Welcoming Our New Dancers for the 2021/22 Season

Pacific Northwest Ballet is excited to welcome new dancers to our studios this season. Jonathan Batista and James Kirby Rogers are joining the Company as Soloists, and Ginabel Peterson and Lily Wills are joining as Corps de Ballet members. Keep reading to learn more about the four of them including their pandemic hobbies, pre-performance rituals, and most embarrassing on-stage moments!


Jonathan Batista, Soloist

What is your favorite thing about moving to a new city?

My favorite thing about moving to a new city is getting to explore its spaces, people, culture, and possibly, its nature!

What’s the most difficult part of moving to a new city?

Settling down is the most difficult part; figuring out what neighborhood and apartment work best for you.

Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you will continue to do?

Yes! Reading, creating new and healthy habits, and social media!

Do you have any pre-performance rituals? 

Yes, I start my mornings with swimming, lots of music and deep-breath exercises and a prayer.

What’s your most embarrassing on-stage moment?

In the process of performing a lift during Alice in Wonderland, I stepped on Alice’s skirt during our pas de deux and fell flat on my butt and ended up under her skirt. Thankfully she continued to stand still and safe. That was embarrassing but also a proud moment, as she continued to look good and people were not able to notice me… well, I think!

What are your hopes and goals for the upcoming season?

My hope is that soon enough our world becomes healthy again, and that we continue to navigate safely and Covid-free as we prepare to welcome our audiences back in the theater.

A personal goal is to continue to learn and grow from the repertoire, productions, and the dancers! 

What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

Be yourself, allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to the challenges and beauty of this journey, but remind yourself to enjoy the process and do not be afraid to take risks!


James Kirby Rogers, Soloist

What’s your favorite thing about moving to a new city?

My favorite thing about moving to a new city are the natural sites. I think geography is an under-appreciated field. Our connection with our surroundings and how the natural land affects us is so important and always a fascinating change when entering a new place.

What’s the most difficult part of moving to a new city? 

Getting my home set up. It takes me a long time to feel truly comfortable in a new space. To be able to rest peacefully and well is so important for dance and that just takes a little time to find in a new place.

Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you think you’ll continue to do?

I started playing chess everyday which I love. There is a whole world of tournaments, books and puzzles that I have been introduced to through chess. Not to mention some hilarious Grand Masters who do commentary.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals? 

I like to improv a little before I go onstage. It helps me find my center and settle myself into the performance.

What’s your most embarrassing on-stage moment?

There have been a few but they are always fun to look back on. One that comes to mind is during my first show as Drosselmeyer in Nutcracker I knocked over the nutcracker and its head came off. I had to make a whole little bit of choreography putting the doll back together. 

What are your hopes for the upcoming season?

I hope that I am challenged in new ways. That I am pushed to be more than what I am right now, as both a dancer and as an individual. 

What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

Lead with love.


Ginabel Peterson, Corps de ballet

What is your favorite thing about moving to a new city?

My favorite part about moving to a new city is getting to explore and trying new restaurants.

What’s the most difficult part of moving to a new city?

The most difficult part about moving to a new city is unpacking and settling in. There can be some stress and it’s honestly not the most fun.

Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you think you’ll continue to do?

During the pandemic I started some acrylic painting on canvas. I really enjoy it a lot and I’ve even thought about taking lessons. 

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

Before I go on stage I like to set an intention. For me, giving my part in the ballet purpose really settles my nerves and makes me feel more confident going on stage. 

What’s your most embarrassing on-stage moment?

I honestly and thankfully haven’t had anything catastrophic happen on stage. 

What are your hopes and goals for the upcoming season?

I hope to be able to perform live. I really think the restrictions PNB has in place will allow us to perform with a safe limited audience, so hopefully nothing happens to change that. My goal is to continue growing as an artist and person and to be an inspiration for young dancers of color. 

What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

I would tell my 13-year-old self to not let anyone take your confidence away and that making mistakes is okay. 


Lily Wills, Corps de ballet

What is your favorite thing about moving to a new city?

I feel like dancers are used to moving to all kinds of places to pursue their careers, so at this point I’m used to starting fresh in a new place. I’m particularly excited to be back in Seattle since i was born here and spent my teen years just a few hours south in Portland. My mom and I used to drive up to see PNB all the time! My favorite thing about moving to a new place has to be trying all the different restaurants, and Seattle has great food.

What’s the most difficult part of moving to a new city?

I’m a bit directionally challenged, so finding my way around a city I’ve only ever visited can be a struggle at times 😅. Very thankful for my GPS.

Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you think you’ll continue to do?

I don’t know if this counts as a hobby, but I started buying a lot of plants during the pandemic. I’m not the greatest plant parent, but I love them and try my best to keep them alive.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I don’t do anything particularly superstitious before shows, but I do love to take time on my makeup. It helps me get into whatever role I’m dancing and adds that extra something. I also love listening to music while I get ready. Anything groovy with a disco vibe gets me pumped for a show. Listening to a lot of Durand Jones & the Indications at the moment.

What’s your most embarrassing on-stage moment?

I’ve fallen a handful of times on stage, but the most embarrassing (funniest) was when my partner had to press lift me from a kneeling position, which is very difficult! We got halfway up and then he crumpled underneath me in slow-mo and I bonked my head on the floor center stage. Definitely sad that show wasn’t filmed, I’d love to see how we recovered. 😂

What are your hopes and goals for the upcoming season?

I am just hoping to get back on stage and dance with people again! Performing is my favorite part of the job, so I’m beyond excited to dance for people at McCaw Hall! The last time I was in that theater, dancing for PNB was just a dream. I can’t believe I get to dance with some of the artists I’d come to see when I was a teenager. I have enormous respect for everyone here, they’re all such amazing dancers! My personal goals are to soak up as much experience as possible, enjoy my time here, and become the best dancer/person I can be 🙂

What advice would you give your 13-year-old self?

I would tell little me that things are gonna get difficult, but stay resilient because you can overcome whatever life throws at you. Also, stop eating gluten! lol you have celiac disease it’s affecting your h e a l t h.


Featured photo: Jonathan Batista in Swan Lake, photo © Kate Luber.

Photos: Jonathan Batista in George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, photo © Jana Carson. James Kirby Rogers, photo © Kenny Johnson. Ginabel Peterson, photo courtesy of the artist. Lily Wills, photo © Tatiana Wills.

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