Cupcakes & Conversation with Ariana Lallone, Principal, Pacific Northwest Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
Whatever day of the week it may be . . . I remind myself how much I love every aspect of my profession.
At 7 years of age, my gymnastics coach told my mom I should enrol in ballet because I was so uncoordinated. From the day I took my first class, I was so enamoured with ballet that I never returned to gymnastics. Luckily, 12 years later and at the height of 5’11” I was able to make ballet my career…that definitely would not have happened in gymnastics!
What are you looking forward to dancing next year?
That chapter remains unwritten . . . stay tuned!!!
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
As a young ballet student, I tried to imagine what it would be like to dance with Gene Kelly. I especially wanted to dance in the sequence in Singin’ in the Rain that he did with Cyd Charisse in which she danced with that 25-foot long, white, silk scarf.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
While at PNB, I have had the good fortune to tour and dance in many amazing places around the world. However, my fantasy would be to dance on Broadway.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I bend the shanks, cut the tips, sew on the ribbons and elastic, flatten the box by stepping on it, put a small amount of Hot Stuff in the tips, and let them dry overnight.
What is your daily routine at the moment?
During performance weeks : I take ballet class in the morning, rehearse in the afternoon and perform in the evening. During non-performance weeks : I continue to take ballet class, rehearse, and go to yoga – when I have the chance.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Cher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cynthia Gregory, Fernando Bujones, Cyd Charisse, and Carol Burnett.
What would surprise people about you?
For people who don’t know me, they might be surprised to know that in high school, I lettered in basketball and my jersey was retired upon my graduation. For those who do know me, I am pretty much an open book.
Who inspired you to dance?
Fortunately, as I was growing up, I had wonderfully encouraging teachers. I also had an unwavering commitment from my mom who drove me to ballet classes and sewed my costumes and ballet shoes until the day I moved away from home.
What is your best piece of advice?
To be strong, confident and realistic about yourself, both personally and professionally, but always leave room for correction and criticism.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
I eat a grilled cheese sandwich with a slice of tomato, take a nap, and arrive at the theater early so I can take my time getting ready and warming up. I cherish the time in my dressing room when I am putting on my make-up and thinking about the show I am about to perform.
Which role has tested you the most & how?
I would have to say performing William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated in Vail, Colorado. The ballet itself is physically demanding, and the 8,300 ft. elevation, an outdoor amphitheatre and 50-degree frigid mountain air made it even more challenging. I remember feeling a huge sense of accomplishment when it was over, and I knew that I danced to the absolute end of my physical capabilities. To push myself to that extent was exhilarating and scary all at the same time. I hugged my partner when it was over and said “Only you and I will ever know how amazing and how hard that was.”
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
I think the musculature in a dancer’s back is beautiful, so my creation would be cut low in the back and have a flowing, but not too heavy skirt, perhaps similar to a tango-style costume.
What do you look for in a dance partner?
Strength, compassion, commitment, attention to detail, height, and a good sense of humour.
What is your favourite quote?
Life is full of changes – what we have today may not be what we have tomorrow. Live each moment in gratitude for all that is.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
Since, as a young dancer, I grew 7 inches in two years, I can safely say that nothing came naturally. I worked hard to have good extension and to become a good turner and jumper.
A phrase I use far too often is …?
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
It is almost impossible to choose just one moment. One highlight would have to be performing the solo from Lambarena at the Benois de la Danse Competition in Warsaw, Poland. Another highlight would be the night of my 20th Anniversary celebration; I danced in Nacho Duato’s Rassemblement and Balanchine’s La Sonnambula.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
I wish I had mastered the skill of jumping double-dutch, so I could answer this question.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I hope to continue performing and bringing joy to people’s lives.
If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be and what makes them special to you?
During my 24-year career at Pacific Northwest Ballet, I have met and worked with a countless number of wonderful, kind, generous, and loving people…many of whom I now consider lifelong friends. I get the most joy (and the most nervous) performing for those that I have known for such a long time, especially my former teachers and dancers with whom I spent endless hours learning, rehearsing, creating, laughing, sharing and performing.