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An Interview with Carrie Imler

Interpreting Odette/Odile – A Pacific Northwest Ballet Principal Makes Her Swan Queen Debut

by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin

September, 2003 – Carrie Imler recently took time from preparation of her starring role in PNB’s new production of Swan Lake to talk to us about her career and her approach to this monumental and historic ballet. A summary of our discussion follows.

How did you get started in ballet?

I started dancing in kindergarten. Every time we did "show and tell," I was always dancing. I was first into gymnastics and tap and I really needed to focus. I started at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) at age six. I came to PNB for summer session when I was 14; spent the next summer at SAB; then returned to PNB for the summer when I was 16. Following that summer, I stayed for the regular school year and was offered a contract for the next season. I've been here ever since -- nine years.

Tell me about the training at CPYB.

We had exposure to three or four teachers in rotation. We had 15 classes per week including partnering and variations. We had performing opportunities. There was always a summer show and Nutcracker. There was also wonderful repertory -- doing Balanchine at age 12 and 13. As a member of a Regional Dance America (RDA) company, I was greatly aided by the availability of RDA scholarships for my training.

What are you looking forward to this season?

All of the Balanchine repertory: "Divertimento No. 15," "Agon," "Serenade," "Midsummer Night's Dream."

How about Swan Lake?

This will be my first one this season. Of course, I have wanted to do it since I was a little girl. I am partnered with Batkhurel Bold, and we are both growing physically and emotionally into our roles. One of my particular challenges right now is working on making Odette different in the second and fourth acts. I have been working mostly with Francia and some with Kent and Otto. Among versions I have seen on tape, I like Makarova's interpretation the best, even if the tempos are a little slow.

Are you finding your own voice?

Yes. The directors are very open to helping you find out what works for you and your partner.

What about stamina?

We're not there yet. The second act is probably the most challenging for me -- all that rolling through the feet. I'm more of a jumper. We are also working on figuring out how to relate to one another as partners. We have been doing lots of work on eliminating tension in the arms and fingers.

How do you like Seattle, and what do you like to do outside of ballet here?

I love Seattle. I like to work on gardening and house projects, such as a new hot tub and deck. I like to read mysteries. I also love camping and enjoy going to Cape Alava, Cape Flattery, lakes, and generally touring the Northwest.

Is there repertoire that you would particularly enjoy performing, or are there choreographers whose work you particularly admire?

Well, right now I'm enjoying working with Val Caniparoli who is here working on "Torque" -- he is very easy to work with. Of classic repertoire, I like "Paquita," "Don Quixote," and just about any Balanchine repertoire. Among contemporary choreographers, I like working with Val, Kevin O'Day, Paul Gibson, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett.

How do you like the new McCaw Hall?

I think it's wonderful. I love the colors! Every thing about the hall is spectacular! It feels like we are finally home.

Any special thoughts on heading into the new season?

My teacher, Marcia Dale Weary, is planning to come to Seattle for the first time to see me in Swan Lake. That adds just a little more pressure to live up to being one of the “Stars of CPYB!” The season will be wonderful in the new hall with lots of dancing!

Edited by Lori Ibay

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