Ariana Lallone is famous for her stunning 24-year career as a ballerina with Pacific Northwest Ballet. More recently she has graced the mirror-topped spiegeltent in both our dinner performances and kid-centric concert series. This spring she has taken flight as an aerialina (ballerina + aerialist =aerialina) in our newest production, Dinner at Wotan’s. Ariana documented her magical transformation and shared it with us to share with you. Without further ado, here is Ariana’s Pointe of View:
As I was working towards my final bow at Pacific Northwest Ballet, I was so grateful to know I was only months away from embarking on a new adventure. I loved my life as a ballerina, and deep in my heart I knew it was too soon for me to stop performing. Providing joy to an audience and giving young children their first memory of a ballet were some of the most important parts of my career. It gave me tremendous meaning not only as a performer, but also as a person. My passion never faded. I knew I would miss that beyond measure.
Two months after my last performance at PNB, I had my first rehearsal at Teatro ZinZanni. I had always been a huge fan of ZinZanni, and now I was in rehearsal with some of my favorite performers. I was awe struck. Not to mention, I was working under the direction of Tommy Tune. I could only think, “How on earth is a ballerina going to fit in this magical tent with all these amazingly talented people?”
Immediately, I was embraced with love, support and most importantly – encouragement. It was only a matter of days before my first name was dropped; I simply became “Ballerina.” I was handed a bass drum to play in the opening (after a small stint with a triangle that didn’t work out so well) and given lyrics to learn for songs I would sing. Luckily, it all happened so fast, I just did it without thinking about nerves. I was, however, very aware that my world was opening in a new and exciting direction.
After 118 shows of Bonsoir Liliane!, another end seemed near. I had formed intense friendships with our cast, and the thought of not working with them again was too painful to think about. I set a new goal. I wanted a chance to do another show.
I wanted to expand my ballet act – I wanted to push the boundaries of my ballet/pointe work, I wanted to see if I could move off center, travel, turn, and possibly jump within the space of the tent. In order to do these things, I knew I needed something to assist me. I chose a lyra. It was not my intent to become an aerialist, but I thought I might be able to use the lyra as my “partner”… as if it and I were dancing a pas de deux.
Over the next 12 months, I discovered endless possibilities and impossibilities… it was not easy! Adjusting to spinning/turning without spotting, being upside down 15 feet above the floor, and most importantly gaining upper body strength. were new challenges. I worked with Lexi Pearl, an aerial coach in Los Angeles and Jonathan Porretta, my friend and former coworker at PNB, who helped with the ballet choreography. I then relied on Anne Gish, a back stage manager at Teatro ZinZanni who operates the winch that raises and lowers the lyra, to wait patiently while I united these two art forms. Certain ideas that I thought would work, became impossible, yet I found perfect symmetry with others. It was at times frustrating and at times exhilarating! With perseverance, an intense desire to make it work, and much encouragement… I slowly carved out my act. The end result has meant another opportunity for me to perform with Teatro ZinZanni. I am beyond excited to premiere my new act and look forward to further creations with my new “partner.”
As rehearsals began for Dinner at Wotan’s, I was/am so grateful for the opportunity to meet a new cast of performers and be a part of the process of building a new show. This ballerina is flying high!