NB is excited to introduce their new Apprentices

NB is excited to introduce their new Apprentices

Ashton Edwards, Melisa Guilliams, Zsilas Michael Hughes, and Joh Morrill!

At Pacific Northwest Ballet, Apprentices are the first professional position with the Company. Apprentice positions are offered to PNB School Professional Division graduates. PNB School is recognized as one of the top three ballet training institutions in the United States, offering extraordinary dance training to more than 1,000 young dancers. Please join us in celebrating these dancers and their career milestones. Welcome, Melisa, Ashton, Zsilas, and Joh! Listed below are two of PNB Apprentices Ashton Edwards and Zsilas Michael Hughes:



ZSILAS MICHAEL HUGHES


How has PNB School prepared you for ballet company life? Pacific Northwest Ballet is known for its excellence in the art of dance and it’s also recognized as an organization whose progression catapults the ballet world forward as a unit.

PNB School develops dancers in preparation for company life by encouraging dancers to explore artistic freedom and choice, providing a safe environment at which we can continue to master our craft.

What’s your favorite pandemic-friendly spot in Seattle?

My favorite pandemic friendly getaway would be the secret community garden on top of the parking garage, which is in very close proximity to Pacific Northwest Ballet and my apartment. That space gave me calmness in the storm, it gave peace, and a safe space to appreciate. There I am able to reflect on where I am in life and ponder on all the wildest places I can go in life. It is truly a magical place!

Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you are continuing?

During the pandemic I discovered that I am in love with making music. I have always been a performer in my own right as a dancer, but the recent discovery that I am very interested in creating my own sound and using musical instruments, abstract sounds, and different lyrical interludes to create something that I am proud of and something I can share with my friends. It has given me a new perspective on life, myself, and how we see the world. This has developed me in a way that natural maturity just cannot. Experience is knowledge and knowledge is growth, but without the experience, knowledge is frivolous.

What are you looking forward to this season at PNB?

Honestly, I am just overwhelmed with gratitude to even be in the same room with these talented artist and individuals. I am truly looking forward to learning from my future colleagues, directors, and friends. There is so much that has happened in the past two years that has left us drawn to positivity in any way we can find it. I am just itching to set foot into the room with the company, because I know that when I do, I can finally say I did it. I have made my dream come true!

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about dancing professionally?

“Dance for yourself!”

The best advice I’ve taken would be my own. I hope that it’s not selfish or narcissistic to say but, I have learned that at times your own voice and your own heart will guide you in the right direction. This is not advice that I only tell myself daily but I also remind my friends to dance for themselves. What sets you apart from every other individual in the room with you is you have your own experiences that you draw from when you need to engage passion to create your overall presence. So when I dance, I dance for myself because I have to be able to breathe in the atmosphere of an unapologetic human who creates art.

Zsilas Michael Hughes is from Little Rock, Arkansas. He studied at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and attended Summer Course at PNB School.

MELISA GUILLIAMS


Where are you from originally? I was born in Seattle and have grown up around here my whole life! It’s so wonderful to be able to stay in this beautiful city close to my family. Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you are continuing? This is definitely more than a hobby, but I got an adorable puppy this year who has kept me VERY busy.


What are you looking forward to this season at PNB?

I am looking forward to being surrounded by such beautiful and inspiring dancers! I have looked up to members of this company since I was young and it’s surreal that I get to share the stage with them.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about dancing professionally?

The best advice I’ve received about dancing professionally is to find joy everywhere I can! It’s so simple, but there’s wisdom and courage in having fun. I’m lucky to have a job that brings other people happiness- the most important thing I can do is to find that for myself too!

Melisa Guilliams is from Edmonds, Washington. She studied at Evergreen City Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and attended summer courses at Miami City Ballet School and PNB School.


ASHTON EDWARDS


What made you decide to dance at PNB/PNB School? What made your training at PNB School special? I would definitely have to say the exceptional dancers like Benjamin Griffiths, Jonathan Porretta, Carrie Imler, etc. drew me to PNB as a young dancer. Then to train under them directly following their legendary careers shaped me and made my times in the school very special to me.


What are you looking forward to this season at PNB?

I think what I’m looking forward most to this season is working with such an incredible group of corps women. All such immensely talented and diverse individuals come together to create some of the greatest works of art. They also are so welcoming; I am so excited to get to know each and every one of them.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about dancing professionally?

I’ve gotten this advice from multiple people but I think that is only because it is so true. When starting a professional career, it’s so exciting and you’re so eager do everything but it is very important to pace yourself. In life and dance we only get one body so while it is important to push ourselves to our extremes it’s also important to not push our limits all the time.

Ashton Edwards is from Flint, Michigan. They studied at Flint School of Performing Arts and Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and attended summer programs at The Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago, Houston Ballet School, and PNB School.


JOH MORRILL


How has PNB School prepared you for ballet company life? PNB has two unique opportunities that I think ease the transition from being a student to a professional dancer, one of them being Nutcracker. During Nutcracker season all of us PD’s learn how to be a part of the corps: putting on stage makeup, taking care of our bodies all whilst putting on the best show we can.


Another is Next Step. During this process students work with company members and get a glimpse into the mind of a professional. It stretches your creativity and demands a depth of movement that is beyond what might normally be asked of a student in day to day training. A process of discovery that shifts a person from dancing as a student to dancing as an artist.

While Nutcracker and Next Step are two very different experiences, both bring insight into what a professional dancer’s world is like. Learning through experience, I think that is something PNB takes care to provide its students to prepare them for the professional stage.

What made you decide to dance at PNB and PNB School? What made your training at PNB School special?

I began dancing at PNB purely by chance. My journey in dance started through the PNB run outreach program Dance Chance. They came to my school in the 3rd grade and offered me a chance to dance during school hours. Of course, like a reasonable eight year old, I came to the conclusion that any reason to skip out on English and history was as good a reason as any. So I began dancing, and somewhere along the line I learned to love it.

I think what made my training at PNB stand out was a sense of kinship between my friends in class. We grew together and pushed each other in and out of the studio. This coupled with teachers who pushed us (Mr. Ross and Mr. Yin to name two) made for a wonderful experience growing up at PNB.

What’s your favorite pandemic-friendly spot in Seattle?

I’d have to say, something I did nearly every day during the pandemic was taking juicy walks with my neighbor. We would walk down to Carkeek Park in north Seattle and just chat and chat. We’d walk in the rain, we’d walk in the fog, sometimes in the mornings and often at night. Talking about anything, we’d pass our time.

Did you pick up any hobbies during the pandemic that you are continuing?

During the pandemic that same neighbor came to live with my family for a while. He was a horticulture man, so we finally learned all about why our plants looked sad, and how to bring life back to them. He brought us lots of plants, and we propagated new ones together. I must say that after that, I found a new hobby in taking care of plants.

What are you looking forward to this season at PNB?

This season I am looking forward to rehearsing with the company. Since I was a kid I would watch company rehearsals and be in awe at the artistic ability of everyone in the room. The choices they would make and the ability to pull it off is something I can’t wait to see first hand.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about dancing professionally?

The advice I hear most is to do everything I can to absorb information from the people around me and transfer it to my own dancing. To respect the process and to give my attention to understanding what is being asked in rehearsals. But to then take that information and explore it within my own body is a piece of advice I try to uphold as often as I can.

Joh Morrill is from Seattle, WA. He began his studies at Pacific Northwest Ballet School through PNB’s DanceChance program, and received additional training from the Colburn School Dance Academy in Los Angeles. He attended summer programs at School of American Ballet and PNB School.