘Goldberg Variations,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Devin is one of those amazing success stories you hear about from time to time. He started ballet late and after only being with us for two years, lands principal roles in our holiday productions:  Prince Ivan in ‘Firebird’ and Cossack in ‘The Enchanted Toyshop.’ Devin has always had amazing stage presence. I picked him out of a large crowd of dancers in a performance of ‘West Side Story’ and other works at Dance West, the performing arm of his academic school, ACMA. In these two short years we have had Devin, his technique has soared and his partnering skills as well. Then to top that, he is tall and therefore a great partner for our taller ballerinas! I wish Devin much success as he follows his dreams after his graduation and know he will do well in life. Congratulations on a job well done!
- Nancy Davis, Artistic Director

Name, Age, Year in School?
Devin Packard, 17, senior.

When did you start dancing?
I had to take a term of dance my sixth grade year at ACMA (Arts & Communication Academy) and being a football player, I was totally against it. I ended signing up for the full year in 7th grade but didn’t really start taking it seriously until the end of my freshman year.

When did you start at TPB?
I took the TPB 2010 Summer Ballet Intensive, then started classes that fall. In 2012, I became a full company member.

How has being a dance student affected your school life? Social life?
Well…since I also dance at school, it takes up most of my free time including being able to do homework. It can be hard especially when I don’t get home until 9pm or 10pm at night. However, this is what I want to do and I make the necessary adjustments to make it work. Like not having a super active social life.

What are your other hobbies besides dance?
Outside of dance, I enjoy film making, music, and video games. I also like to travel; seeing new places is cool. If time allows, I also enjoy hiking, camping, and snowboarding.

Influential master classes? Or teachers?
My first three teachers: Terry Brock- Tap, Less Watanabe– Modern, & Jason Davis– Ballet. They are who inspired me to become a dancer.

Devin with Jason Davis, photo by Blaine Covert

Devin with Jason Davis, photo by Blaine Covert

Or SBI programs?
Although I have only done a handful, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Summer Ballet Intensive was fun. I was there this past summer and gained a better understanding of how to improve my technique. It also gave me an opportunity to meet a lot of people with interesting dance experiences.

Why do you dance?
It just makes me feel happy. Dance is what makes me enjoy the other things in life; it helps me express myself as I live through it.

Favorite role or ballet danced?
Espada from Don Quixote.

Devin in 'Don Quixote,' photo by Blaine Covert

Devin in ‘Don Quixote,’ photo by Blaine Covert

Favorite part of class? Barre? Center? Do you love to jump or turn or both? Adagio?
I enjoy everything in class- some days are better than others. And yes, going across the floor jumping and turning is always fun.

Favorite TPB moment?
Performing Don Quixote in TPB’s 2013 Spring Concert.

Do you have a favorite dancer- friend at TPB or professional dancer? Any favorite ballet companies?
One of my favorite dancers is Rolando Sarabia. His technique is what I strive for. My current favorite ballet company right now is definitely American Ballet Theatre as most of my favorite dancers are there.

Plans for after graduation?
My ideal outcome would be participating in either the American Ballet Theatre or Alvin Ailey in New York Professional Division.

Pursue dance professionally?
YES, dance is something… I can’t really explain why I do it, but it makes me feel whole and one with myself. The self expression and joy I get from it and can provide to others makes it the only thing I really care to do with my future.

Dream job- where would you like to see yourself in five, ten years?
Obviously dancing with American Ballet Theatre or Alvin Ailey in New York!

Any advice for young TPB dancers?
Do what you want to do! You might have other important responsibilities that you need to tend to in your life, but don’t give up the desire to follow your dreams. You can make them into a reality if you choose to believe it.


Thanks so much Devin! Any questions for Devin? Comments? Well-wishes? Leave them here!

James F & Marion L Miller Foundation National Endowment for the Arts Oregon Arts Commission Regional Arts & Culture Council Work for Art