Northwest Ballet Theater presents 'Into the Night' March 16

John Bishop, 55, is artistic director of Bellingham's Northwest Ballet Theater and its official school, Northwest Ballet Academy.
John Bishop, 55, is artistic director of Bellingham's Northwest Ballet Theater and its official school, Northwest Ballet Academy. COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

John Bishop, 55, was born in Spokane, but his family moved to Milwaukee when he was 7. His ballet training began there and he received a full scholarship to Milwaukee Ballet School.

For the last 15 years he has been artistic director of Bellingham's Northwest Ballet Theater and its official school, Northwest Ballet Academy, currently training about 150 students, both at the Bellingham studio on Cornwall Avenue and at Jansen Art Center in Lynden.

His most recent production, "Into the Night and Other Dances," is a ballet about three couples who communicate the experiences when love is found, love is lost, and when love is regained. It is both romantic and comedic, Bishop says.

"Into the Night" will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 16, at Firehouse Performing Arts Center, in Fairhaven. The dancers will perform to five intermezzos by Brahms played on piano by Judith Widrig. To round out the performance, original pieces by Josh Deininger, Ryann Lewis and Heather Turner will be performed.

For more on the company, go to northwestballet.org.

Question: When did you first become interested in ballet?

Answer: My parents loved ballet and took me to many live performances. When I was 12 I saw Rudolf Nureyev and Karen Kain perform "Swan Lake" with the Royal Canadian Ballet. That is when I got a lot more serious about dancing.

I signed my first professional contract with Milwaukee Ballet at 16. At 18, I went to New York and performed my first "Swan Lake" with American Ballet Theater and the following year joined the Eglevsky Ballet.

I've danced with more than 20 different companies in the U.S. and abroad and have choreographed more than 50 ballets.

Q: What brought you to Bellingham?

A: I came to Bellingham when the family of Elise Kerman asked me to continue her school and company after Elise passed away.

Today, the academy has grown and draws students from Whatcom and Skagit counties. Students and dancers from all over the U.S, Japan and Russia have joined our productions and our summer intensive program.

We train students from pre-school to adult. Students from age 7 must pass a placement test before being accepted into the classical ballet program, which is an eight-tiered program based on the Vaganova ballet syllabus, where most of my training is from.

NBT, our nonprofit theater arm, is led by Laura Niwranski, Dan Jordan and a very dedicated board who support elevating classical ballet to the highest standards possible.

Q: What have been some of your most memorable moments so far?

A: The high points of my career have been working with some of the most notable choreographers and artists of our time, dancing in productions with greats like Nureyev and choreographing ballets for different companies. I have been very blessed to have had these experiences, and the opportunity I have now to share what I have learned with my students and artists I work with.

Q: What's coming up for the company?

A: In addition to "Into the Night and Other Dances," I'm working on "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for June 6 and 7 at Mount Baker Theater and June14-15 at McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon. The ballet depicts the romantic antics of humans and fairies played out on one magical midsummer night. It's a ballet that is witty, colorful, and hugely entertaining.

Q: Long-term plans?

A: Northwest Ballet will continue to be very busy throughout the year. For our students, there will be a four-week summer intensive, July 7 to Aug. 1, and a public performance of "Snow White" at 7 p.m. Aug. 2, at Blaine Performing Arts Center.

In October, we are bringing back last year's production of "Dracula" and in December is our annual production of "The Nutcracker."

For June of 2015, there are plans for producing a full-length "Sleeping Beauty" at both Mount Baker Theatre and McIntyre Hall. This will require a larger budget than usual so we are hoping to find individuals, companies or other organizations to help support that.