From the stage to the screen

COVID forces dancer to adapt

Keegan Daley, Staff Reporter

Dancer Yuki Takahashi posing in an attitude derrière for a photoshoot at the Pacific Northwest Ballet studios. (Sarah Carpenter Photography)

In early March, Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, canceled all non essential activities, including live performances. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Yuki Takahashi remembers it all too well. PNB was just about to start performances for it’s new program, One Thousand Pieces

“We continued working in the theatre because we had this goal of dress rehearsal to get to, and it ended up that we were going to film dress rehearsal and that was going to be our performance,” Takahashi said over Facetime. “I remember that week was really devastating because we all had worked so hard on One Thousand Pieces… and it all came down to this one dress rehearsal that we barely made it to.” 

That was the last time she stepped foot in the McCaw Hall theater. 

The first time Takahashi stepped foot on a dance floor was in Dallas, Texas when she was only three years old. After thirteen years in Texas, she decided it was time to take the next step in her career. At just sixteen she moved to New York City to train at Ballet Academy East. 

A teacher at the school, Peter Frame, encouraged her to audition for Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle.

“He kind of opened the doors for me, and pushed me to go to this audition for the summer course,” Takahashi said. 

She auditioned for the school and received a full scholarship to dance at PNB in the summer of 2016, where she was given the opportunity to continue her training here, as a Professional Division student. After living and dancing full time in Seattle for two years, she became an apprentice with this world renowned company.

Like everyone else, PNB is having to adapt to the new COVID lifestyle. This has been especially difficult for a company in the arts. Ballet thrives on people buying tickets to see live performances, and with the pandemic, that is not an option right now.

PNB made the decision to move their performances online this year, with a digital season called, Dance Happens Everywhere. People will be able to buy tickets and stream performances on their devices rather than view it in person.

“With PNB, we’re really lucky to be able to go back into the studios and work on our rep and prepare for virtual performances,” Takahashi said.  

PNB’s digital season includes six streamable performances of new and archived work. The first show, which opens October 15th, includes excerpts from signature pieces like Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake, and George Balanchine’s Jewels, and new favorites like Eva Stone’s F O I L, among others. 

Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers Yuki Takahashi and Dylan Wald performing a pas de deux in Eva Stone’s F O I L (Angela Stering)

They are also including a sneak peek behind the scenes of the shows, called Five Minute Call, an introduction of the pieces’ background with Doug Fullington, called Ballet Talk, and conversations between Artistic Director Peter Boal, and featured dancers, called Meet the Artist. 

There are a lot of precautions that PNB is taking to help keep everyone safe while rehearsing in the studios. Everyone is required to take a health survey before entering the building, dancers have to bring yoga mats to sit on, and of course masks and hand sanitizer are necessities. 

Usually, if the piece required it, the whole company could be dancing all together in the same studio, but recent events have changed that. 

“They are putting us into pods depending on what we’re rehearsing so they’re not mixing people, to minimize exposure,” Takahashi said. 

Her pod has only five people, who take class and rehearse together while staying socially distant. 

“The pods have been a fun way to return. The people in my pod just so happened to be classmates from when I was a professional division student,  and also good friends of mine,” Takahashi said. 

The pandemic hit the arts community hard, but Takahashi has been able to maintain a positive outlook in all of this. 

“In the beginning of quarantine I hit a wall where my relationship with ballet kind of crumbled… But over time it’s like you miss it and you adapt,” Takahashi said. “The whole pandemic has changed my outlook on what we get to do for a living and how grateful I am for it, and to never take it for granted.”

PNB’s decision to do a digital season is giving her a chance to do what she loves again, in the midst of all this craziness. 

“I hope we’ll never take it for granted, we’ll never take dancing – and the arts for granted.”

PNB’s digital season, Dance Happens Everywhere, opens October 15th. Tickets at