There may not be anything so disciplined in the arts as ballet. Ballet mercilessly demands great strength, extreme flexibility, and intense musicality; all the while dancers must convey emotions such as joy, sorrow, passion, and sometimes anger. Whatever happens when the curtain rises and breaks the thin veil between reality and fiction, you will find yourself in the throes of enchantment. Based in Snohomish County, the Olympic Ballet Theatre does just that—enchants audiences with three shows a year.
Olympic Ballet Theatre (OBT) began 35 years ago with Helen and John Wilkins who wonderfully ran the company for 30 years before retiring and handing it over for a new chapter with Mara Sachiko Vinson and Oleg Gorboulev at the helm. Both Vinson and Gorboulev were guest teachers at Olympic Ballet School (OBS) and danced with OBT before taking on the roles of artistic directors.
Vinson and Gorboulev met while dancing with Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). Prior to PNB, their journeys into the world of ballet looked about as different as you can get.
“My mom put me into dance,” Vinson said. Vinson looks every bit of the ballerina you may imagine. Her hands are long and elegant, her posture straight, and face soft. Even when she sits, she floats into the seat as if performing a small plié.
Born with congenital hip dysplasia, a doctor recommended Vinson learn to dance in order to build strength and help with recovery. Let’s just say dance wasn’t the first thing she thought about when waking up in the morning. Before age 11, Vinson would sometimes hide her ballet slippers to avoid going to class. Eventually though, like a slow blooming courtship, dance won her over in heart and body. “I can’t imagine life without it now,” she says. “I’m thankful my mom made me stay with it.”
Vinson trained at the highest levels with PNB school’s professional division and in Washington, D.C. She also studied under famous Russian dancer Alla Sizova, who danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov, a fact that should give you an indication of the caliber of Vinson’s skills.
Gorboulev, on the other hand, grew up in the Soviet Union. One day at the age of nine, a talent scout picked him out of a class of kids during physical education to audition for ballet school. “I have no idea what she saw,” Gorboulev confessed, “They look for an athletic type first.” He reminisced how his P.E. teacher disapproved of him because he could never jump hurdles or shoot a basketball. The scout, however, clearly saw something different with the way he carried himself and moved his body.
After passing ballet auditions, the government paid for Gorboulev to attend ballet school at the age of 10. He loved ballet from the start and found it almost easy. His talent was noted in the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, where he served a mandatory enlistment of two years. However, he was allowed to serve with the division of The Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Leningrad Military District and performed for soldiers.
“Lots of cultures dance. Men dance. Our world dances, but in the states, dance [seems] only for girls,” Gorboulev said with a sigh when asked more about dancing in the military. Gorboulev went on to dance professionally in Uzbekistan, Moscow, Los Angeles, and in Seattle to name just a few places.
In the Pacific Northwest he and Vinson met, married, had two children, and now lead OBT and OBS. The Theatre and School operate as separate entities and tend only to be linked during the production of shows.
When Vinson and Gorboulev took over OBT and OBS in 2011, they wanted to encourage students and performers to regard ballet professionally rather than just recreationally. They teach skills that match a professional track and run the OBT company as you would see in any major city, with upgraded flooring, lighting, sets, and costumes. They admit it’s okay if students don’t wish to become professional ballet dancers, but the training they’ll encounter at OBS will prep them for professional dance school and company applications.
They also hope the students of OBS might join the OBT company one day, as it continues to expand. Currently the company retains five dancers who volunteer their time and receive scholarships with OBS to continue their training.
OBT’s upcoming full length show, Sleeping Beauty, which will open in April, will honor the company’s 35th season. The production has been in the making for five years and will debut new choreography, staging, costumes, state-of-the-art sets by scenic artist Jeanne Franze, and artistic lighting design by Peter Bracilano. The show will feature more than 60 dancers, including guest artists among them. Audiences can expect a beautiful production that the whole family will love with accessible pricing options. Tickets can be purchased online or over the phone for one or both of their two performances. Be enchanted this spring with Olympic Ballet Theatre.