“Growing up Gay…Saved by Ballet” is the theme of a new book showcasing Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Jonathan Porretta. The New Jersey born performer was bullied as a child but found a “Billy Elliot-esque” escape through his love of classical dance. Now, in a rare book that examines the life of male dancers in ballet, Mr. Porretta reflects on that painful childhood and the dance career that led him to Seattle’s acclaimed Pacific Northwest Ballet. Written by journalist Marcie Sillman with gorgeous photographs from Angela Sterling, (and also including personal family photos from Mr. Porretta), Out There: Jonathan Porretta’s Life in Dance has just been published and is receiving positive reviews from critics as well as fans of ballet.
Originally an essay published earlier this year, Marcie Sillman was encouraged to expand the material into a book. Porretta, sidelined by foot surgery had the time to work with Sillman. Both author and subject wanted the book to be about more than just dance. They wanted the book to speak to others struggling with being gay or different. Sillman in an interview last month:
“Definitely his fans will buy this book, and maybe just look at the pictures, and that’s enough, but I think he would like young boys to read it..Boys that might or might not be gay, but boys that are ostracized because they’re dancers, bullied because they’re dancers. I think that his intent is really to say ‘it gets better’…because his life was really sad. It’s hard to imagine. He’s the most gregarious, outgoing person, and he says to me: ‘Nobody talked to me. I ate lunch with the lunch lady,’ and then I started talking to other gay men I knew, not dancers, just men, and they were like, ‘Oh yeah, that was my story.’ I think it’s kind of universal for people who don’t fit the mold.”
Subject, author and chief photographer will all be on hand for a book-signing on Sunday, November 13, 2016 following that afternoon’s closing performance of PNB’s BRIEF FLING. which features Jonathan Porretta. It will occur about 3:15 pm at at the gift shop in the lobby of McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street at Seattle Center. The book-signing is a free event open to the public.
More on Out There: Jonathan Porretta’s Life in Dance, its creators and Brief Fling.
Jonathan Porretta is one of the most beloved dancers at Pacific Northwest Ballet. But his journey to principal dancer wasn’t easy. He grew up different: gay, lonely, and bullied in a small New Jersey town, following a dream that those around him couldn’t understand. Porretta’s tale is now chronicled in a new catalogue raisonné by award-winning arts journalist Marcie Sillman, Out There: Jonathan Porretta’s Life in Dance.
The book’s message—“Be yourself and people will love you for who you are”—comes through clearly in Sillman’s crisp, engaging prose. Family snapshots, along with exquisite dance imagery by acclaimed photographer Angela Sterling show key moments in Porretta’s career thus far.
Out There is an expanded version of the 2,000-word article Sillman published on KUOW.org in January 2016. In addition to Sillman’s 5,000-word essay, Out There includes a list of Porretta’s lead roles (plus 10 favorites highlighted with personal commentary by Porretta), a selected bibliography of articles about Porretta, and a timeline.
About the Author
Marcie Sillman has been covering the Seattle arts scene for 30-plus years. Her work is heard in Seattle on the NPR-affiliate KUOW FM, and has appeared in The Seattle Times, Crosscut, and on the Seattle Channel. Nationally, she reports for NPR and has written for Pointe and Dance Teacher magazines. She was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in dance journalism in 2009. More of Sillman’s writing can be found on her blog, And Another Thing, at marciesillman.com.
About the Photographer
After a successful career as a soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Angela Sterling turned to her second passion, photography. She has created images commercially and for many marketing campaigns around the world, and she has shot for more than ten years for companies like Pacific Northwest Ballet, Les ballets de Monte Carlo, Dutch National Ballet, Boston Ballet, Alonzo King’s LINES, and Dresden Semper Opera Ballet. Sterling’s images are seen regularly in The New York Times, USA Today, Dutch VOGUE, Paris ELLE, and international dance publications. Images can be seen on her website, angelasterlingphoto.com. Recent work includes photographing for friend and Tony Award Winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon for his Broadway show, An American in Paris.
About the Book
- Out There: Jonathan Porretta’s Life in Dance
- By Marcie Sillman
- Photographs by Angela Sterling and others
- Designed and edited by Rosie Gaynor
- 136 pages, hard cover, 8.5” x 11”
- Published independently by Seattle Scriptorium through IngramSpark
- ISBN: 978-0-692-70822-4
- List price: $59 (available on Amazon.com and through other IngramSpark distribution channels)
- Special price at Amusements Gift Shop at McCaw Hall (in-person and online at amusementsgiftshop.com): $45
About Brief Fling
Featuring works by
TWYLA THARP – JIRI KYLIAN – GEORGE BALANCHINE
November 4 – 13, 2016
Seven performances only!
November 4 – 5 at 7:30 pm
November 5 at 2:00 pm
November 10 – 12 at 7:30 pm
November 13 at 1:00 pm
For BRIEF FLING, the second program of its 44th season, Pacific Northwest Ballet’s artistic director Peter Boal selects three contemporary ballet works: Twyla Tharp’s sassy, Scottish-inspired Brief Fling, performed for the first time to live music; Jiri Kylian’s Forgotten Land, inspired by the art of Edvard Munch; and Stravinsky Violin Concerto, George Balanchine’s unmatched visualization of his favorite collaborator’s genius.
BRIEF FLING runs for seven performances only, November 4 through 13 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $30. For tickets and more information, contact the PNB Box Office at 206.441.2424, in person at 301 Mercer Street, or online at PNB.org.