So You Want to be a NEXT STEP Choreographer


PNB’s NEXT STEP initiative is designed to foster choreographic talent among PNB company dancers. A nine-month process which includes educational seminars, professional development tools, rehearsal time and space, and access to PNB’s production resources, NEXT STEP gives aspiring and rising choreographers space to flex their creative muscle in a supportive and mentoring environment.

Selected applicants create brand new dance works for PNB School’s Professional Division students (PDs); the program culminates in an annual choreographic showcase where PDs take center stage in an all-premiere line up of works created just for them.


Next Step Program Manager Kiyon Ross gives us the scoop on how applicants are selected for PNB’s annual choreographic showcase. © Lindsay Thomas.

NEXT STEP was originally conceived by PNB’s Artistic Director Peter Boal as a strategy to develop emerging choreographic talent, as well as a channel for PNB School PDs (talented young artists one step away from their professional careers) to participate in the creation of a new work.


PNB School students in Christopher D’Ariano’s Youthquake. © Lindsay Thomas.

NEXT STEP is managed by former PNB Soloist and current PNB Faculty member, stager, and choreographer Kiyon Ross. NEXT STEP choreographers have the opportunity to work with choreographic mentors and PNB’s in-house composers, and the annual performance is accompanied by Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Ezra Thomson’s Win Lose or Draw,created for Next Step in 2014. © Rex Tranter.

NEXT STEP alumni who have gone on to create new works for PNB and other companies include Andrew Bartee, Kyle Davis, Price Suddarth, Ezra Thomson, and Kiyon himself. Read on for more details about how this program works and sign up to be notified when tickets go onsale for this year’s event.


Who selects NEXT STEP choreographers and dancers?

NEXT STEP choreographer Steven Loch speaks to Teen Night attendees about his work. © Lindsay Thomas.

Artistic Director Peter Boal and NEXT STEP Program Manager Kiyon Ross make a joint decision based on the application of each individual as to which choreographers will be invited to participate. Kiyon gave us the full scoop on how it works:

“The choreographers are given full artistic license to choose which dancers they would like to work with and world be best suited to the movement style of their new work. Once they have each individually selected their “ideal cast” the choreographers meet with me for a casting session which works in some ways like a draft; we want to ensure a) most of the PDs are used and b) each choreographer has the opportunity to work with at least some of their initial choices.”


What’s the application process like?

PNB School students in Nancy Casciano’s We Were Little. © Lindsay Thomas.

“Each year company members are invited and encouraged to participate in the NEXT STEP program through the application process. This process gleans information about the new work that will be created, such as composer, number of dancers, style, or other details.

The applicants are also required to write a 500 word abstract describing what they will create in words. This is one of the first opportunities for the choreographer to engage with the creative process. It’s much like grant writing in that the main goal is to excite and inspire the reader through the use of imagery and other devices (i.e. drawings) to help reveal the idea and direction of the new work by painting as clear a picture as possible.”


PNB School students in Sarah Pasch’s She is… © Lindsay Thomas.

“Once the applications are collected, Peter and I each read through every application and score them using a 5 point scale. After we’ve each had some time separately, we come together to compare notes and readjust scores to help us make a final determination. Other criteria that assist us reaching our decision include an applicant’s history with the NEXT STEP program, previous experience, compelling abstracts, willingness to use live music, and innovative ideas.”


PNB School student in Amanda Morgan’s Pages. © Lindsay Thomas.

This year’s NEXT STEP lineup includes Nancy Casciano, Christoper D’Ariano, Steven Loch, Amanda Morgan, Sarah Pasch, and Calista Ruat premiering works on the McCaw Hall mainstage, while five brand new works from local choreographers will make their premiere outside. The party kicks off at 6 pm on June 14 – sign up to get a reminder when tickets go on sale!

Want to learn more? Click below for more info about PNB’s 2019 NEXT STEP choreographers & coordinator Kiyon Ross.


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