From Sugar Plum Fairy to Tackling Work by Pite and Forsythe, This PNB Corps Dancer Can Do It All
When Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan was 5 years old, her mother took her to a Pennsylvania Ballet production of Swan Lake. "One day, you'll be a ballerina," her mother said. Ryan replied, "I already am one." Even at that age, Ryan was confident about her future; with good reason, it turns out. Sixteen years later, she's starting her third season at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Though still a corps member, she's already danced Sugar Plum Fairy, featured roles in Crystal Pite's Emergence and William Forsythe's New Suite, and the pas de deux in Balanchine's "Rubies."
Company: Pacific Northwest Ballet
Training: The Rock School for Dance Education, School of Pennsylvania Ballet
What caught Peter Boal's eye: Unlike many PNB dancers, Ryan didn't come up through the company school. She was dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet II when she enrolled in a summer intensive at PNB. Artistic director Peter Boal noticed her immediately: "She was unleashed in her dancing, and relished every combination that was given," he says. "She had a wildness that I admired."
Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan in Christopher Wheeldon's Carousel (A Dance). Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB
Finding her voice: Ryan loved taking on Maria in Jerome Robbins' West Side Story Suite during her first season in Seattle. "I'd never done singing onstage before," she says. "That was really fun."
Breakout moment: Last November, Ryan stepped in to replace principal Noelani Pantastico in the American premiere of Pite's Plot Point. "That was terrifying," Ryan says. "I was learning a different part, then at the last minute Noe got in a car accident and they said, 'Sarah, you're going to learn this!' I took a studio video home and I learned the heck out of that dance."
Beyond ballet: Ryan is enrolled part-time in a special college program offered at PNB through Seattle University. Instructors come to the studio after rehearsals." I have an interest in a double major that involves arts management but also wildlife rehabilitation," she says. "I'm looking into a program where I'd work rehabilitating rhinos in South Africa."
Biggest challenge: "In general, I'm probably my harshest critic. I'm still learning how to be self-critical without being self-destructive."
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: