Yoshiaki Nakano’s Favorite PBT Memories

After serving as an artist at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for more than 14 years, Principal artist Yoshiaki Nakano will retire on May 19, 2024. Nakano has won numerous dance awards and was named one of Dance Magazine’s top “25 Dancers to Watch.” in 2014.
In addition to dancing, Nakano has choreographed over 50 works, including pieces for PBT, Point Park University and multiple schools and companies in Japan. He was named a PBT Choreographer-in-Residence in 2023. Below, he reminisces about some of his career highlights and favorite roles throughout the years.

Ballet: Romeo & Juliet by Derek Deane
Roles: Romeo and Mercutio
Year: 2017
“Performing Romeo and Mercutio back-to-back was challenging, but I learned so much about being a human on stage instead of acting.”

Ballet: Giselle By Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Roles: Albrecht
Year: 2016, 2019

“This is one of my favorite ballets! The music, the story – sad, yet beautiful. The Pas de Deux was a treat to dance!”

Ballet: Swan Lake by Marius Petipa (2014, 2018) and by Susan Jaffe (2022)

Roles: Prince Siegfried
Year: 2014, 2018, 2022

“This was my first full-length principal role back in 2014. I had the opportunity to recreate this role with Susan Jaffe for her Swan Lake in 2022, I loved every moment working with her for this production.”

Ballet: Don Quixote
Roles: Basilio
Year: 2014

“This role was technical, but it was so much fun! I love the music and the fun story! I loved being goofy and cool at some time! I wish I could dance it again!”

Ballet: Le Corsaire By Marius Petipa
Roles: Conrad and Ali
Year: 2016
“Ann-Marie-Homes taught the choreography for Le Corsaire and working with her was so amazing! These roles had such powerful movement and acting that it gave me chills!”

Ballet: Le Bayadère By Marius Petipa
Roles: Solor and Bronze Idol
Year: 2015

“This was my first full-length ballet after my injury. I remembered working so hard to get back in shape, but it was such a fulfilling moment!”

Ballet: Fireside Nutcracker by Terrence S. Orr
Roles: Sugar Plum Cavalier
Year: 2020

“During the COVID-19 Pandemic we filmed Fireside Nutcracker and was able to work with my dear wife as my partner. It was an amazing experience!”

Ballet: In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated By William Forsythe
Year: 2015

“A masterpiece from William Forsythe. This is one of my dream roles. The striking movement and learning irregular partnering was so memorable and I definitely changed my perspective and how to dance.”

Ballet: In the Upper Room by Twyla Tharp
Year: 2013

“This is such a legendary piece from Twyla Tharp. It incorporates Philip Glass’s music with such physical movement. I will never forget how it was!”

Ballet: All of George Balanchine’s Works
Performance/Year: Agon, 2011
Prodigal Son, 2011
Western Symphony, 2015
Divertimento No 15, 2018
Rubies, 2019
Theme and Variation, 2023
Allegro Brilliante, 2024

“All of George Balanchine’s works taught me to be a better dancer. Agon, Prodigal Son, Rubies, Western Symphony, Allegro Brilliante, Divertmento No 15, Theme and Variation – everything I learned from his work definitely influenced who I am today!”

Photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre