Local Talent

A Fiendish Conversation with Carla Körbes

We chat with the PNB star about how Seattle has helped her grow as a dancer.

By Seth Sommerfeld May 30, 2013

Since trading New York for Seattle in 2005, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Carla Körbes has continually surpassed herself in artistry and technique. At age 31, as one of the country’s foremost
ballerinas (just ask The New York Times), the Brazilian native can stop time by merely balancing on pointe in the White Swan pas de deux or by sparkling with impossible grace in Balanchine’s Diamonds. Over the next two weekends her star will shine as she takes turns performing in each of the three dances that comprise PNB's Director's Choice program.

For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we talked to Körbes about the local dance scene, the young talent in PNB, and what originally drew her to Seattle.

What excites you about the PNB’s Director’s Choice?

It’s such a good program. I actually get to dance all of them, which is really exciting. Two of them are Balanchine ballets, which I love to do. One of them is Diamonds, which is one of my favorite Balanchine ballets. So I’m really excited to do that again. And one of them is a world premiere by Christopher Wheeldon. It’s always a pleasure for dancers to do new works, especially when it’s somebody like Chris, who is considered pretty much one of the best choreographers in the world right now. I’ve known Chris Wheeldon since I was 15, so I’ve done a lot of his work and it’s been great to have him here.

What made you originally want to come to Seattle to dance?

I danced for the New York City Ballet for six years, and then I felt that at some point… there’s a hundred dancers at the NYCB, and a lot of times they kind of put you to dance similar roles they feel like you’re good at. I thought it was time for me to try a different company and see if I could expand my repertoire. So originally, that was my big draw to come to PNB, because I really like the mixture of rep that PNB had in the past, and I could only imagine that (PNB Artistic Director) Peter Boal—knowing him for so long—would bring really interesting work to the company. I was really looking forward to not just feeling comfortable in the company, but pushing myself and seeing if I could find more growth.

And how do you feel like you’ve progressed as a dancer since coming to PNB?

I feel the reason I came kind of materialized itself. It’s a big gamble to move companies, but since I’ve gotten here, I’ve done pieces by William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, and Jiri Kylian. Those are all pieces City Ballet doesn’t do. I love how, since I moved here, I feel so much more comfortable in pieces that are more dynamic. Things that are more comfortable for me are more lyrical works, and I love now how I still feel really comfortable doing lyrical, but I also feel comfortable doing stuff that’s really dynamic with jumps and turns. So it’s really nice to see how that got to be developed through my 14-year career.

Do you feel like Seattle has influenced your dancing style?

I don’t know if it influences, but it definitely inspires me. I love how Meany Hall brings so much stuff from all over the world, and I love going to On the Boards. Sometimes you have such creative things that are not necessarily just dance. I just love the art scene.

Do you have any preshow routines?

I really always need an hour to get ready, in terms of hair and makeup, because I feel that that’s the time I get to kind of disconnect myself from the real world and go into more of a performer mode. I definitely get to the theater probably two hours before each show, spend a whole hour on hair and makeup, and then do a good warm-up. But that time alone in my dressing room is really important to me.

Are there any up-and-coming local dancers or choreographers that people should watch?

I think the next PNB generation is really exciting right now. There are so many people in the company that are very inspiring to watch. There’s this girl, Chelsea Adomaitis, who’s beautiful and angelic. I’m excited to see what Andrew Bartee does with his choreography. As a mover he is incredible to watch. He got to do a piece with PNB last year and he’s doing a lot of stuff with Whim W’Him. I’m excited to see where he goes.

Do you have any future plans?

It’s a work in progress right now. I feel like in the past year, I’ve been questioning, “What else? What’s life after ballet going to be like?” I don’t have the answer for it yet. You know what I see more and more? That there are so many options in the world now. It’s difficult to figure out what you want to do. I feel very lucky that I wanted to be a ballerina, and I was able to do it.

PNB: Director's Choice
May 31June 9, McCaw Hall, $28$173

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