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Learning Aurora for the first time at PNB

In the Sleeping Beauty opening tonight at Pacific Northwest Ballet, the lead princess rarely gets a rest.

 Twyla Tharp’s Waiting at the Station, 2013, at Pacific Northwest Ballet..
Jahna Frantziskonis with Andrew Bartee, photo by Angela Sterling

“It is a challenging role,” said Leta Biasucci, one of four dancers portraying Princess Aurora in the run. For this member of PNB’s corps, it is her first time dancing the part. “In the first act, you’re portraying sixteen and terribly excited, as you go through the birthday party. Then in the second act, you’re a vision to the prince and dreamlike, and then there’s the final act where you are in the wedding.”

Through all these scenes, the princess goes through a series of “combinations” requiring fast footwork, moments of complete stillness en pointe (or essentially balancing without wobbling on her toes), lifts, leaps, turns, and partnering all those moves with a prince and other suitors.

“If you watch video interviews with dancers talking about Aurora, they constantly say it is one of the hardest roles in classical ballet,” said Jahna Frantziskonis, another young corps member who has been dancing the role in rehearsals but will be seen as the Fairy of Joy on stage at McCaw Hall.

Both young dancers said that just the chance to rehearse as Aurora was an exciting next step in their careers.

“It takes such precision and control. The wedding pas de deux requires such technique, ” said Biasucci. “And I love classical ballet. It’s one of the big roles to learn.”

Both dancers joined PNB because the company gives them the opportunity to do the classical ballets that they love as well as modern fare.

Biasucci danced the Young Girl in Christopher Wheeldon’s Variations Sérieuses and talked about the excitement of working with modern choreographers creating works for the company, like the recent Twyla Tharp world premiere Waiting at the Station.

Originally from Tucson, AZ, Frantziskonis first arrived in Seattle at the age of twelve for the company’s summer camp in 2006. She enjoyed the experience so much and talked up the PNB school so often that her younger brother is now a student here. The pair share an apartment and her mother recently moved to the area as well.

“I had so much energy that my mom says that as soon as I could walk, I was dancing,” said Frantziskonis, who has been taking dance classes since the age of five.

Biasucci began her studies under Marcia Dale Weary at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and then became a trainee at San Francisco Ballet School in 2006. She joined Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2008 and was accepted as a member of the PNB corps de ballet in 2011.

PNB audiences have seen Biasucci in a variety of classical and modern roles, including Swanilda in George Balanchine’s Coppélia and Cupid in Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote. In the last run of Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty, she danced the featured role of Red Riding Hood, so she already was familiar with the sheer size and scope of the production.

Besides the practice it takes to make it to the mainstage in a leading role, Biasucci has a few rituals to help her relax too. “I always try to eat well and get enough rest,” she said. “And I work on my shoes. I re-sew the ribbons and check the elastics.”


Sleeping Beauty opens tonight (Jan. 31) and runs through Feb. 9 at McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center. For times, tickets, and casts, see the PNB website.

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