Q&A: Jonathan Porretta

Principal dancer Jonathan Porretta has graced PNB’s stage for twelve seasons, performing in treasured classics and originating roles in new works. Read more about this fascinating performer here, and visit PNB.org to find out when he’ll be performing in ALL THARP, November 5-14, 2010.

Why ballet?
I started with ballet/tap and then in my little school in New Jersey, Totowa Dance Center, and then I went to For Dancers Only too, another little school in Little Falls, New Jersey. I started with ballet and I loved ballet from the very beginning — it was the first thing I ever did. And then I got into jazz and tap and lyrical. I even did a little pointe because my Russian ballet teacher wanted me to know what it was like for the girls. I just wanted to slap a pointe shoe on, so it was fun!


I loved jazz and everything, and for awhile there I thought, “Well, maybe I do want to do Broadway,” because my favorite part is to be on stage. Performing is the best part — the scariest, the most comfortable, greatest, safest place ever is the stage. In front of an audience, it’s awesome. Then I got into the School of American Ballet and it was just a whole new world of ballet — it was neoclassical, George Balanchine, it was this whole world I had never seen. And I just love it. I just love the technique side to it and the history and the beauty. And ballet can be everything — you can do everything in ballet. It’s special.

 

When did you start dancing? Who got you involved?

I started dancing when I was 7. It was my 7th birthday present from my mom and my aunt. You know when you’re little and everyone always asks you what you want to be when you grow up? My answer was always, “A dancer, a dancer, a dancer.” Nobody knew where that came from. Finally my mom and my aunt were like, “Let’s just enroll him in Ballet/Tap Combo 1 and if he likes it, he likes it, and if not — happy birthday.” So ever since I was 7, I’ve been dancing.

I had gone to see The Nutcracker with my mom when I was real little and she said I fell asleep before the curtain even went up. I was out and I slept the entire time! But that’s the only connection any of us can figure out that I had with ballet, was that I went to The Nutcracker and fell asleep.

 

Who inspires you and why?

Baryshnikov has always been the biggest influence, forever. Since I was little, it’s always been about him. He’s the greatest dancer still. But my friends inspire me here [at PNB] everyday. I can just list by the million of them. Carrie Imler is just the most amazing technician! Karel Cruz is gifted and special and a wonderful man, too. Chalnessa [Eames] is an amazing performer, it just comes so naturally to her, and Kaori Nakamura is a star. I could list more, I just I love them all. They inspire me every day in class and rehearsals. Also my mom inspires me just to be a good human being, to achieve, and to be a nice person.

Jonathan Porretta as the Prodigal Son. Photo by Lindsay Thomas.
Jonathan Porretta as the Prodigal Son. Photo by Lindsay Thomas.

What has been your most rewarding performance and why?
I have a bunch. Most recently, the most amazing performance would have to be getting to do Franz in Coppélia at the end of last season. I got to work with Judy Fugate [Coppélia stager] who I adore, and I was dancing with Kaori Nakamura. It’s so easy to work with her and so fun. And it was really special for me because I never get to be the male lead; I always get to be the supporting actor because I’m shorter. I’m never the prince, I’m always the jester. So it was really special for me, it was just magical. I got to dance on opening night which was just a gift.

 

How has ballet affected your attitude?
You definitely have highs and lows in ballet. I think with anything, you have highs and lows. And sometimes you just get into a rut almost. I just I had knee surgery a few months ago, at the end of last season. And it really helped me focus a lot more on just realizing how blessed I am, how blessed we all are, and to just enjoy every moment on the stage cause you’re not going to be doing it forever. To really respect my body, respect your instrument, take care of yourself. It was a lesson. It made me really appreciate everything that I have. Ballet is a gift, performing each show is a gift. Lighten up — we’re not performing brain surgery!

 

Favorite snack:
It’s either a banana or a string cheese, or one of these vegan meatless beef jerky things that’s in our vending machine here. They’re really good. There’s barbecue flavor and teriyaki flavor — it’s really good.

 

What are you reading now?
The last book that I read was in May when I was on vacation. It was “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang,” the brand new Chelsea Handler [book]. I’ve pretty much read all of her books. I love her. I am reading right now another book, just started with it. It’s a prequel to Sex and the City. It’s called “The Carrie Diaries.” It’s about Carrie Bradshaw when she was a teenager in high school.

 

Best Seattle restaurant:

I have a bunch. I love, love Anchovies & Olives, the Ethan Stowell restaurant. I love Anchovies & Olives. I actually love Tavolàta, too. I love anything Italian. I mean, Italian anything is my favorite. Purple [Café and Wine Bar] — we have so many great restaurants.

 

What’s the last good movie you saw?

I just saw the other night at home Love Happens. It takes place in Seattle, which made me really happy, because I get so excited when there are movies about Seattle. It was cute.

 

Most prized possession:

My most prized possession is my grandpa’s dog tags from when he was in the army.


What are your holiday plans?
Probably cooking dinner at my apartment with my boyfriend. Usually I actually will cook meat, not for me though [Jonathan is a pescatarian], but for my boyfriend and whoever comes over. There’s at least got to be a turkey if it’s Thanksgiving, and a ham if it’s Christmas. Then my mom’s sweet potatoes and candied yams and then I always make beef in a Crockpot for the gravy for the mashed potatoes. So good. Green bean casserole is a must.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It used to be my grandmother’s holiday and back when I first joined PNB we used to not do Nutcracker right after Thanksgiving. We used to have a day off, so a lot of us were able to sneak home and then sneak back before Nutcracker started. So it was just really nice to spend the holidays with your family. Nothing will beat grandma’s Thanksgiving.

They [my family] could [visit] but in New Jersey, when you retire you move to Florida, so half of my family‘s in Florida, the other half is in Jersey still. But my mom comes to visit me at least once a month every month. She doesn’t miss a rep since I’ve been here for the last 12 years now.


What do you enjoy doing outside of PNB studios?
I love going to different restaurants in Seattle, grabbing dinner with friends, grabbing a drink with friends. I like to go hiking with my boyfriend. In the summertime we try to go every weekend for our hike. Growing up in Jersey, we had horses too so I would horseback ride. I used to do shows. Every time I go home I do horseback riding whenever I can.


Best memory of the past two years?
Waking up the day after my Lasik surgery and seeing 20/15. That was pretty awesome. I just had Lasik less than a month ago, me and Carrie Imler. King Lasik — very good to us.


Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
In 20 years I would love to be the director of a company, a ballet company. I’d love to be the director of PNB, actually. I would love to have a condo in Maui that I could vacation in. I’d love to have German shepherd. And just be happy.

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