Last Friday, I attended opening night of the world premiere of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Giselle. A team of experts reconstructed this ballet from an international collection of historical papers…a notebook found in a German flea market, an ancient document untouched for decades on a Harvard library shelf, and an 1842 music manuscript. Doug Fullington, PNB’s dance historian and an expert in Stepanov notation―a now-archaic form of classical Russian ballet notation―was an integral part of the team. The rendition they created was breathtaking.
Had it not been for the international nature of PNB and the entire ballet world, I may never have written The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. I trained with PNB from the age of five until I went to Vanderbilt. PNB’s school is one of the top three in the nation, so to say it was intense would be an understatement…but I loved it. What I loved most was the camaraderie of the Company and the worldwide ballet community. PNB’s dancers come from countries as diverse as the US, Mongolia, Cuba, Brazil, Bulgaria, Japan, Belgium, and France. Any member of the ballet community is welcomed by others throughout the world. On my way to attend a session of Oxford University, I stopped off in London. Even though I was only there a few days, the Royal Ballet rolled out the red carpet for me. We did the same at PNB for traveling dancers.
My ballet upbringing inspired me to take an international major in college. That gave me the opportunity to study abroad. There I learned the culture of European countries firsthand. Frankly, some of the best learning was outside of the classroom, and some of my best teachers were men who took me on dates. That inspired me to write The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. Who says you can’t mix school with pleasure?
Watching PNB’s Giselle reminded me that what I also love about the ballet world is it’s tradition of chivalry. Batkhurel Bold, who played Hilarion, is a perfect example. He was a soloist when I was a 15-year-old student appearing in a PNB performance with him. Before every show, ballet dancers warm up with a class onstage. One day, I missed the warm-up for student performers due to a traffic accident. When I arrived at the Opera House, the Company let me take their warm-up. I planned to stand behind everyone, but Bold believed that a man should always let a lady dance in front of him. Although he was one of the best dancers in the Company, he kept moving behind me…and then I kept moving behind him. Finally, Bold moved so far back that instead of holding onto a ballet barre set up for us onstage, he used one of the light fixtures behind the wings! This is the kind of chivalry inherent in the ballet world!
PNB’s Giselle runs through this weekend. If you live near Seattle, I highly recommend seeing it.