Peter Boal was raised in Bedford, New York. At the age of nine, he began studying ballet at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet. Mr. Boal became a member of New York City Ballet's corps de ballet in 1983 and became a principal dancer in 1989. In 2005, he retired from New York City Ballet after a 22-year career with the company. Mr. Boal was also a full-time faculty member at the School of American Ballet from 1997 to 2005. In 2003, he founded Peter Boal and Company, a critically acclaimed chamber ensemble.
Among the many ballets in which Mr. Boal was featured at New York City Ballet are George Balanchine's Agon, Apollo, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Oberon), and Prodigal Son; Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering and Opus 19/The Dreamer; Ulysses Dove's Red Angels; and works by William Forsythe, Peter Martins, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon.
In addition to touring with New York City Ballet, Mr. Boal performed as a principal dancer with Ballet Arizona, Ballet du Nord, the Maryinsky Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet, the Royal Birmingham Ballet, and Suzanne Farrell Ballet. In 1996, Mr. Boal received the Dance Magazine Award, and in 2000, he received a New York Dance and Performance Award (Bessie) for his performance in Molissa Fenley's State of Darkness.
In 2005, upon his retirement from New York City Ballet, Mr. Boal became Artistic Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) and Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet School. Founded in 1972, PNB presents more than 100 performances annually of full-length and mixed repertory ballets at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall and on tour. The Company has toured to Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, and throughout the United States. Under the direction of Mr. Boal, PNB has diversified its repertory to include new works by Trisha Brown, David Dawson, Ulysses Dove, Marco Goecke, Jiri Kylian, Jessica Lang, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, Justin Peck, Crystal Pite, Victor Quijada, Alexei Ratmansky, Twyla Tharp, and Christopher Wheeldon, as well as additional works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Mr. Boal has staged the works of George Balanchine (Apollo, Divertimento from "La Baiser de la Fée", Duo Concertant, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker®, Prodigal Son, Square Dance, La Sonnambula, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux), Ulysses Dove (Red Angels), and Peter Martins (Valse Triste) for the Company and elsewhere.
Peter Boal in William Forsythe's installation, Choreographic Objects. Photo by Jennifer C. Boal.
My January is always busy. Weekdays are filled with rehearsals in Seattle and weekends are spent traversing the country auditioning students for our summer intensive. I direct Pacific Northwest Ballet School and I see these auditions as essential investments in future talent for both our school and company. I do them myself to let students know their presence means a great deal to me.
January travels also offer the opportunity to visit the country's museums. Museums have been my go-to places since I was a boy. I love the opportunity for quiet reflection.
This year, in ballet studios and art-filled galleries across America, race was on my mind. I'll venture to say ballet would benefit from paying attention to what's happening in the art world today.
Peter Boal coaching PNB dancers in Opus 19/The Dreamer. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy PNB
In a windowless subterranean studio under the New York State Theater, I pulled back an imaginary arrow and let it fly.
"Good!" said ballet master Tommy Abbott. "I think you're ready. Tomorrow you rehearse with Mr. Robbins."
I was slated to play Cupid in Jerome Robbins' compilation of fairy tales called Mother Goose. It was a role given to the tiniest boy who could follow directions at the School of American Ballet. In 1976, that was me.
The following day, I reported to a much larger windowless studio on the fifth floor known as the main hall. The room was bristling with excitement and nervousness. About half of the dancers from New York City Ballet were on hand, plus a coterie of bustling ballet masters and Mr. Robbins. Tommy tucked me and two other boys in a corner. My first rehearsal with the legendary choreographer was underway.
A long time ago, I was a teenager, just hired as a member of the corps with New York City Ballet. I found myself standing in B-plus at the very back corner of the State Theater stage, clutching the hand of fellow teenage corps member Shawn Stevens. Though the expansive stage was filled with dozens of talented dancers, I was most awed by the two who stood front and center: Suzanne Farrell and Peter Martins. With a sudden and sweeping downbeat from maestro Robert Irving, the full power of Balanchine and Tchaikovsky flooded the stage and the final triumphant moments of "Diamonds" began.