Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Sarah Ricard Orza has announced that she has decided to retire after 13 years with the company. Ms. Orza joined PNB as a member of the corps de ballet in 2007; she was promoted to soloist in 2010 and principal dancer in 2017. Ms. Orza will focus her post-PNB career on her work as a certified doula through her business, Tapestry Doula LLC.
Said Ms. Orza in her announcement: “As a child I dreamed of little else than becoming a ballerina. I was determined, headstrong and blindly sure of the life I would lead. It is one thing to have dreams – it is quite another to see them fulfilled. The 13 years I have spent at PNB have allowed me to create the life I’d imagined. Time has passed in the blink of an eye. The days have added up. And it is within those days, days filled with work, sweat, laughter, tears, frustration, joy, pain – that life happened. I am grateful for the details. Sparkles scattered on dressing room spots before a show. Daily greetings and chatter with the best ladies who ever manned a front desk. Audience members and donors who sent flowers and treats before debuts – often with “extras” for my daughter. A stage manager who always stocked the good candies backstage – even while on tour in foreign cities. Stage crew who knew my name, my daughter’s name, and always asked ‘How are you doing, Sarah?’ Our physical therapist Boyd [Bender], the most selfless man I know and whose kindness has been a daily reminder that I can always do better. Ballet masters who showed up with the best hugs, just when I needed one most. Costume shop ladies who let me get away with missing yet another fitting. My director, Peter [Boal], who has encouraged, supported and challenged me, by giving me the space to grow as an artist and a person, since I was 15 years old. And my colleagues – beautiful artists, passionate humans, who inspired, encouraged and held me. This is family – this is a gift! For which I will remain eternally grateful. Thank you PNB, for the magic.”
PNB Artistic Director Peter Boal added, “My memories of Sarah extend all the way back to her teenage years when she was hanging out with a boy named Seth in the hallways of School of American Ballet. [That boy eventually became her husband, PNB principal dancer Seth Orza.] From her graduation performance as a student in Valse Fantasie to her final performances in Cinderella this past February, Sarah has been a joy to watch. She has always danced with an ease that defies the challenging roles she’s been given. Her uncanny natural abilities are complimented by an innate warmth and refined musicality. Of the many roles she has triumphed in, perhaps the most beautiful has been as mother to her daughter Lola. Please join me in congratulating Sarah at this milestone moment and thank you, Sarah, for your generosity as a ballerina and as a part of our PNB family.”
Sarah Ricard Orza is from Amherst, Massachusetts. She trained at Amherst Ballet School and on full scholarship at the School of American Ballet. In 1999, she joined New York City Ballet as an apprentice. She became a member of the corps de ballet in 2000 and danced with the company until 2006 before joining Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2007.
At PNB, she has danced leading roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Coppélia, Diamonds, Emeralds, The Four Temperaments, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Symphony in C; Peter Boal’s Giselle; Val Caniparoli’s The Seasons; David Dawson’s Empire Noir and A Million Kisses to my Skin; Ulysses Dove’s Serious Pleasures and Vespers; William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and New Suite; Kiyon Gaines’ Sum Stravinsky; Paul Gibson’s The Piano Dance; Ronald Hynd’s The Sleeping Beauty; Jiri Kylian’s Forgotten Land, Petite Mort, and Sechs Tänze (Six Dances); Jessica Lang’s Her Door to the Sky; Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Cendrillon and Roméo et Juliette; Benjamin Millepied’s Appassionata; Mark Morris’ Pacific; Justin Peck’s Debonair and Year of the Rabbit; Crystal Pite’s Emergence; Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote and Pictures at an Exhibition; Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, Dances at a Gathering, Fancy Free, In the Night, Opus 19/The Dreamer, and West Side Story Suite (Maria); Kent Stowell’s Carmina Burana, Cinderella, Nutcracker, and Swan Lake (Odette/Odile, Queen Mother, Pas de trois, Persian Dance); Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or Less; Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, Opus 111, and Waiting at the Station; and Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance), Polyphonia, Tide Harmonic, and Variations Sérieuses. She originated leading roles in Kyle Davis’ A Dark and Lonely Space, Millepied’s 3 Movements, and Price Suddarth’s Signature. At New York City Ballet, Ms. Orza danced leading roles in Balanchine’s Coppélia, Peter Martins’ The Sleeping Beauty, and Robbins’ Fanfare and Interplay. She also was featured in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Theme and Variations, and Symphony in Three Movements; Martins’ Ash, Fearful Symmetries, Hallelujah Junction, and Swan Lake; Robbins’ NY Export: Opus Jazz and West Side Story Suite; and Richard Tanner’s Ancient Airs and Dances. She originated roles in Eliot Feld’s Organon, Miriam Mahdaviani’s In the Mi(d)st, Martins’ Bach Concerto V, Tanner’s Soirée, Helgi Tomasson’s Prism, and Wheeldon’s Shambards.
In 2018, following training and certification through the Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations at Bastyr University, and additional certification through the Northwest Association of Postpartum Support, Ms. Orza launched Tapestry Doula, LLC, providing postpartum doula services for new mothers and their partners as they transition into their roles as parents. For more information, visit TapestryDoula.com.
Funding for Orza’s certification from Bastyr University was provided, in part, by Second Stage, PNB’s career transition program for its company dancers. Conceived in 1999, Second Stage supports PNB dancers in achieving their goals following a career in dance. Its resources allow dancers to take classes, access mentors and vocation counseling, and receive grants. At its inception, only a handful of dancers actively planned for their career after dance. Since that time, Second Stage has provided nearly $1.1 million in grants to over 200 dancers. For more information, visit PNB.org.
Featured photo: Sarah Ricard Orza and Seth Orza in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance), photo by Angela Sterling.