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For 17 years at Pacific Northwest Ballet, principal Jeffrey Stanton was the go-to dancer for anything jazzy, like Susan Stroman’s showy TAKE FIVE…More or Less or Kent Stowell’s Silver Lining. At PNB, and for five years prior to that at San Francisco Ballet, Stanton’s range was impressive—from the debonair hero of The Merry Widow to modernist icon in Agon.
Stanton is known for his steadiness and ease—the smooth mambo sailor in Fancy Free and the suave lover in In the Night—yet the hoofer in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue was one of his favorite roles. In this month’s Encore program, which celebrates the eight dancers leaving PNB, including Olivier Wevers (below) and Ariana Lallone (see next month’s “Transitions”), the 40-year-old dancer gives his farewell performance.
Stanton was an attentive partner as well as a thrilling dancer. “Sharing the stage with him was a true pleasure,” says PNB’s Carla Körbes. “You felt cared for and you felt a real connection.” Noelani Pantastico, now with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, calls him a gracious partner whose sense of humor brought out the best in the company.
Now, Stanton has his eye on a ballet master spot, but he’s also considering some teaching, perhaps in the PNB School. One thing’s for certain: A devoted audience eagerly anticipates what his next move will be. —Gigi Berardi
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Olivier Wevers gave his final performances last April with confidence and grace. Over his 22-year career, the Belgian Wevers became well known for his brilliant dancing in Balanchine favorites like Midsummer Night’s Dream, Agon, and The Four Temperaments. He was an elegant prince in Ronald Hynd’s Sleeping Beauty and a shocking friar in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette.
Wevers also imbued character into works by Nacho Duato, Nicolo Fonte, William Forsythe, and Mark Morris.
Evelyn Hart from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, where Wevers danced for five years, noticed his dramatic range—as well as his “overwhelmingly creative nature.” Partners at PNB referred to his “magnetism in performance” and his “fast wit and good humor.” For choreographer Val Caniparoli, “Wevers is a choreographer’s dream—a dancer who speaks up and has a say in the creative process. Onstage, his characterization is so complete, there’s not a lot of difference between a story ballet and an abstract ballet—the lithe dancer transforms himself completely.”
Wevers is already something of a choreographic force, spurred by commissions from PNB, as well as other companies. He is fast realizing his longtime desire to be an impresario of sorts. His company Whim W’Him, a 2011 “25 to Watch,” made its international debut in April, and this month he premieres a new work at home. It looks like the company, now with its residence status at Seattle’s Intiman Theatre, will be a powerful vehicle for his creative voice. —G. B.
Named one of the first 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000, Matteo was a teacher and performer of ethnic dance for decades.
Matteo Marcellus Vittucci was born into an Italian-American family in upstate New York. Even as a teenager, he instructed neighborhood children in make-believe Spanish or Egyptian dances, and later directed a folk dance group while studying anthropology at Cornell.
During a four-year stint with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, he saw a demonstration by La Meri and found his true calling. He followed her to Jacob’s Pillow in 1951 as both student and performer. As the story goes, dance critic Walter Terry created a new stage name when, writing on deadline, he couldn’t remember Matteo’s surname.
After receiving his master’s degree in dance education from Springfield College in Massachusetts, Matteo teamed up with the well-known Spanish dancer Carola Goya in 1954, and they married in 1974. They toured widely and were a fixture at Jacob’s Pillow from the beginning of their partnership until 1972. Matteo also headed the ethnic department of New York’s High School of Performing Arts from its inception in the 1950s. He molded his students into a company that performed at the United Nations in 1971, positioning dance as an international language. His book The Language of Spanish Dance was published in 1990.
Matteo’s deep desire to teach never abated. A few weeks before his death on March 24, he instructed a visitor how to “smile with your eyes” and extolled the benefits of this positive approach to life. —Norton Owen
Jeffrey Stanton in Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB