A Forever Dance Partner

Two real-life Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre couples will be performing Pas des deux at the Light in the Dark program that will open the 2023-24 Season on October 27-29.
Principal artist Yoshiaki (Yoshi) Nakano and Soloist Jessica McCann will perform Lacrimosa on Saturday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m. Lacrimosa, by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Yoshi and Jessica have been married for four years, after meeting at PBT. Inspired by Baroque religious iconography, Lacrimosa is a moving work filled with daring lifts and expressive dancing. Lacrimosa also marks Jessica’s return to the stage for the first time in 10 months after she had hip replacement surgery in April.

Diana Yohe, a PBT Soloist and her husband Joseph (Joe) Parr, a member of the Corps de Ballet, will be performing Loss on Sunday, October 29 at 2:00 p.m. Diana and Joe also met while dancing at PBT and have been married since 2018. Loss, by Sasha Janes, tells the story of a couple’s loss of their child. The choreography, set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, is a heart-wrenching and emotional duet through which the couple expresses their grief.

Both couples provide insight into what it is like to dance in these emotional works, as well as the pros and cons of dancing with their spouses.

Lacrimosa – Jessica McCann and Yoshi Nakano


Yoshi & Jess at a photoshoot.

What is it like performing Lacrimosa together as a real-life couple?
Yoshi: It’s really fun and exciting! Having the same stage experience together, I will always remember the feeling of togetherness dancing with Jess. We have performed this duet during the pandemic, so I didn’t feel like my body was in shape, but this time I feel fully back and ready to perform!


Jess: Having performed this beautiful duet before in 2021 together, I’ll never forget how easy it was to trust him. It’s an incredibly hard duet in the sense that my role is almost blind the entire time, and we are falling into our partner’s arms and jumping trusting they are ready! Dark lighting, our hair is down, and we are giving it everything. It could be very scary but with him, I feel safe and can trust him with my life.

What are the benefits and challenges of dancing with your spouse?
Benefit: I can always expect what she needs from me because we know each other so well.

Challenges: Trying not to be personal about how to fix some issues in this piece.

Benefit: That connection is real, and it’s an absolute joy of mine to perform with my love and share our passion for art together.

Challenges: Sometimes when you are too comfortable with each other you can be more critical. As a married couple, we both try to actively listen to each other’s thoughts and feedback while working in the studio together. We’ve been lucky enough to dance together for several years now so each time we get better and better at it.

What is your favorite part of Lacrimosa?
Yoshi: The very beginning as soon as I touch her, she starts breathing. It’s like she comes back to life. The moment of the stage is incredibly beautiful with the lighting and music.

Yoshi & Jess rehearsing Lacrimosa.

Jess: The ending! When I get more and more limp in the choreography, to the point of death, he has me in his arms in a tight embrace as he slowly lowers me to the floor. At that point, I’m sweating, breathing heavily and my hair is in my eyes as my face finds the floor. It’s a sad moment but a satisfying ending to this beautiful duet.

What is the most challenging part?
Yoshi: To make everything look smooth and effortless.

Jess: Not falling, and making everything look effortless while conveying the story.

Jessica – how does it feel to be back onstage only 6 months after your hip replacement surgery?

I didn’t think I would feel ready at this point I’ll be honest. But I’ve been working tirelessly, and patiently for my return to the stage. It’s an incredible gift that I will hold close and never forget. I don’t feel nervous, I feel like I’m returning home from a long journey where I saw and learned so much, and grew exponentially as a human. And to return with my husband who has supported me through all of my hardest moments is like the cherry on top of this whole experience.

Returning with such a dramatic duet like Lacrimosa will be my love letter to the stage, to the audience, and to my recovery journey thus far.

Loss – Diana Yohe and Joe Parr


Joe & Diana in Loss.

What is it like performing Loss together as a real couple?
We both feel it helps us be more honest in our performance. We’ve experienced loss and have
grieved together, so it is not hard to put ourselves in that frame of mind.


How do you prepare for the performance?
Each time before we run the piece we usually give each other a hug to center and ground ourselves. Sasha Janes (the choreographer) also encouraged us to always take a moment alone to get into the mindset that we just experienced a devastating loss in our lives. We both thought of the opening running that we do in the pas de deux as preparation as well.

Joe: I imagine that I’ve been running for a long time to find Diana. Once I do catch her I feel the desperate need to talk to her but I have no oxygen or words to speak. Almost the feeling of gasping for air after you’ve swallowed water down the wrong pipe.

Diana: I think of the moments in my life when I’ve learned something horrible and all I want to do is run away and pretend it doesn’t exist. It kind of feels like an out-of-body experience until I run into Joe and I come rushing back to reality.

Diana & Joe performing at Open Air.

Do the emotions from the piece ever carry over into our lives?

Joe: I feel I can generally separate the work from carrying over into life.

Diana: Sometimes I think because I’ve opened the door for those emotions to carry through, that it doesn’t quite shut all the way. I think more often of the people in my life that I’ve lost for sure and I feel this piece both helps me to process that grief but also keeps it more alive at the same time.

What are the benefits and challenges of dancing with your spouse?
We find it’s possible to ask more of each other, which is both a benefit and a challenge! There is also no shying away from the emotions of the piece and the love we have for each other.

What is your favorite part of the piece?
We love just being lost in the movement together. Even though it is an intense and technically challenging piece, there is a special connection and closeness we feel each time we run it.

What is the most challenging part?
The most challenging was to remain as human as possible in our acting and not add the ballet dancer in us to the steps. Also, physically it definitely took time to have the stamina to run the pas de deux in its entirety. The choreography requires that you are constantly resolving the movement. It’s important to trust the difficulty in the steps and in a way, use that difficulty to get the message of the piece across.