Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Company Reunites for County Parks Summer Series

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) company dancers reunited at Hartwood Acres after months of working remotely to film a performance for the Allegheny County Parks Summer Concert Series sponsored by BNY Mellon. The episode, featuring a new adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” will air on Pittsburgh’s CW network and on social media on Aug. 16, 2020.

In bringing together the entire PBT company, along with staff and videographers, PBT became the first ballet company in the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) to perform together since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is a challenging time for our members and the arts, so we are thrilled that AGMA and PBT were able to work together to find a way to make this project happen,” Len Egert, national executive director of AGMA, said. “AGMA and PBT worked collaboratively in early June to develop safe work protocols for PBT dancers. In a week’s time, we developed a plan with guidance from AGMA’s medical experts that allowed the PBT company to gather together, in person, safely. PBT is the first AGMA company to be able to bring its entire workforce together on contract since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.”

PBT’s adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was conceived and choreographed remotely by PBT company dancers Tommie Lynn Kesten, Jessica McCann, Kurtis Sprowls and Cooper Verona under the direction of Artistic Director Susan Jaffe. Dancers learned choreography via Zoom prior to filming and performed throughout the Hartwood Acres campus following strict safety protocols. 

Dancers remained socially distanced throughout the filming, with the exception of those who have been cohabitating throughout the pandemic. Crew and artists were given health screenings prior to filming, masks were worn at all times outside of performance and surfaces were regularly cleaned with commercial cleaner throughout the shoot, among other safety precautions followed. 

“We are very excited to see the final product,” said Egert. “Seeing our artists doing what they love once again brings us great joy.” 

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be part of a nine-concert series of local artists televised on Pittsburgh’s CW network on Sunday night’s at 7 p.m. through Sept. 6. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will air on Sunday, Aug. 16 with special guest the Pittsburgh Opera. The performance will be posted on the Allegheny County Parks Facebook page and YouTube channel after broadcast. 

Support PBT’s performance by clicking here.   

 

A Conversation with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Alumna Elenora Morris

Pittsburgh native Elenora Morris began her training with PBT School in 2003 as a Level 1 student and honed her skills over 10 years in the School, graduating as a full-time high school student in 2013. Her decade at PBT helped shape her career, through yearly Nutcracker performances, themed modern classes with PBT faculty and advice that sticks with her to this day – “if you think your knee is straight, think again!”

PBT School recently spoke to Elenora, now a dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, about her career and her time at PBT. See the interview below!

Wherever I go, I’m grateful for the great training and performing experience I got right in my hometown at PBT, and I always look forward to popping into the studio when I’m home and reconnecting with everyone.

A Statement on Justice from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Criminal acts of violence, like those that killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks, highlight the insidious illness of racism in America. These are not isolated incidents. They are a gruesome reminder of the hate, discrimination and injustice that exists in our nation today. 

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre embraces diversity in our organization and stands in solidarity with Black artists, students, donors, board members, patrons, friends, neighbors and the entire Black community in the fight for equality. Black lives do matter. 

We are renewing our commitment to the pursuit of racial justice and equity. The work before us is crucial and PBT stands accountable to our local communities of color and to the international dance community to do this work. We dedicate ourselves to fostering an inspiring, accessible and equitable environment that embraces and gives voice to individuals of all backgrounds, races and life experiences. 

Actions 

As a member of the national Equity Project, PBT is committed to the advancement of racial equity in our company, our school and our entire organization. PBT’s Equity Transformation Team is finalizing a five-year plan of action to improve racial diversity and equity throughout PBT. We will continue to provide updates in the weeks, months and years to come. Below is a brief summary of some key initiatives:  

  • Programming PBT pledges to further highlight the art and voices of dancers and choreographers of color. Our partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center has always been a centerpiece of our seasons, and we will continue to foster this ongoing commitment to presenting culturally relevant work at the AWAACC. BNY Mellon presents Here + Now, originally scheduled for March 2020 and rescheduled for April 2021, features the works of three Black choreographers, including PBT Artist in Residence Staycee Pearl, sponsored by Arts, Equity & Education Fund.
  • On Stage – The art we present on stage should be a reflection of the community we serve. Through long-term artistic planning and a focus on inclusivity in our company and choreography, we will bring to the stage works that embody the passion and diversity of Pittsburgh.
  • Hiring and Recruitment PBT will complete an overhaul of recruitment and hiring policies for administrative staff, artists and board members in the interest of increased equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • Training of Young Dancers PBT School’s Community Youth Scholarship, now in its seventh year, builds a pathway to training, performing and participation early in a student’s ballet education, and is renewed annually to support ambitious students through the entire PBT School program.
  • Dialogue PBT’s Equity Transformation Team is now meeting weekly for open discussions around our responsibility to our community and our art form, with over 75 PBT artists, staff, teachers and board members in attendance. The team has renewed our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in all facets of the organization.
  • Organizational Training – PBT artists, faculty and staff will participate in several organization-wide diversity, inclusion and antiracism sessions each year. The first of these sessions occurred in March, with a second planned with local experts for late June.
  • Community Engagement – PBT is committed to increasing the reach and impact of our education programs in the community, introducing students in the Pittsburgh area to the joy and self-expression of dance. To connect students in PBT’s community programs with PBT School, we will be introducing the Bridges program, intended to “bridge” participation in PBT’s community classes to enrollment at PBT School and further dance training.
  • Public Spaces & Promotional Materials – PBT will prioritize inclusivity in our public spaces – such as the lobby and parent waiting areas of PBT Studios – through artwork that reflects our diverse organization and community and greater efforts by staff to ensure students and families of all backgrounds feel welcome. We will incorporate the same inclusion into our marketing materials, choosing photos and words that echo this commitment to creating an environment that values diversity. 

Resources

We acknowledge the difficulty of the work to be done to dismantle racial inequity in dance and to uphold the values of equity, diversity and inclusion for all. We are committed to doing that work and keeping the conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion open. The arts have always provided a pathway for change, expression and self-actualization. Art is not a distraction from the message of justice; it is an integral part of what moves and heals the world. We embrace this responsibility as we examine and expand our own role to advance racial equality in society.

 

Announcing Updates to PBT’s 2020-2021 Season & Three Company Promotions!

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has announced updates to its upcoming 2020-2021 Season in response to programs rescheduled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis that forced the closure of non-essential businesses, including PBT and the Cultural Trust venues in which the company performs.

In March, PBT announced the postponement of BNY Mellon presents Here + Now, a mixed-repertory production featuring works by Pittsburgh-native Kyle Abraham, longtime PBT collaborator Dwight Rhoden, renowned Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato and the world-premier of an original piece by PBT Artist in Residence Staycee Pearl, sponsored by AE&E Fund. Shortly thereafter, the company also postponed its performances of Balanchine + Tchaikovsky with the PBT Orchestra, a program featuring choreography by George Balanchine set to the music of P.I. Tchaikovsky.

Both BNY Mellon presents Here + Now and Balanchine + Tchaikovsky have been incorporated into PBT’s upcoming 2020-2021 Season. The season will now feature a total of six programs, beginning with Balanchine + Tchaikovsky with the PBT Orchestra in October. Cinderella with the PBT Orchestra, originally scheduled as the season opener, has been rescheduled for February, replacing The Merry Widow. BNY Mellon presents Here + Now will be featured at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in April, alongside the Modern Masters program.

Ticket holders for the two rescheduled programs will be contacted by PBT via email and by phone to discuss options for attending these performances. Patrons who have already subscribed to PBT’s 2020-2021 Season will also be contacted by PBT to discuss options to add the sixth program to their package.

Company Promotions

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has also announced the promotion of three corps de ballet dancers to the rank of soloist for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2020-2021 Season.

Dancers Tommie Kesten of Pittsburgh; Lucius Kirst of Los Angeles; and Jessica McCann of Los Angeles will begin their first mainstage season as soloists this fall with Balanchine + Tchaikovsky with the PBT Orchestra on stage Oct. 23-25 at the Benedum Center.

About PBT’s Newest Soloists’

Tommie Lin Kesten

Tommie KestenPittsburgh native Tommie Lin Kesten joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2018 from PBT’s Graduate Program, where she trained for a year. Tommie was named one of Pointe Magazine’s “Stars of the Corps” in 2019 and Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2020. She received her early training from The Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh and Miami City Ballet School, and completed summer intensives at the School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet and PBT School. Tommie has performed Sugar Plum Fairy in PBT’s The Nutcracker, Bluebird Pas de Deux in The Sleeping Beauty, and Peasant Pas de Deux in Giselle. Her repertoire also includes George Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht, Valse Fantaisie, Western Symphony, Divertimento No. 15 and Tall Girl in Rubies, as well as Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces.

 

Lucius Kirst

Lucius KirstA native of Los Angeles, Lucius Kirst joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2014. Kirst previously performed with Ballet San Jose as a member of the corps de ballet and was also a member of the Studio Company at American Ballet Theatre. Kirst trained on full scholarship at The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, and received his early training at City Ballet School in San Francisco and Marin Ballet in California. He has participated in summer intensive programs at American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet.

 

 

 

Jessica McCann

Jessica McCannJessica McCann, of Los Angeles, joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2015. Her past training includes a year with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet in San Francisco and American Ballet Theatre in New York, before joining PBT’s Pre-Professional Program in 2013. Since joining the company, McCann was chosen for Pointe Magazine’s top 10 “Stars of the Corps” in 2016. She has performed many featured roles at PBT, including Principal Couple in George Balanchine’s Rubies; the lead in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated; Blue Bird Pas de Deux, Diamond Variation, the Fairy of Abundance and Canary Fairy in Terrence S. Orr’s The Sleeping Beauty; Pas de Trois and Cygnets in Orr’s Swan Lake; Peasant Pas de Duex and Zulma demi soloist in Orr’s Giselle; Anita in West Side Story Suite and the First Girl in Fancy Free by Jerome Robbins; Dwight Rhoden’s Ava Maria; and the Sugar Plum Fairy, Marie, Arabian and Snow Queen in Orr’s The Nutcracker.

Other memorable performances include Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, Sechs Tänze and Sinfonietta; the Pas de Duex in Nacho Duato’s Duende; the soloist in Kyle Abraham’s The Quiet Dance; Spring Waters Pas de Deux; the Cook in Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland; a Harlot in Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet; and an Odalisque in Le Corsaire. McCann has also performed in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, Divertimento No.15 and Western Symphony; Antony Tudor’s Jardin Aux Lilas; Mark Morris’ Sandpaper Ballet; Ben Stevenson’s Dracula; as well as PBT’s La Bayadère, and Lew Christensen’s Beauty and The Beast. For its 2017-2018 main-stage season, PBT commissioned McCann to choreograph a new work, the silver line., which made its world premiere in March 2018. She has also created Amoeba, a new work for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Graduate Program that premiered at the School’s end-of-year showcase in 2019.
McCann has done guest performance outside of the U.S. in Japan and Bermuda, where she has both danced and choreographed. She was also asked to judge the World Dream Ballet Competition in Osaka, Japan in 2018.

PBT’s 2020-2021 Season

Balanchine + Tchaikovsky with the PBT Orchestra
Oct. 23-25, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography: George Balanchine | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s storied history with Balanchine and Tchaikovsky is revived in this mixed-repertory production celebrating two of ballet’s greatest contributors. The music of P.I. Tchaikovsky has provided the backbone for many of George Balanchine’s most exquisite ballets, including the invigorating Theme and Variations, the expansive Allegro Brillante and the consummate Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, set to the classic music of Swan Lake. This program event also features Diamonds, the brilliant third movement of Balanchine’s Jewels.

The Nutcracker
Dec. 4-27, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography & Concept: Terrence S. Orr | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

The magic of the holiday season fills the Benedum Center stage in The Nutcracker. PBT’s Pittsburgh-inspired production captures the excitement of the original story through five fanciful scenes, over 150 unique costumes and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. With a rotating cast of dozens of dancers, each performance provides a fresh experience to audiences and artists alike.

Cinderella with the PBT Orchestra
Feb. 12-14, 2021 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Kent Stowell | Music: Sergei Prokofiev

A classic fairy tale is renewed with romance at its core in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre premier of Kent Stowell’s Cinderella. Attend the royal ball with Cinderella, her wicked step sisters and her prince as the familiar tale of true love unfolds through grand theatrical scenery, glittering costumes and Prokofiev’s splendid score.

BNY Mellon presents Here + Now ft. Kyle Abraham, Dwight Rhoden, Nacho Duato and PBT Artist in Residence Staycee Pearl, sponsored by AE&E Fund
April 8-11, 2021 — August Wilson African American Cultural Center
In partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center
Choreography & Music: Mixed Repertory

This mixed-repertory production brings together celebrated choreographers to create stunning dance for the here and now in the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. The Quiet Dance, from Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham, captures the feelings of frustration and isolation through sweeping movement, beginning in silence and then carried by the gentleness of Bill Evans’ arrangement of Bernstein’s Some Other Time. The beloved popular music of Paul Simon sets the stage for Dwight Rhoden’s physical and visceral Simon Said. Finally, local choreographer Staycee Pearl presents the world premier of SKIN + saltwater, a visionary piece created for the PBT Company.

Modern Masters ft. Mark Morris, Nacho Duato and More
April 15-18, 2021 — August Wilson African American Cultural Center
In partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center
Choreography & Music: Mixed Repertory

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre returns to the August Wilson African American Cultural Center with a mixed-repertory program featuring Mark Morris’ exultant Maelstrom, set to Beethoven’s Ghost Trio. Nacho Duato puts the music of Claude Debussy at the center of his enchanting Duende, fluidly melding the human form and the shape of sound to create a magical landscape. The final piece of the performance will be chosen by PBT’s incoming artistic director, Susan Jaffe.

Alice in Wonderland
May 7-16, 2021 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Derek Deane | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky, additional music by Carl Davis

Step into a surreal world of outlandish illusion, dreamlike scenery and your favorite Lewis Carroll characters in Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland. A whimsical medley of Tchaikovsky’s music provides the perfect backdrop to the madness of deranged tea parties, unhinged games of croquet and extraordinary dance. Don’t miss the madcap ballet the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls an “old-fashioned romp through [the] British classic, ripe with an over-the-top music hall flavor.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Names Susan Jaffe New Artistic Director

After an extensive search, the Board of Trustees of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School (PBT School) announced today the appointment of Susan Jaffe as artistic director. Jaffe will succeed Terrence S. Orr, who last summer announced his intent to retire in June 2020, after the company’s 50th Anniversary Season.

“After a thorough and comprehensive search over the past nine months aided by Management Consultants for the Arts (MCA), we are thrilled to announce that Susan Jaffe, currently Dean of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA), will become PBT’s next artistic director,” Board Chair Dawn Fleischner.

“Susan brings a dynamic set of skills and valuable experience gained working in the arts since retiring from her illustrious dance career,” Fleischner added. “In her most recent role at UNCSA, she built a thriving program centered on dancer health and well-being, creating strong community connections while striving for students to achieve high-quality artistry.”

Jaffe will assume the role of artistic director for PBT’s 2020-2021 Season opening in October.

“I am thrilled to take the helm of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as its new artistic director,” said Jaffe. “Leading PBT artistically is a dream come true for me, and I look forward to working with the dancers and everyone in the organization to bring it to its future. Additionally, I am honored to be in the lineage of the artistic directors of PBT who have developed a vast array of repertoire, from the classics to contemporary ballet.”

Jaffe joins the ranks of the company’s distinguished artistic directors, including founding artistic director Nikolas Petrov; Patricia Wilde who, during her tenure from 1982 to 1996, invigorated the company with her refined technique and the works of modern masters; and Terrence S. Orr, who has led the company since 1997, elevating its repertoire through his artistic vision and creative collaborations.

“I have known Susan for a very long time,” said Orr, “and I’ve been proud to know her all these years. I think that she will be a wonderful artistic director for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and we are very lucky to have her leadership for the years to come.”

“Susan is extremely impressive and a fabulous candidate who is up to the challenges that the world is currently facing,” added PBT Executive Director Harris Ferris, “having pivoted her own organization to address the coronavirus.”

About Susan Jaffe

Susan Jaffe, declared “America’s Quintessential American Ballerina” by the New York Times, danced for American Ballet Theatre (ABT) as a principal dancer for 22 years. She appeared prominently in the international dance scene, including performances with the Royal Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet, La Scala Ballet, Vienna State Opera Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet and the English National Ballet. She frequently danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov.

After her retirement from the stage in 2002, Jaffe was appointed advisor to the chairman of the board of ABT, working closely with them from 2002-2007. During that time, she became a teacher at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theatre, which ultimately inspired her to co-found and co-direct Princeton Dance and Theater Studio (PDT) in Princeton, N.J. in 2003. In 2010, Jaffe was appointed Ballet Mistress of ABT and in 2012, she was appointed Dean of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston-Salem, NC.

During her tenure at UNCSA, Jaffe, in collaboration with faculty, produced and implemented a syllabus based on the ABT National Training Curriculum for all levels of the program. She was involved in the development of a dance outreach program for a Title 1 community in Winston-Salem, N.C., and developed and fundraised two scholarships to provide a complete dance education to students on the basis of merit. Jaffe also established the Choreographic Institute of UNCSA, a summer program that nurtures promising choreographers, creating opportunities for them to expand their craft.

A choreographer herself, Jaffe has created works for ABT, American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, Grand Rapid Ballet’s Move Media, Company C Contemporary Ballet, Configurations Dance Theatre, DanceVision Youth Ensemble (a non-profit organization she co-founded in Princeton, N.J.), the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Texas Christian University, Princeton University, UNCSA, Youth American Grand Prix Gala, the University of Utah and Goucher College, among others.

Jaffe was New York Magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1998. In 2003, Dance Magazine honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. And in 2010, Jaffe received an honorary doctorate from Texas Christian University.

About the Artistic Director Search

PBT began the search for its new artistic director after the June 2019 announcement of Terrence S. Orr’s retirement. The PBT Board of Trustees formed a search committee, co-chaired by Dawn Fleischner and Mary McKinney Flaherty, and selected David Mallette and Jason Palmquist of Management Consultants for the Arts (MCA) to conduct the search for PBT’s new artistic director. MCA’s extensive information gathering process included interviews with PBT senior management, administrative and artistic staff, company dancers, board members, and key stakeholders. Based on this process, MCA and the Search Committee created a position profile that was posted in early October.

Throughout the search, the strong reputation of the company and Pittsburgh’s own robust arts and culture community proved to be draws for a diverse pool of candidates. MCA evaluated over 150 ballet professionals from the United States and abroad. From the applicants, MCA presented 14 accomplished candidates for closer review. The Search Committee elected to interview eight of those – four men and four women, including three persons of color. Ultimately, Jaffe was chosen from among the four final candidates.

“Our committee was impressed with her vast experience and creative vision that directly align with the goals of our candidate search,” Fleischner said.

“The volunteer search committee was able to persevere against the headwinds of this crisis and stay firmly on schedule to announce the new artistic director,” Ferris noted.

Announcing Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2020-2021 Season!

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr is proud to announce the company’s 2020-2021 Season lineup, featuring a mixed-repertory program of masterful choreographers, the return of Derek Deane’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and the PBT premier of Ronald Hynd’s “The Merry Widow.” Orr will retire as artistic director in June 2020. 

The five-ballet season will run from October 2020 through May 2021 and includes: “Cinderella” with the PBT Orchestra, “The Nutcracker,” “The Merry Widow” with the PBT Orchestra,” “Modern Masters” featuring works by Mark Morris and Nacho Duato, and “Alice in Wonderland.”

Single tickets start at $28 and will be available this August at www.pbt.org or 412-456-6666. Subscription packages start at $81 at www.pbt.org or 412-454-9107 and offer 20 percent savings over single tickets and a variety of subscriber benefits. 

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2020-2021 SEASON LINEUP

“Cinderella” with the PBT Orchestra
Oct. 23-25, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Kent Stowell | Music: Sergei Prokofiev 
A classic fairy tale is renewed with romance at its core in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre premier of Kent Stowell’s Cinderella. Attend the royal ball with Cinderella, her wicked step sisters and her prince as the familiar tale of true love unfolds through grand theatrical scenery, glittering costumes and Prokofiev’s splendid score. 

“The Nutcracker”
Dec. 4-27, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography & Concept: Terrence S. Orr | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky
The magic of the holiday season fills the Benedum Center stage in The Nutcracker. PBT’s Pittsburgh-inspired production captures the excitement of the original story through five fanciful scenes, over 150 unique costumes and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. With a rotating cast of dozens of dancers, each performance provides a fresh experience to audiences and artists alike.        

“The Merry Widow” with the PBT Orchestra
Feb. 12-14, 2021 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Ronald Hynd | Music: Franz Lehár 
Toast to the glitz and glamour of The Merry Widow! With his nation on the verge of bankruptcy, it’s up to the debonair Count Danilo to woo the wealthy widow Hanna Glawari and use her fortune to save his country. But the object of his affection is the same childhood sweetheart he jilted so long ago. This buoyant ballet explores the romance and intrigue unraveling in a Belle Epoque ballroom in Paris through lavish costumes and lush dancing.

“Modern Masters” ft. Mark Morris, Nacho Duato and More 
April 9-18, 2021 — August Wilson African American Cultural Center
In partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center 
Choreography & Music: Mixed Repertory
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre returns to the August Wilson African American Cultural Center with a mixed-repertory program featuring Mark Morris’ exultant Maelstrom, set to Beethoven’s Ghost Trio. Nacho Duato puts the music of Claude Debussy at the center of his enchanting Duende, fluidly melding the human form and the shape of sound to create a magical landscape. The final piece of the performance will be chosen by PBT’s incoming artistic director.

“Alice in Wonderland”
May 7-16, 2021 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Derek Deane | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky, additional music by Carl Davis
Step into a surreal world of outlandish illusion, dreamlike scenery and your favorite Lewis Carroll characters in Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland. A whimsical medley of Tchaikovsky’s music provides the perfect backdrop to the madness of deranged tea parties, unhinged games of croquet and extraordinary dance. Don’t miss the madcap ballet the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls an “old-fashioned romp through [the] British classic, ripe with an over-the-top music hall flavor.”

Casting for PNC Presents Beauty and the Beast is Announced!

Casting for Beauty and the Beast is up! Four outstanding couples will tackle the lead roles of Beauty and the Beast throughout the two-weekend run. PNC presents Beauty and the Beast opens Valentine’s Day and runs through Feb. 23 at the Benedum Center, including a special sensory-friendly performance on Feb. 23.

See complete casting here!

Get Tickets

Meet Your Beauties and Beasts:

Diana Yohe & William Moore: Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. (student matinee) and Feb. 22 at 2 p.m.

Diana Yohe & Yoshiaki Nakano: Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.

Amanda Cochrane & Yoshiaki Nakano: Feb 20 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 4:30 p.m. (sensory-friendly performance).

Hannah Carter & Lucius Kirst: Feb. 15 at 2 p.m. and Feb. 22 at 8 p.m.

Alexandra Kochis & Alejandro Diaz: Feb. 14 at 8 p.m., Feb. 15 at 8 p.m., Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 12 p.m.

Explore Beauty and the Beast

  • Watch: View the trailer here.

New Dancer Spotlight: Josiah Kauffman

Josiah Kauffman, PBT’s sixth new dancer for 2019-2020, didn’t have an easy path to his professional career. But it was injury that cemented ballet as his passion. Get to know Josiah:

Fun Facts

Hometown: Belgrade, Montana

Family: “I have a dad and mom, a little brother and a little sister, a pug, and a cat. I love them all and I miss them a lot.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I spend some time in prayer and listen to music to get me pumped.”

Hobbies: “I love playing all sorts of instruments (guitar and mandolin). I also really enjoy playing chess.”

Favorite food: “Cheeseburgers!”

Favorite musician/song: “Rend Collective.”

Ultimate dream role: “Spartacus!”

Favorite role to date: “I got to play Basilio in Don Quixote at my school in Indiana this last spring.”

Q&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your training? How has it prepared you for a professional position?

“My teachers, [former PBT dancer] Robert Moore and Pollyana Ribeiro really emphasized dancing with artistry instead of just doing the steps for the steps. Growing up in a competition studio in my earlier years, I always thought choreography had to be trick-heavy and explosive to impress an audience. After switching to classical ballet, I learned that putting my heart and soul into choreography can be a lot more moving than just pulling off heavy tricks.”

Describe your ballet “epiphany” – the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do professionally.

“When I was 14 years old, I had a medical scare. The doctors told me I had fractured my C-4 vertebrae and I could be paralyzed from the neck down with too much movement – dancing was pretty much off the table. Being faced with the possibility of never dancing again, I realized what a crucial part of my life it was.  Thankfully, they found that I only had a minor fracture and was able to continue my training.”

What are some of your personal goals for your first season as a company dancer?

“My goal is to grow more as a dancer and a performer.”

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer?

“Striving for perfection is the most fulfilling thing for me. I like a challenge.”

What are you most looking forward to next season?

“Being able to dance and perform with professionals on a regular basis is something I am really looking forward to and I’m excited to see more growth in my abilities.”

If I wasn’t a ballet dancer, I would be…

“I like to work with my hands, so I’d probably build houses or do something with music.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Announces Live Music Appeal

In celebration of its 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) will embark on a Live Music Appeal to help sustain live music at PBT performances for the next 50 years. The appeal will raise $7.2 million by 2022 to ensure that the level of live music that PBT audiences have come to expect at performances each year will continue for the next generation.

For the past nine seasons, a single individual, who has chosen to remain anonymous, has been instrumental in supporting two to three programs every season with the PBT Orchestra. In support of PBT’s Live Music Appeal, this same individual has pledged a $3 million gift to double every donation made to live music over the next three years.

“It’s a way for our audience to preserve the experience [of live music] for generations to come,” Director of Development Christy Rowing said. “And it tells the next generation that, if you have an interest in being a classical musician, we have a venue for you to perform in.”

The Live Music Appeal will be announced to PBT audiences prior to performances of “Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra from Oct. 25-27 at the Benedum Center with a video celebrating PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season and remarks from PBT Music Director and Principal Conductor Charles Barker. 

“Having an orchestra in the pit sets up a sense of excitement, even for people who have been going to the theater their whole lives,” Barker said. “They still get a sense that something magical is about to happen.” 

As of Oct. 21, 2019, PBT has raised $3.7 million toward the Live Music Appeal – just over half of the total goal. While securing a live orchestra for performances of The Nutcracker is a long-term strategic goal of PBT, the Live Music Appeal will focus on sustaining two to three programs each season with the PBT Orchestra, totaling over 500 individual performances over the next 50 years. 

DONATE NOW

Donations can be made via text, web or mail.
To donate:
Visit: pbt.org/livemusic
Call: 412-454-9133
Text: PBTLIVEMUSIC to 56651

Please note that all gifts are tax deductible.

 

Casting for Giselle with the PBT Orchestra

Ready to get the Wilis? Casting for Highmark presents Giselle with the PBT Orchestra has been announced! See Giselle, her love Albrecht, the jealous Hilarion, and Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, on the Benedum Center stage Oct. 25-27. Principal dancer Luca Sbrizzi will also take his final bow at the Oct. 26 performance at 8 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 25, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct.26, 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.
Giselle Amanda Cochrane Hannah Carter Alexandra Kochis Amanda Cochrane
Albrecht Yoshiaki Nakano Alejandro Diaz Luca Sbrizzi Yoshiaki Nakano
Hilarion Corey Bourbonniere Cooper Verona William Moore Corey Bourbonniere
Myrtha Diana Yohe Marisa Grywalski Marisa Grywalski Diana Yohe

Giselle with the PBT Orchestra runs Oct. 25-27 at the Benedum Center. Get tickets and view the full cast list here.

Explore Giselle

New Dancer Spotlight: Erin Casale

Fresh from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s graduate program, Erin Casale is one of six new company members joining PBT for its 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020. Learn how Erin gets ready for a performance, what her ultimate dream role is and what she’s hoping to accomplish during her first year as a professional dancer here:

Fun Facts

Hometown: Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Family: “I’m the oldest child out of three. I have a younger sister and a younger brother. My mother and father are super supportive and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I usually try to get to the theater pretty early so I don’t have to rush myself at any point while getting ready. I always listen to Billy Joel to get me pumped up and ready to go.”

Hobbies: “I really enjoy sewing and cross stitching. I like trying new crafts and projects too! I also have a few betta fish that I really enjoy taking care of.”

Favorite food: “Any Chinese food, really, but vegetable lo mein is my absolute favorite!”

Favorite musician/song: “‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen”

Ultimate dream role: ” I would love to perform Juliet or Cinderella.

Favorite role to date: “It’s hard to choose between performing the first movement of Western Symphony or Raymonda.

Q&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your training? How has it prepared you for a professional position?

“I was fortunate enough to work with the company during both my years in the graduate program, which gave me the opportunity to really feel what it’s like to work with the company. It was also a big test for me to see whether I was able to handle the pressure and if I was good enough to make it in this industry.”

Describe your ballet “epiphany” – the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do professionally.

“Growing up in Johnstown, there wasn’t a lot of opportunities to go and watch ballet, so my mom started taking me to see Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s productions. When my family moved to Washington D.C., I was able to attend PBT’s five-week summer program, and that was when it really clicked. My dream was to dance with PBT and now I’m very fortunate to say that I am.”

What are some of your personal goals for your first season as a company dancer?

“I definitely want to continue working on cleaning my technique. I also want to step out of my comfort zone and learn as much as I can from other dancers. There are so many different dancers and it’s fascinating to see how everyone approaches each role.”

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer?

“Ballet has always been a part of me. It lets me escape reality and explore different characters. I could be having a hard time in the studio with some of the rehearsals, but performing just has that magical quality to it. That fear just disappears and I feel free.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

“Definitely Balanchine & Tchaikovsky and Giselle.”

If I wasn’t a ballet dancer, I would be…

“Criminal psychologist or profiler. I’m super into true crime and I find it absolutely fascinating!”

New Dancer Spotlight: Grace Rookstool

Grace Rookstool is part of the new cohort of PBT dancers hired by Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr for the company’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020. Grace’s passion for dance started early and runs deep, from watching her older sisters practice ballet to taking the stage herself. In fact, the dancers among her family of 10 have racked up over 350 performances of The Nutcracker, between them. Learn more about one of PBT’s newest company members here:

Fun Facts

Hometown: Langley, Washington

Family: “I come from a family of 10 kids. I’m number 7 in the line-up.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I like to get there in plenty of time to get myself ready, and to get pumped up and excited for the show.”

Hobbies: “Baking, going for walks and playing around on the piano.”

Favorite food: “Ice cream.”

Favorite musician/song: “I don’t have an absolute favorite. I like everything from Billie Eilish to Queen to Frank Sinatra.”

Ultimate dream role: “Odette/Odile.

Favorite role to date:A Meditation, Pas de Deux, choreographed by Cecilia Iliesu for the PNB Next Step program. It was my first pas on stage and I got to do it with someone I was close with.

Q&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your training? How has it prepared you for a professional position?

“I started ballet when I was 3 years old. I’ve been learning technique for as long as I can remember, but learning to express myself as an artist on stage for an audience – or even just in class for myself – has helped me to grow so much over the years. All of the training I’ve received over the years, whether it be in technique or artistry, has been part of showing me what it means to be a professional dancer. It taught me to want to be in any role and to always be ready to jump in at the last minute and express myself to the fullest.”

Describe your ballet “epiphany” – the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do professionally.

“My ‘moment’ when I knew I wanted this more than anything – to become a ballerina – had to be the first time I saw George Balanchine’s Jewels. I was 9 years old and was lucky enough to see Carla Korbes and Karel Cruz perform the Diamonds Pas de Deux together. It was such an amazing performance, it made me want to reach those heights as an artist, which is exactly what I set out to do after that show.”

What are some of your personal goals for your first season as a company dancer?

“For the upcoming season I plan to give 110 percent to each and every opportunity I am given. I also plan to keep on growing as a technician and an artist, and to push forward to new heights for both the audience and myself.”

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer?

“I would have to say the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer is getting past all the hard work we do in the studios and putting our performances on stage to connect with the audience.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

“The most exciting thing I’m looking forward to this upcoming season is to finally be a member of a professional ballet company, and taking my passion and making it my career. Not only that, but becoming acquainted with a whole new corner of the ballet world, including artistic staff, coworkers, new friends, etc.”

If I wasn’t a ballet dancer, I would be…

“If I never had my ‘epiphany moment’ in ballet and didn’t become a professional ballet dancer, I think I’d be involved in missionary work or other endeavors reaching out to help the underprivileged, or those affected by natural disasters.  I would want to be involved in helping make the world a better place.”

New Dancer Alert: Sixth New Company Member Signed for 2019-2020 Season

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has hired Josiah Kauffman of Belgrade, Montana to the company roster as an apprentice for PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020, which opens Oct. 25-27, with “Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra.

Kauffman is the sixth new dancer added to the company roster for the 2019-2020 season, joining Erin Casale, Grace Rookstool, Allison Durand, Jack Hawn and Sam DerGregorian. 

Single ticket sales for “Giselle” and other 50th Anniversary Season productions open Aug. 6, at www.pbt.org, 412-456-6666 or the Box Office at Theater Square. Tickets start at $28. Subscription packages, starting at $81, are available now by visiting www.pbt.org or calling 412-454-9107.

About the New Dancer

Josiah Kauffman

Josiah Kauffman was born and raised in beautiful Montana, where he began dancing at the age of 9. At 16 he moved to complete his training with Robert Moore and Pollyana Ribeiro at their studio, EnPointe Indiana Ballet. He’s excited to begin his career with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

 

Ballet Under the Stars 2019: Program & Casting

Ballet Under the Stars is Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s chance to get outside! The day is full of activities, food and fun for everyone. From kids activities – like crafts and creative movement classes – to food trucks and the perfect picnic opportunity for grownups, Ballet Under the Stars has a little bit of everything.

The evening includes a fabulous, free, al fresco performance as well. Check out the program and casting and don’t miss the kickoff to PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season with Ballet Under the Stars on Sunday, Aug. 18 at Hartwood Acres.

Bonus: Here’s how to make the most of your day at Hartwood Acres (and tips for staking out the best spot to watch the show).

Luca Sbrizzi to Take Final Bow of 12-Year Career

PITTSBURGH, PA (Aug. 1, 2019) – Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) long-time principal dancer Luca Sbrizzi has announced his plans to close his 12-year career with PBT following the company’s 50th Anniversary Season opener in October.

“My career at PBT has been absolutely wonderful,” Sbrizzi said. “I’ve gotten to share the stage with so many dancers I admire and perform all the roles that I’ve ever wanted to do. First and foremost is ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ It’s the reason why I started ballet. It’s the most complete ballet there is, the perfect match of technique and artistry. I feel so immensely grateful I was able to perform this role and fulfill a dream of mine.”

In addition to Romeo in Derek Deane’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Sbrizzi has performed roles with PBT including Frederick and Renfield in Ben Stevenson’s “Dracula,” the title role in Jorden Morris’ “Peter Pan,” Matthew in Jorden Morris’ “Moulin Rouge® – The Ballet,” Prince Desiré in Terrence S. Orr’s “The Sleeping Beauty,” Basilio in Orr’s “Don Quixote,” Solor in Orr’s “La Bayadère,” Albrecht in Orr’s “Giselle” and Prince Sigfried in Orr’s “Swan Lake.”

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr, who will also retire later this season after more than 23 years with the company, said that Sbrizzi’s technical and dramatic abilities bring something special to the company.

“PBT will miss his wonderful contributions and his talent,” Orr said. “I’m really going to miss him.”

Sbrizzi, originally of Udine, Italy, joined PBT in 2007 and was promoted to principal in 2016. Before coming to Pittsburgh, he trained with his sister, Alessia Sbrizzi, at Abidance and Pino Carbone at “Club il Vortice” and performed with Boston Ballet II.

“I feel that Luca and I share a very special commonality of spirit onstage,” Alexandra Kochis, Sbrizzi’s frequent dance partner and fellow Boston Ballet alum, said. “That’s something that every performer craves – that connection. It’s something so powerful and so unique to that time and that place and that partnership. Luca and I have known each other since we were pretty much babies in this industry and, on the ocean of life, I certainly never expected this wave we have ridden for the last 2 plus years [dancing together as principals].”

Sbrizzi intends to stay in Pittsburgh, at his home in Stanton Heights, after his final bow. He and his wife, Jenna are expecting their first child in November of 2019. He received his massage therapy license several years ago and intends to use it to help dancers and athletes feel and perform their best.

“I can’t tell you how much I admire Luca’s work ethic, integrity and dedication,” Gabrielle Thurlow, Sbrizzi’s longtime dance partner, said. “Having danced several roles with him, I was fortunate enough to experience these qualities first hand. Over the years, he’s given me endless laughs, support and motivation, and I will truly miss his presence both in the studio and on stage.”

Sbrizzi will close his tenure at PBT with “Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra in October.

“I’ve always been in love with all the major classical ballets,” Sbrizzi said. “In 2016, I was lucky to perform Albrecht in ‘Giselle,’ and that’s why I wanted to circle back to that before retiring. It’s an amazing ballet and it truly takes you through a one-of-a-kind emotional journey. I want to experience that one more time before letting this world go.”

“Since I was very young, I’ve been taught the importance of communicating to the audience – the importance of connecting with them. I think that’s how you capture people’s hearts and how you make the audience feel something. And for me, that’s what the art form is all about.”

See Luca’s final performance on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.

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