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Pacific Northwest Ballet announces three promotions

Newly-promoted Pacific Northwest Ballet soloists Kuu Sakuragi and Clara Ruf Maldonado in Donald Byrd’s Love and Loss. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Before the curtain-raiser performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy on opening night of triple bill Love and Loss, Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) Artistic Director Peter Boal and Associate Artistic Director Kiyon Ross announced to the audience that corps de ballet dancers Clara Ruf Maldonado and Kuu Sakuragi have been promoted to soloists, and Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan has been promoted to principal dancer.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Kuu Sakuragi. Photo by Angela Sterling.
Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Kuu Sakuragi. Photo by Angela Sterling.

“There are dancers who leave audiences awestruck with every performance,” said Boal, after bringing Kuu Sakuragi out in front of the curtain. “After sustained cheering, I see people fumble for casting inserts to see who just defied gravity, sustained intensity, or executed an uncountable number of pirouettes. The name they so often find is Kuu Sakuragi. And if you miss his name in the program, you might hear his peers chanting ‘KUU’ from the sidelines. As humble and kind as he is talented and engaging, this remarkable dancer is headed for even greater heights.”

Continued Ross, “Like Peter, I have had the great honor to watch Kuu develop from a young student in our DanceChance program into an extraordinary artist. Kuu is a powerfully dynamic and explosive dancer. Watching his performances is a thrilling experience, particularly in roles that allow him to demonstrate his magnificent jumps, which seem to defy gravity. Beyond this, Kuu possesses a wonderful work ethic, a beautiful spirit, and is a joy to be around. We are excited to announce Kuu’s well-deserved promotion to Soloist this evening. Congratulations, Kuu!”

Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Kuu Sakuragi. Photo by Angela Sterling.
Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Kuu Sakuragi. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Ross then called Clara Ruf Maldonado to the stage. “Clara is from New York City. She trained at the School of American Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She joined the company as an apprentice in 2018 and later that year was promoted to the corps de ballet. Clara is an extremely versatile dancer able to deftly tackle both classical and contemporary rep with ease and grace. Clara’s warmth can be felt in her personality both onstage and off. We are proud of Clara’s many artistic achievements and know there are many more to come.”

Added Boal, “Floating atop a sea of dancers looking out through the snowfall in Crystal Pite’s The Seasons’ Canon, playing with pal Christopher D’Ariano in George Balanchine’s Duo Concertante, or hopping on one toe with rolling shoulders and a winning grin in Alexei Ratmansky’s Wartime Elegy, Clara is simply transcendent. We see art and music through her and we can’t wait to see where she takes us next. Clara, our heartfelt congratulations on your promotion to Soloist.”

Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan. Photo by Angela Sterling.

Finally, Boal addressed Ryan. “Sarah-Gabrielle Ryan was an instant standout in her first PNB School summer course in 2015,” he said. “Her sheer joy of movement comes through in every step and with each new challenge. She is fearless, focused, undaunted and willing to laugh when a little laughter is needed. She is wonderfully supportive of those around her. Watching Sarah triumph in the multi-faceted title role of Giselle last season opposite Kyle Davis signaled the emergence and arrival of a new principal dancer.”

“Sarah-Gabrielle is the epitome of power and grace in a ballerina,” continued Ross. “She has beautiful lines and excellent technique, but what really sets Sarah-Gabrielle apart is the energy and presence she possesses each time she takes the stage. She is magnetic, and it’s this quality that makes it impossible to take your eyes off her when she is performing. It has been a great joy and pleasure watching her artistry blossom and mature and it is an even greater honor to witness her ascend to the rank of Principal dancer tonight. Congratulations, Sarah!”

Prior to opening night, Boal also announced that PNB will be hiring Emerson Boll and Samuel Portillo from the ranks of the PNB School’s Professional Division, to join the company as apprentices.

For more information on Pacific Northwest Ballet, including its 2023-24 season, visit PNB.org.

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