Barre Boys ~ PNB Soloist Benjamin Griffiths talks about Seattle, Boston & Food!

1. What’s your hometown?

I grew up in Boise, Idaho.

2. How old were you when you started ballet?

I started ballet when I was 7 years old.

3. Where did you last study before joining PNB?

The last school I studied at was the School of American Ballet in New York City, but I also danced professionally with Boston Ballet for three years before I came out to join PNB. And although I was already a professional, I learned so much in those years at Boston about the level of commitment it takes to be a professional dancer from from Mikko and the ballet masters, as well as, dancers like Larissa Ponomarenko, Sarah Lamb, and Victor Plotnikov.

4. What is the dance scene like in Seattle?

The dance scene in Seattle is small but growing. PNB is the only company in the area to maintain a classical/neoclassical repertory. The other established company is Spectrum Dance Theater, which is directed by Donald Byrd. There are also many fairly young contemporary companies that put on amazing show in the area, and we are fortunate to have University of Washington’s sponsored Dance Series at Meany Hall, which presents touring companies, such as, Lines Ballet, La Compania Nacional de Danza, etc.

5. What is your favorite ballet?

It’s too hard to choose just one. I love “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” “Red Angels,” and “Agon.” “Coppelia” also holds a special meaning for me since it was my first leading role in a full-length story ballet.

6. Is there a ballet or specific role you would love to do that you haven’t yet?

I would love to dance “Red Angels,” “Prodigal Son,” and Prince Desire in “The Sleeping Beauty.”

7. If you had to pick one, what would you say is your favorite style of ballet?

I love the Neoclassical style because it still draws on the foundations of classical ballet steps and line while pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet. In many ways, I think that it is even a more pure style of dance because it leaves out the pageantry and pantomime so that the audience and the dancer have to truly focus on the dancing.

8. If you weren’t a ballet dancer, what career do you think you would most likely have chosen?

That’s a good question and one that I’m still trying to answer. Ballet has been my first passion since I was very young and I have sort of had tunnel vision while working toward my goals in this profession. However, I realize that this career will not last forever and am trying to broaden my interests by taking college courses at Seattle University. I am also very interested in city planning and sustainability, as well as teaching ballet.

9. Outside of ballet, what style of dance do you most enjoy?

My experience with other styles of dance are fairly limited to the repertory of a ballet company which ranges from traditional ballet to very modern dance, and I like different aspects of every style in that range. However I’m always amazed by the hip-hop and latin ballroom dancers on “So You Think You Can Dance” and they are definitely styles that I may want to experiment with, especially the ballroom. Though I have to admit that the hip-hop is a little intimidating since it is so different from the styles that I do right now.

10. When you’re not dancing, what do you enjoy to do, aside from obviously resting?

I love to travel and I’m also a big foodie. I love to experience new restaurants and cuisines. In the summer, I also love being on the water because I love to swim.

11. Do you keep up on any other companies at all? I know being a professional dancer; your time is limited…

I’m not obsessive about it but I do keep up on other companies. The dance world is fairly small, so I like to see what my friends in other companies are dancing and I love to watch video clips of dancers from other companies for inspiration and motivation.

12. Any pre-show rituals?

I have to get to the theater really early because I hate feeling rushed before the show. I also do the same barre to warm up before every show.

13. Do you recall the date of your first performance with PNB?

It was in September of 2005. I was doing the demi-soloists in Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Movements,” and in the finale my shoe came off and landed right in the space where Patricia Barker was dancing. I was mortified, but luckily my career didn’t continue like that here.

14. Describe the feeling when you took the stage with the company for the first time.

It was an amazing feeling to be onstage with such a great company in such a beautiful opera house. Being from Boise, PNB was the closest major company, and I grew up following the company. So it was amazing to be a part of something that I had been in awe of during my training.

15. Was there a different feeling when you took the stage for the first time after being promoted to soloist?

There wasn’t really a different feeling when my rank changed. I still get just as nervous. For me, I guess the feeling I have on stage has more to do with the role than with my rank in the company.

16. What is your conditioning routine off season?

It depends… I seem to get on a different kick every time we have a break. One time it may weights, and the next break it might be yoga. I almost always stay active and try to use the time to cross train in some capacity though.

17. What do you like most about Seattle?

I love that Seattle has a vibrant cultural scene while still having a laid back vibe. I also love that it has a big city vibe without the cost of living of New York or San Francisco.

18. If you could perform on any stage in the world, what would it be?

I would love to perform at the Garnier Opera House in Paris, just because it is so beautiful and historic. I also used to be obsessed with the documentary of ABT’s summer tour from 1994 when I they performed in the coliseum in Athens, Greece. That would also be an awesome place to perform.

19. Who was your biggest influence as a dancer?

All of my teachers influenced my dancing, but I’d have to say that Lisa Moon, one of my teachers in Boise, had the most influence over my choices as a dancer.

20. What’s your biggest accomplishment to date?

I think that my biggest accomplishment as a dancer was working on and performing Franz in “Coppelia.” It takes such discipline and focus to prepare a full length ballet and a lot of courage to get out on stage and perform under the pressure of carrying a whole evening.

21. What choreographer would you most love to work with?

I would love to work with Jiri Kylian. His ballets are so innovative, organic, musical and it would be an honor to be in one of his creations.

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