Say it isn’t so, PNB. After nine years with the company, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lucien Postlewaite is leaving at the end of this season, to join Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. That company is the home of choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot, whose stark, modern “Romeo et Juliette” at PNB has been a showcase for Postlewaite’s lyrical, flowing technique and dramatic gifts; you believed, watching him, that he was falling in love for the first time. Postlewaite joined PNB as a teenage apprentice in 2003 and was quickly promoted through the ranks, becoming a principal in 2008. A dancer of effortless ease – seemingly incapable of holding a position that wasn’t beautiful — he shone in everything from Balanchine (particularly his unforgettable debut in “The Prodigal Son”) to Robbins (a quivering, expectant Tony in “West Side Story Suite”) to Ulysses Dove (hanging from the wall in “Serious Pleasures). And he was the most noble of partners in the story ballets, reminding us of this in last fall’s “Love Stories” in which he paired with Kaori Nakamura (“Romeo et Juliette”) and Carrie Imler (“Swan Lake”) to very different yet equally electric effect. Postlewaite also danced with the local contemporary company Whim W’him, founded by his husband Olivier Wevers (himself a former principal at PNB), and says he hopes to be able to continue dancing with Whim W’him during his time off from Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.
Though PNB has a number of strong male dancers on its roster, this is a big loss: Postlewaite stood out from the beginning as that rare combination of beautiful dancer and brilliant actor. He’ll be very much missed. Postlewaite will appear in PNB’s next repertory evening in April (“Apollo” and “Carmina Burana”), and will be honored in the “Season Encore” end-of-year performance in June. (Those Season Encores, by the way, are always terrific; I’m still remembering the recent tributes to Louise Nadeau and Ariana Lallone. If you’re a fan of Postlewaite, you might want to buy your ticket soon; see www.pnb.org.)
Lucien Postlewaite, dancing even in stillness, in Mark Morris’s “Pacific.” (Photo by Angela Sterling)