Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) Principal Dancer Noelani Pantastico has announced that after a 25-year dancing career, she is retiring to accept a position on the faculty of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB). Pantastico trained at CPYB before being hired at PNB in 1997. She was promoted to soloist in 2001, and principal in 2004. In 2008, she left PNB to join Les Ballets de Monte Carlo; in 2015, she returned to PNB.
“Leaving this magnificent career is one of the most difficult, heart-wrenching decisions of my life, but I am fortunate to be taking this leap with a clear sense of purpose and overwhelming excitement for what’s to come,” said Pantastico. “Were it not for the confidence instilled in me at my first PNB summer course in 1994, I would not have pursued a future in dance, nor become the artist I am today. I am thankful for every voice, both past and present, that has inspired me along the way, and I am especially grateful to Peter Boal, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Francia Russell and Kent Stowell, who have each given me pivotal opportunities to grow, flourish and to live this beautiful existence. Throughout my career, I have always remained open to the realm of possibility – not only in my work as a dancer but also in the exploration of new ways to evolve with the art form. I am thrilled to continue this journey by returning full circle to my early roots at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet where I will be able to give back all that I have learned to the next generation of aspiring artists.”
Founded in 1955 by Marcia Dale Weary, CPYB is known throughout the world for providing world-class classical ballet training. Its students have gone on to careers in every major company in the United States. In addition to Pantastico, current PNB company dancers who are CPYB alumni include principal dancer Leta Biasucci, corps de ballet dancer Abby Jayne DeAngelo and apprentice Zsilas Michael Hughes.
Pantastico plans to continue as co-artistic director of Seattle Dance Collective, the company she founded in 2019 with fellow PNB Principal Dancer James Yoichi Moore.
PNB audiences have one more opportunity to watch Pantastico perform, in the lead role of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette, February 4-13. Pantastico is scheduled to dance on opening night (Friday, February 4, at 7:30pm) and closing matinee (Sunday, February 13, at 1pm), as well as additional performances to be announced.
“Noe has always been an absolutely transcendent artist,” said PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal. “Her technique, timing and instincts are impeccable. She has a singular ability to connect with audiences allowing us to savor every facet of humanity. Offstage, Noe brings care and compassion to her peers on a daily basis. She is a true role model. How lucky her students will be to have her wealth of experience and humility enter their classroom. I didn’t know Noe before I came to PNB, but I will never forget listening to Kent and Francia describe, in the most glowing terms, her first performance of Aurora. It wasn’t long before I understood their zeal. And though I recognized Noe’s need to leave the nest and try her wings with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, I carried a weight of sadness about her departure until she returned seven years later. I suspect I’ll feel that sadness again as this great artist and remarkable individual takes her final bow on our stage. The list of ballets Noe has inhabited with such grace and authority is long, but amongst many cherished roles, Juliet stands out as perhaps the most defining in an extraordinary career.”
“When Noelani told us she will be moving on to the next phase of her career, our reaction was first deep sadness, followed by a flood of vivid images of magical Noe in the many roles she made her own,” said PNB Founding Artistic Directors Kent Stowell and Francia Russell. “A brilliant technician and instinctive actress, she was our golden girl who evolved into a true ballerina, a role model for her colleagues and a joy for her audiences. In her new position, we know she will bring all her experience, her knowledge and her unique gifts, which include strength and empathy, to preparing young dancers for fulfilling careers in dance.”
“I am honored to welcome Noelani back to CPYB,” said CEO (and former PNB company dancer and PNB School principal) Nicholas Ade. “Knowing her experience as a dancer in so many prestigious realms, and as a person and mentor to other dancers is something that I am bursting at the seams to have our students experience. Having the pleasure of even discussing this possibility over the last few days has made me smile and inspired for CPYB for years to come. Truly a selfless person without ego, when she says it’s time to give back, she means it…it’s about the students.”
Darla Hoover, CPYB artistic director and incoming chair of faculty at the School of American Ballet, added, “The dance world is losing a truly exquisite ballerina. Noelani combines great technical proficiency with one of the most beautiful souls I have ever known. I am ecstatic that she is bringing her talents full circle and coming home to CPYB. The students are so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from someone who has had such rich experiences in the dance world and has a beautiful heart to go with it.”
Pacific Northwest Ballet will present Roméo et Juliette from February 4-13. For tickets and more information, visit www.pnb.org.