New Dancers, New Traditions

OBT’s Ten New Company Members Join the Casts of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker and A Holiday Revue

Meet the ten new members of OBT’s company who you’ll be seeing in our two holiday shows.  We thought we’d give them a chance to introduce themselves before you see them onstage!

Get your Holiday Revue tickets here! 

Get your Nutcracker tickets here!

NAME: Michael Breeden

CAME TO OBT FROM: Miami City Ballet

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker; A Holiday Revue

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?  Two

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory? Most of my best Nutcracker memories would be as an audience member: watching the tree grow for the first time, seeing Janie Taylor dance Dewdrop, seeing friends in their first performances as professionals, etc.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  I knew at age 7, when I was already putting on my own productions of Nutcracker and Swan Lake with my neighborhood friends.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  The food! Not only is it delicious enough to rival any other major city, but it’s also unpretentious, cheap and accessible.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season?  Stravinsky Violin Concerto (in Chromatic Quartet). I’ve performed it before, but when it’s Stravinsky and Balanchine, there’s always more to discover and experience.

NAME: Xuan Cheng

CAME TO OBT FROM: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal (originally from China)

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker; A Holiday Revue

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced? Three

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory?  Can I say, the hardest thing is that [The Nutcracker] was the first ballet I did with OBT.  I had to learn and try to make it good in 2 weeks before the Korea tour, and I found that George Balanchine ‘s version is the  hardest one of the three versions I have danced.  I am still very nervous about it, but I am looking forward to doing it again and trying to do it better.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  I started dancing for fun when I was 5 years old, but decided to be a ballet dancer as my career when I was 10 years old, when I joined the Guangzhou Ballet School.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland? OBT!

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season?  Giselle, of course.

NAME: Adam Hartley

CAME TO OBT FROM: School of Oregon Ballet Theatre

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker; A Holiday Revue

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?  Two

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory?  The best times I had performing Balanchine’s Nutcracker with OBT [as an apprentice] were usually during the battle scene as a mouse. While it’s hot, sweaty, tiring, and hard to see, there’s a bit of freedom in what we can do and we’re usually given a theme which is always fun to incorporate at the last minute.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  I’ve always loved dancing since I was young but I certainly never thought about it as a career. I didn’t start really taking ballet seriously until high school and that’s the first time I realized it was something that I wanted to and could pursue as a career.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  Besides the greenery and the beautiful colors of the fall, I think my favorite thing about living in Portland is continuing to explore and find all the amazing restaurants that it has to offer.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season?  I’m actually quite excited about every program that we are doing this season. It was amazing to start off the season with two world premieres, both with such exciting music and choreography . . . now I’m most excited to do Giselle because it’s one of the many great classical ballets and I’ve never been a part of it before.

NAME: Ye Li

CAME TO OBT FROM: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal (originally from China)

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker, A Holiday Revue

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced? Three

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory?  The [funniest] thing is why the costumes of the Chinese dancers are so weird in all the Nutcrackers.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  A long time ago, I even don’t remember when.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland? No sales tax.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season?  All of them, because they are all new for me.  I danced some of the ballets  before, but with OBT it’s a different version.  I like new stuff.

NAME: Michael Linsmeier

CAME TO OBT FROM: Milwaukee Ballet Company

DANCING IN:  The Nutcracker, A Holiday Revue

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory? In Milwaukee, I got to be Fritz. In Act 1, we’d always have time to play with the kids, and we’d always have pretend fights with each other.  At one point, in the front of the stage, I pretended to pick my nose and wipe it on [one of the girls], and she got very upset by it. She pretended to slap me. We’d just get to do a lot of improv.  It gives you an opportunity to get creative. Bring out your inner child.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  I probably didn’t know until I was like, 14, when I started taking improv classes. Before that, I did it because people told me I was good at it, and I liked it, but I didn’t really [delve] into the artistry of it. In the class, the teacher would give us an amount of music and 20 minutes to come up with something. I just took it as a way to take out my teenage anger, and I would throw myself around and writhe on the floor and be really grotesque and make obscure shapes, and almost hurt myself all the time. It almost scared the teacher, but it was a huge release for me. So it was a way to let out that anger constructively.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  The beer is fantastic. Wisconsin is known as the beer state, but not compared to out here. I didn’t really know what to expect about Portland. I was told it was a hip, artistic city, and it definitely is. I also really have been enjoying the local music scene, seeing punk shows and rock and roll.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season?  I’m very excited about Giselle, just because I’ve never been part of a production of Giselle before. So I’ve never really had the opportunity to get into the details of the story and all that stuff. Even though it’s not a lot of stuff for men, I’m still excited to work through that process and experience it.

NAME: Neil Marshall

CAME TO OBT FROM: Miami City Ballet

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker & A Holiday Revue

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?  Only Balanchine’s.

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory? The funniest thing that happened to me onstage was that I was doing [the Candy Cane variation with the hoops], and I hit my hat over my face when I entered.  I had to do my whole entrance with my hat over my face.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  I guess pretty soon after I started dancing, when I was eleven.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  The food.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season? Stravinsky Violin Concerto (in Chromatic Quartet).

NAME: Kate Oderkirk

CAME TO OBT FROM: Tulsa Ballet Theatre

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?  Four

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory? In 2009, my boyfriend and I guested with Westside School of Ballet, where I trained.  We did [the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier’s] Grand Pas de Deux, which I never got to do when I was in the school.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  I decided I wanted to be a dancer while dancing around my living room while watching an old video of Swan Lake.  I think I was about three.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  The beautiful fall afternoons.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season? Stravinsky Violin Concerto (in Chromatic Quartet).

NAME: Olivia Ornelas

CAME TO OBT FROM:  School of Oregon Ballet Theatre

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?   Three

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory? My favorite memory (and ongoing tradition) has to be that on the last show of Nutcracker, the stagehands place boxes filled with snow on both sides of the stage for the snow corps to throw as they dance through out the snow scene.  I should also mention the tradition of singing as loud as we possibly can with the chorus at the very end of the snow scene while we are huffing and puffing. We like to give our absolute all on the very last day.  My funniest memory would have to be once in the end of the snow scene when we were all about to bourrée out into the last formation.  All of a sudden I noticed something on the middle of the floor. It turned out to be a couple of paper towels that a corps girl had stuffed into the bodice of her costume. She shall remain anonymous.

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer? I grew up in a very art-filled and encouraging environment, with both my parents having graduated with a degree in theater. As a result, I was and still am interested in all art forms.  But for me, singing and acting classes were never enough – it was always dance that got under my skin the most.  As clichéd as it may be, I feel like I’ve always known.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  Having lived in Arizona for most of my life, I genuinely appreciate the beautiful landscape and the vast amount of greenery. I have also fallen in love with Portland’s naturally cozy atmosphere.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season? I have been looking forward to Lambarena (in Chromatic Quartet) since they first announced it at the season unveiling. Not only is it beautiful but it seems as though the music and physicality of it gets your adrenaline pumping. It’s the best feeling in the world.

NAME: Haiyan Wu

CAME TO OBT FROM: Miami City Ballet (originally from China)

DANCING IN: The Nutcracker

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced? Two

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory?  I still feel pretty funny that one time when I was doing the Arabian [Coffee variation], my hat fell off during the show!

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  When I was 8 years old I  knew that I want to be a ballerina.

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland?  I love the Oregon Zoo because my son loves it.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season?  Everything is going to be very exciting to me, even the ballets that I did before, because it will be a brand-new experience for me to share the stage with all my new friends in OBT!

NAME: Yang Zou

CAME TO OBT FROM: Miami City Ballet (originally from China)

DANCING IN:  The Nutcracker

1) How many different versions of The Nutcracker have you danced?  Three

2) What’s your best Nutcracker memory?  It was such an experience when I did a guesting show in California as the Cavalier in The Nutcracker.  I rode a real horse onstage!  The horse was very sweet and beautiful. 

3) When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?  A long, long time ago!  (Seriously, I do not even remember.)

4) What is your favorite thing about Portland? I like the weather since it is similar to my hometown.

5) What ballet are you most excited about in the upcoming season? Stravinsky Violin Concerto (in Chromatic Quartet).

Get your Holiday Revue tickets here! 

Get your Nutcracker tickets here!


0 thoughts on “New Dancers, New Traditions

  1. I know that he was new last year, but Brett and I were counting up all the Nutcrackers that he had been in and we got to 6. Ask him about the dress rehearsal of Kudelka’s version at The National Ballet of Canada when he was in high school. He was a dog horse soldier, and the last to go off stage when disaster struck….he tells the story well!

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