Career Advice

Say Goodbye as Your Favorite Dancers Take Their Final Bows

Pacific Northwest Ballet principals Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta took their final curtain call on June 9, 2019. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB

We all know dance careers are temporary. But this season, it feels like we're saying goodbye to more stars than usual.

Many have turned to social media to share their last curtain calls, thoughts on what it feels like to say farewell to performing, and insights into the ways that dancing has made them who they are. After years of dedicating your life to the studio and stage, the decision to stop dancing is always an emotional one. Each dancer handles it in their own way—whether that means cheekily admitting to having an existential crisis, or simply leaving with no regrets about what you did for love.

We will miss these dancers' performances, but can't wait to see what awaits each in their next chapters.


Michael Trusnovec retired from Paul Taylor Dance Company

Taylor star (and Dance Magazine Award honoree) Michael Trusnovec was the first of many longtime dancers to retire from Paul Taylor Dance Company this season. Following Taylor's death last year, Parisa Khobdeh, Laura Halzack, Jamie Rae Walker, Sean Mahoney and Michelle Fleet have all decided to step down in order to pursue other paths, whether that's dancing across the pond, starting a family or running an alpaca ranch (yes, really).

Kathleen Breen Combes retired from Boston Ballet

We've been enchanted by Kathleen Breen Combes' stage presence since we put her on our cover in 2007. This year, she made the surprising decision to take on the role of executive director at Festival Ballet of Providence.

Roberto Bolle gave his last performance with American Ballet Theatre 

Roberto Bolle is leaving American Ballet Theatre, but he will continue to perform with La Scala, where he's a guest, and in the concerts he produces in Italy. Although we will miss him in New York, he will live on forever in our hearts as the man who gave us this quote:

"I don't lift weights; I just lift beautiful women."

Julia Erickson retired from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre 

Julia Erickson may have become most well-known across the country for creating her Barre–A Real Food Bar energy snacks. In Pittsburgh, she was a leading light at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for the past decade before giving her final bow at the start of this season.

Hayna Gutierrez retired from Alberta Ballet

Cuban-born Hanya Gutierrez spent nine years at Alberta Ballet, where she met her husband and became a mentor to many of the younger dancers. She plans to continue guesting, and hopes to start teaching to pass her passion along to the next generation.

Nehemiah Kish retired from The Royal Ballet

Before his nine-year run as a principal at The Royal Ballet, Michigan-born Nehemiah Kish was also a principal at National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Danish Ballet. According to The Independent, he plans to study arts and cultural policy at Goldsmiths, University of London, starting this fall.

Ian Hussey retired from Pennsylvania Ballet

Ian Hussey spent his entire performing career in the Pennsylvania Ballet family, rising from second company member to principal, directing the dancers' annual Shut Up & Dance concert to raise money for victims of HIV/AIDS, and standing out at the company no matter who was in charge.

Xiao Nan Yu retired from National Ballet of Canada

When she hit her 20-year anniversary at National Ballet of Canada, Xiao Nan Yu clued us into her secrets of sustaining a long dance career. Two years later, the beloved principal says in this video that there was never a moment where she felt like she "made it." Instead, she focused on always giving 100 percent of herself every time she stepped on stage.

Rachel Foster and Jonathan Porretta retired from Pacific Northwest Ballet

Pacific Northwest Ballet said goodbye to two of its longtime principals—the spitfire Jonathan Porretta and the powerfully charismatic Rachel Foster, who was the cover girl of our January 2009 "25 to Watch" issue.

Miki Kawamura retired from Oklahoma City Ballet

Oklahoma City Ballet principal Miki Kawamura wrote an emotional post on Instagram to commemorate her last bow at the company, thanking all those who have helped and supported her along the way.

Renato Penteado retired from Miami City Ballet

In 2016, our readers chose Renato Penteado as the Best Male Performance of the year. He tells the interviewer for this video shot by Miami City Ballet that for him, ballet was "love at first sight." We dare you to watch it without tearing up.

Who did we miss? Share your favorite dancers' retirement posts in the comments.

Broadway
The "Merde" bag. Courtesy Scenery

Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.

But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.

"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox