A Dancer’s Tips for Dynamic Dance Photos

Tips for Dance Photography - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

On a recent weekday afternoon, a group of ballet dancers ducked into the shell of an abandoned Strip District building for an impromptu photo shoot. Like the greenery sprouting between the slabs of concrete, the dancers made this unlikely spot their studio for a few hours, striking pose after pose against the graffitied cement walls.

Tips for Dance Photography - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Emily Northrop

Behind the lens was someone with an eye for a good location: 20-year-old Emily Northrop, who’d noticed the wide-open space, the light streaming through the steel frame and the chance to juxtapose the gritty space with graceful dancers.

But she also brought something even more important to the table: an innate sense of timing. Northrop, along with her subjects, is a pre-professional dancer in PBT School’s Graduate Program.

It’s no small task to translate the dynamism of dance to a still photograph. In dance photography, much depends on the timing. It’s the key to catching a fully extended arabesque or a grand jeté at the pinnacle of its arc.

Tips for Dance Photography - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Northrop photographed these PBT School pre-professional students in the ballet’s New Byham Center for Dance in the Strip District.

So it’s no surprise that many successful dance photographers, like Northrop’s role model Rachel Neville, are former dancers. It’s essential for capturing both the energy and the technique at their peak.

A Florida native, Northrop grew up in Seattle and started dancing around age 10. She trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet through high school, where she took her first photography class, and just finished her second year in PBT School’s Graduate Program.

Tips for Dance Photography - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Photographer Emily Northrop just finished her second year in PBT School’s Graduate Program.

“I think I really enjoy how you see your hard work pay off,” Northrop said of her love for ballet. “It’s a great way to express yourself and work through feelings. When I have stressful stuff going on in my life, when I dance it just completely erases all of the stress.”

Between her own performances, Northrop photographed her fellow pre-professional student dancers onstage in PBT School’s Spring Performance and Pre-professional Showcase performances.

Over the past year, Northrop began merging her two artistic passions. She saved up to buy a camera and started heading to photography classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers after ballet each day.

Tips for Dance Photography - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Northrop framed this photo for an art project exploring beauty standards in society.

She started her practice with portraits.

“I like to do portraits that have meaning behind them. They’re not just faces, they have an important message to say.”

Around the New Year, she began experimenting with dance – and that elusive ability to effectively freeze motion into one frame.

“Being a dancer helps immensely,” Northrop said. “When I’m taking the photos I can feel the timing in my body. Knowing the technique…you know how to turn the angles to make the dancers body look the best.”

Over time, and after taking a weekend workshop with Neville, whose photographs have been featured in Dance and Pointe magazines and by a variety of dance companies, Northrop began cultivating more detailed concepts for each shoot.

“I’ve been thinking more in the form of shapes rather than dance poses,” Northrop said. “For some of my dance photos, the ones that are a little bit more thought out…I thought of a word I wanted to express first and we did a bunch of different poses that expressed that word.”

Tips for Dance Photography - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Northrop shot this photo in an alleyway in the Strip District, and started with the word “serenity” as inspiration for the photos.

For inspiration, Northrop scrolls through thousands of Pinterest photos, admiring other photographers’ work and filling her mind with ideas.

“I’ll look at thousands of images. When I go to bed it will be in my brain and when I wake up usually there will be some ideas there.”

She’s also taken inspiration from Neville’s ability to coax peak performance from her subjects and to conceptualize photos that put interesting  dynamics at play.

“I noticed that (Neville) definitely pushes the dancers to their limits technique wise to get the best technical photo,” she said. “Now I am definitely more picky. I will give many, many corrections for one pose…to get the very best that they can make it look.”

Whether it’s dance, portraits or artistic side projects, Northrop showcases her work on Instagram under the handle @NorthropPhotography and on Facebook. One day she hopes to make it professional. For now, much like her 10-year pursuit of ballet, it’s all about the practice.

“I feel like the only way you get better is by practicing more and more. I really do love it.”

For more inspiring dance stories, plus exclusive ticket promos, sign up for the PBT e-news here.

Day in the Life of a Ballet Student

Day in the life of the ballet student - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School
Day in the Life of a Ballet Student - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School
Pittsburgh native Lexi Troianos, 15, is a freshman in high school and a student dancer in PBT School’s full-time High School Program, which is part of the Pre-professional Division.

Pittsburgh native Lexi Troianos is 15 years old and she already wears two very important hats: She’s a student in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Pre-professional Division’s full-time High School Program and a full-time freshman in high school. She’s been dancing since age three, and now has her sights set on a professional career in ballet. This week, she’s approaching the ballet world’s equivalent of “finals” — back-to-back performance weekends in downtown Pittsburgh. First up, she’ll perform May 19-21, in Pre-Professional Showcases at Point Park University. The following weekend, May 26-27, she’ll take the Byham Theater stage for Spring Performance, which features 200+ students of PBT School’s Student and Pre-professional divisions. For a dancer, performance opportunities are what it’s all about. It’s a chance to showcase all they’ve learned, to test their technique, to nurture their stage presence, to give themselves over to the pure joy of performing and being in the moment, just dancing. But as effortless as it appears onstage, these performances are the product of a lot of hard work. Compliments of Lexi, here’s a window into a day in the life of a serious ballet student:  

5:15 a.m. // Wakeup Call

The day starts at dawn for Lexi, who lives with her family in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. It’s time to pack up her dance — and book — bags for a full day of studio and schoolwork. Lexi remains enrolled in the Seneca Valley School District, where she studies remotely and sometimes stops by the school for tests and other projects.

8-9:30 a.m. // Morning Ballet Class

Dancing starts bright and early with an 1.5 ballet class, a daily ritual for student and professional dancers alike. Lexi heads to her spot at the barre to stretch out and limber up before faculty member Christopher Budzynski, former PBT principal dancer, calls the class to order. Each class begins with barre combinations. Dancers warm up as they slowly loosen and lengthen their muscles, focusing on tendus, passes and plies. About 45 minutes in, dancers sideline the barres to make space for center combinations. In class, Lexi says she usually focused on specific aspects of her technique that feel off kilter that day. One day it could be turnout, and another the way she articulates her feet through each movement.  “Overall, I think (class) makes you better as a dancer. It just warms you up for the rest of your day. I believe you can always get better.”

Day in the life of the ballet student - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School

9:45-11 a.m. // Bluebird Rehearsal

Next up, Lexi changes into a teal rehearsal tutu to channel her inner fairy-tale princess. She and her partner, Kobe Courtney, are among three couples performing the sprightly “Bluebird Pas de Deux” from the classical ballet The Sleeping Beauty. Under Budzynski’s guidance, Lexi focuses on her technique and the joyful, yet regal presence required for the role. As she nears the final stretch of rehearsals for the spring performances, she says she’s focusing on “the fluidity of my arms and transitions…I think it was one of our better runs.”

11:30 a.m.-2:25 p.m. // Study Break

Now, Lexi heads to PBT’s upstairs cafe to switch gears. Laptops flip open, headphones pop in and Lexi and her fellow full-time high school students settle in for a few hours of schoolwork. Occasionally, students will bounce ideas off each other for a writing assignment or swap thoughts for other projects, but most home in on the task at hand. Today, Lexi is working on English and History assignments. Around noon, she’ll break for some lunch. On the menu for today is a chicken, parmesan and ranch wrap, a handful of almonds and some fruit. She’ll scatter in occasional snacks throughout the day to keep her energy up.

3-4:30 p.m. // Afternoon Ballet Class

After a few study hours, Lexi heads back down to the studio to warm up for her second ballet class of the day. The 1.5 class will prepare Lexi and her fellow student dancers for an afternoon runthrough of the program planned for this weekend’s Pre-Professional Showcases at the Benedum. Lexi is the zone at barre – hair tightly wound into a bun, wearing the customary black leotard and tights. As she prepares for center combinations, Lexi slides her feet into her pointe shoes, winds the ribbons around her ankles and sheds a layer of warm-ups. While Janet Popeleski explains the combinations, Lexi and her classmates seem to etch each movement into their muscle memory by sketching her instructions with an outstretched hand or foot. Class is essential to fine tuning technique and avoiding injury by gradually warming up the muscles until they’re supple enough for full-steam dancing.

4:30-6 p.m. // Pre-Professional Showcase Studio Runthrough

It’s time for a dry run of the works that these students have been rehearsing for months. While PBT School co-directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall watch on, Lexi runs through a handful of works, including the virtuosic Odalisque variation from Le Corsaire. These works pack serious classical technique, so Lexi and her fellow students must summon the stamina necessary to execute the challenging choreography with presence and personality. When they’re not dancing in a work, students sit cross legged at the back of the studio, cheering on their fellow dancers with bursts of applause for complex variations and technical feats. As she gets ready to dance each work, Lexi says, “I think about the music and the story behind it.”

6 p.m. // Drive Time

Dancing is done for the day, so Lexi  head homes for some dinner and down time. But before bed, Lexi usually fits in some more schoolwork before catching up with her friends on Instagram and Facebook and winding down before bedtime.

10 p.m. // Bedtime

Now for some shuteye. Lexi will be back at it tomorrow morning, so it’s important to stay well-rested for the week ahead. During performance weeks, Lexi says, “You almost feel like you want to work even harder…you want to get perfect. Once you do get onstage, all of the nerves just go away, because you’re just dancing and it all flows out. There are no worries, nothing else in the world exists.”

See Lexi and her fellow pre-professional dancers perform this month in Pre-Professional Showcases, May 19-21, and Spring Performance 2017, May 26-27.

Why ‘Serenade’ Was Made for Students


This weekend, PBT School graduate students perform Balanchine’s sweeping Serenade – his first original ballet in America and a New York City Ballet signature to this day. Many love it above all his works, but few know students comprised the original cast.

During the creation of this work, unexpected rehearsal antics would take on profound effect. Balanchine originally choreographed Serenade in 1934 for students of the School of American Ballet in New York, soon after his arrival in America.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48., it started as a lesson in stage technique, gradually incorporating unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography.

As the choreography unfolded over a series of evening classes, Balanchine improvised on the students that showed up and the situations that evolved. The first night, the class comprised 17 girls and no boys – sparking the ballet’s famous opening scene. When boys began to attend the class, he integrated them into the movement.

“One day, when all the girls rushed off the floor area we were using as a stage, one of the girls fell and began to cry. I told the pianist to keep on playing and kept this bit in the dance. Another day, one of the girls was late for class, so I left that in too,” Balanchine writes in his “101 Stories of the Great Ballets.”

Although it sprang from ordinary events, the work took on a more dramatic, transcendent aura as Balanchine readied it for the stage.

When the curtain rises, lines of ballerinas stand with arms and eyes raised, palms pressed toward stage right. This arresting image sets the tone for the rest of this work, which this weekend will feature 26 graduate dancers. As the dance unfolds before a deep blue background, this non-narrative work seems to take on a deeper meaning, suggesting a human story of love, elation and loss.

“Parts of the ballet seem to have a story: the apparently “pure” dance takes on a kind of plot. But this plot, inherent, in the score, contains many stories – it is many things to many listeners to the music, and many things to many people who see the ballet,” according to “101 Stories of the Great Ballets.”

For Balanchine, “There are simply dancers in motion to a beautiful piece of music. The only story is the music’s story, a serenade, a dance, if you like, in the light of the moon.”

Sources: The George Balanchine Trust and Balanchine and Mason. 101 Stories of the Great Ballets. Random House, 1989. Print.

See the rising talents of PBT School’s Graduate Program perform Serenade at Pre-Professional Showcases, May 13-15, at Point Park University, and Spring Performance 2016, May 20-21, at the Byham Theater. For tickets and details, click here.  


Photo credits: 

Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust

From top to bottom:
Photo by: Rich Sofranko
Artists: PBT School students

Photo by: Aimee DiAndrea
Artist: PBT Soloist Gabrielle Thurlow

PBT Advances School Expansion Plan this Spring

Since launching the PBT School Expansion Plan in 2009, PBT has marked major milestones from the opening of PBT’s first student dormitory to the addition of new sprung studio floors and an expanded reception area at the PBT Studios. This spring, PBT will advance the next phase of the plan with a project to improve safety and increase campus parking for students, dancers and visitors.

Following the recent purchase of PBT’s neighboring property on Liberty Avenue in the Strip District, PBT has scheduled demolition in late May of the former Liberty Mart building located next to the studios. The lot will be repurposed to create more than 35 new parking spaces on the same side of the street as the studios, reducing the need for families to students to cross busy Liberty Avenue from PBT’s overflow parking lot.

“With an annual PBT School enrollment of 900 students, combined with visits from company members, staff and our extended PBT family, we are host to a total of 2,000 people coming and going from the PBT Studios each week,” said PBT Executive Director Harris Ferris. “By investing in the growth of our campus, we can continue to increase the training, education and audience engagement programs that distinguish PBT’s impact in the Pittsburgh community.”

PBT purchased the property as part of the School Expansion Plan to support growing enrollment in PBT School’s Children’s, Student, Pre-Professional and Adult Open Divisions and attendance at community engagement events hosted at the PBT Studios. The property expansion increased PBT’s campus footprint to more than 60,000 square feet.

In addition to parking expansion, the property also lays the foundation for the final phase of the expansion plan: the construction of an annex building with three new studio spaces to accommodate a projected 60 percent increase in PBT School enrollment and overall organizational growth.



PBT School Student Advances to Final Round of Youth America Grand Prix

Sophie - YAGP 2013.jpg

After receiving multiple awards at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) semifinals this weekend, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School student Sophie Silnicki, 16, will advance to the final round of the international student ballet competition from April 12-17, in New York City.

Silnicki’s performance at the YAGP Semi-Finals – held March 8-10, 2013 in Indianapolis – earned her first place in the Contemporary Category and third place in the Classical Category for the Senior Division, which included 177 competitors from the United States and abroad of the 15-19 year-old age range.Silnicki’s winning solos included Gone, a contemporary piece choreographed by Adrienne Canterna (1st Place) and the variation from Raymonda Act II (3rd Place) for her classical piece.

The 2013 YAGP marks Silnicki’s sixth consecutive year performing in the competition. In 2012, Silnicki received the Grand Prize in the Junior Division of the Semi-Finals in Torrington, CT, with top awards for both her Classical and Contemporary Solos.This April, Sophie will go on to compete in the finals competition from April 12-17, at the Jack H. Skirball Center for Performing Arts in New York City.

Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) is the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition and annually awards more than $250,000 in scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition is held annually around the world and in New York City, and is open to dance students of all nationalities from 9-19 years old. Launched in 1999 by two former dancers of the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet, Larissa and Gennadi Saveliev, YAGP is also a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization created with a mission to provide extraordinary educational and professional opportunities to young dancers, acting as a stepping stone to a professional dance career, according to the YACP website.

“The Youth America Grand Prix brings together the most accomplished students from the across the country and abroad, so we are extremely proud that Sophie has been recognized so highly among her peers. These awards speak to the remarkable artistry, discipline and commitment that we see Sophie dedicate every day to her ballet training,” said PBT School Director Marjorie Grundvig.

Silnicki has trained with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School for four years under the direction of School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall. Prior to enrolling at PBT School, Silnicki trained at the dance studio of her mother, Stephanie Lopez, where she continues to dance regularly.  A full-time student in PBT School’s High School Division, Silnicki has been featured in PBT company productions, including The Nutcracker, as well as PBT School’s annual spring performances.

Now in its 14th Season, YAGP has awarded over $2 million in scholarships to the leading dance schools worldwide. Over 25,000 dancers worldwide have participated in YAGP’s international workshops, competitions, and audition classes. Over 300 YAGP alumni are now dancing with 50 companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, among others. YAGP’s contributions to international dance education were recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with a membership in UNESCO’s prestigious Conseil International de la Danse (CID).For more information, please visit www.yagp.org

Sophie Silnicki Places among Top Competitors at Semi-Finals of International Student Ballet Competition

PBT School Students Mark Milestone with First Pointe Shoe Fitting

For a professional ballerina, it’s not uncommon to dance through multiple pairs of pointe shoes in just one rehearsal week.  But for most female dancers, their first pair of pointe shoes is one set that they’ll always remember.

Last week, a group of 21 students from PBT School’s Level II marked this significant rite of passage for the aspiring ballerina when they stepped into their first pair of pointe shoes at a class fitting.

“What I tell [students] is that ballet is not necessarily a competitive art or sport where we win something, whether it be a trophy, a prize, a place, a medal, a game… Really one of the most important achievements is that step into pointe shoes. In a way it’s our trophy,” said PBT School Principal Anastasia Wovchko, who guided the pointe shoe fitting.

In ballet, advancing from ballet slippers to pointe shoes symbolizes an important turning point in the training of a young dancer, and requires years of discipline, dedication and training to achieve the necessary level of muscle strength and control.  At PBT School, the initiation to pointe happens only once a year to a group of 20 to 25 female students at an average age of 10 years old.

The expectation in the air was palpable last week at The Dancer’s Pointe in the Strip District, where the class met as a group to mark the milestone together. Surrounded by family members, dancers patiently waited to step up to the full-length mirror – and the store’s small barre – and go up on pointe for the first time. Pointe shoe fittings are an incredibly individualized process with numerous brands and styles to choose from, so Wovchko and staff of The Dancer’s Pointe evaluated each dancer’s fit before determining the final pair of shoes.

“It has to be to perfection. When they get that beautiful, shiny new shoe….it becomes part of our body,” Wovchko said. I guess that’s one of the most important things, it’s meant to look as though we’re floating. That we can things with such speed and accuracy on our toes…and look so airy….It’s really such a special tool.”

Level II student Natalie Beattie, 12, tried seven styles of pointe shoes until she arrived at the right fit.

“It felt really good,” Beattie said of her first experience on pointe. “It’s a big accomplishment for ballet dancers to get them. All the older girls wear them to dance; it’s just telling you that you made it that far.”

Beattie said she’s looking forward to the difference pointe shoes make in her dancing (especially her pirouettes), adding that it’s special “just how graceful [ballerinas] look in them…how beautiful the steps look when you use them.”

Following this first fitting, students will receive detailed guidance from Wovchko and other PBT School faculty for the best methods to sew ribbons and elastic to their shoes, break them in properly, and of course, their first class exercises on pointe.

At the end of the evening of pointe shoe fittings, Wovchko reached into her bag to show the Level II girls her own first pair of pointe shoes that she saved as a memento from the time she was their age.

“We have the most special tool, this pointe shoe. I always tell them, this first pair, you can never throw away. You just have to keep them,” Wovchko said. “I still have that first pair….it’s just such a special piece of art itself.”

Elenora Morris at the Prix de Lausanne – Day 6 – Selection Day!

Today was selections day.  I was obviously excited last night, but after taking a hot bath and watching some Pride and Prejudice with my mom I slept wonderfully!  In the morning I felt ready to perform my variations for the jury!  Since I didn’t have to be at the theater until lunchtime, I got to have a nice breakfast with my mom and spent the morning stretching and listening to music.

When we got to the theater, I did my make up and pinned on my gorgeous tiara while the 15-16 year old candidates performed their variations.  The atmosphere was definitely very exciting today, with cameramen and nervous parents everywhere, and dancers rushing around left and right in costumes and makeup.

After the younger candidates finished performing, we had a short warm-up class onstage, just enough to make us warm and supple but not intense enough to tire us out. Then I put on my pointe shoes and practiced bits of my variation on the rake until the stage manager told us that we had to leave the stage.  Feeling warm and ready, I put on my beautiful tutu (Thank you Janet Campbell and all the PBT seamstresses!) and waited backstage!  We performed in numerical order, but the boys and the girls alternated with each variation, so I was set to be thirteenth.  Finally, my turn came!  My variation went well and I had a wonderful time onstage.  It was an honor to dance in such a beautiful venue and an experience I will never forget!  And the rake turned out to be a blessing in disguise: I actually found my variation to be easier on a slanted surface!

Next I changed for my contemporary variation.  I had a long break so I listened to my music and marked the choreography, making sure to go over all the changes from our rehearsal with the choreographer yesterday.  Then my turn came to go onstage.  Once again, the variation went well!  I felt free in the choreography and enjoyed getting into the movement.

Overall I was very happy with my performance. We had the rest of the afternoon off, so I rested in my hotel for a while and visited a chocolatier to buy souvenirs.  Then we headed back to the theater for the results!

As most of you already know, I did not make the finals.  Only two girls from my class made the finals, and the male candidates dominated: 14 boys were chosen!  I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed.  But despite the results, I had a wonderful time dancing in the selections and I am so thankful for the amazing experience I have had this week!  Tomorrow I have one last class for the networking forum in which directors from schools all over the world will observe us and pick out candidates that they like.  Then I get to watch the finals and enjoy the rest of my time in Switzerland!

Today I was also interviewed for a videoblog, which should be out by tomorrow.  It will give you a closer look at my day!

(Attached is a picture posted by the Prix.  I am on the top left.  From the performance today!)

PBT School’s Elenora Morris to Compete in Switzerland’s Prix de Lausanne

At age 17, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School student Elenora Morris can count herself among only six females in the United States – and 84 dancers from around the world – who will compete in Switzerland’s 41st Annual Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition from Jan. 27, to Feb. 3, this year.

Founded in 1973 to discover, promote and support the world’s finest young talents, the Prix de Lausanne is an international competition and educational workshop for young pre-professional dancers, ages 15 to 18, of all nationalities. From a total of 250 dancers who auditioned by video, Morris is among only 84 candidates and 43 females, representing 20 countries, selected to participate in the competition in Lausanne.

“I feel really honored, because it’s such a prestigious competition. It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Elenora, a PBT School Pre-Professional student who has trained exclusively with PBT School since beginning her dance education at age 8.

In addition to her full-time training with PBT School, Elenora has spent the last two months working with PBT faculty to hone two performance pieces for the competition: Don Quixote’s classical Queen of the Dryads and the contemporary Saraband from Vasos Comunicantes.

“Elenora has grown up training with PBT School, and it is very exciting to see her hard work and dedication gain her a place among a very select group of young dancers from around the world,” said PBT School Director Marjorie Grundvig. “We are extremely proud to have her represent Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School to the international ballet community.”

Morris will be the third female PBT School student to compete in the exclusive competition in the last two years, following PBT School Pre-Professional students Aviana Adams and former student Anwen David, who competed in the 2012 Prix de Lausanne.

“I have strong relationships with the teachers. I feel very supported,” Morris said of her training with PBT School. “All the performance opportunities we get here, it gets you comfortable onstage. We get a wide range (of repertoire)…I feel very well-rounded and comfortable performing lots of styles.”

Throughout the five-day selection process in Lausanne, Morris will participate in classical and contemporary ballet classes with leading dance professionals, and receive coaching from Goyo Montero, the choreographer of her contemporary performance piece. Finally, the candidates will perform their classical and contemporary variations for the Prix’s nine-member judging panel. At the close of the selection period, a select number of candidates will receive invitations to compete in the finals on Feb. 3.

“(The Jury’s feedback) will be really helpful to hear what I need to work on and what strengths I have,” Morris said. “I think what I learn will be very useful for my ballet career…more knowledge of myself as a dancer and knowledge of the ballet world. I think it will be amazing to be around so many accomplished dancers and amazing teachers. I think I’ll learn more about technique, artistry, and what the entire ballet world looks like.”

Accompanying Elenora on the trip are her mother, Karen, and PBT School faculty member Pollyana Ribeiro. In addition to trying some Swiss chocolate and yogurt, Elenora and her mother plan to bring along the six-volume BBC Pride and Prejudice series to unwind in the evenings after a full day of dance.

“I’ve been practicing for months. I know it’s in my body…I just have to trust myself and have fun with it.”

About the Prix de Lausanne

Through scholarships, exposure to the world’s leading dance personalities, schools and companies, the Prix de Lausanne was created to discover the best young talents in the world and open the doors of the most prestigious dance schools and companies to help them realize their potential and become high-level professional dancers. The Prix has launched the careers of some of ballet’s leading performers, such as Carlos Acosta, Julie Kent, Darcey Bussell and Christopher Wheeldon. For more information, please visit www.prixdelausanne.org.

About Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School

 Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School is the official training institution of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and has an enrollment of more than 900 students, including the Children’s, Student, Pre-Professional and Open Divisions. The Children’s Division gives young students an introduction to ballet and prepares them for advancement to the Student Division. Dancers in the Student Division work to refine their technique and dancers in the Pre- Professional Program prepare for professional ballet careers. Many students perform in an annual School Spring Performance at the Byham Theater, and some students are chosen by Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr to perform with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at the Benedum Center.  


Morris is One of Only 6 U.S. Dancers to Receive Invitation to International Ballet Competition

Stay Sleek through the Holidays with PBT Pilates

As the preferred cross-training method for many PBT Company Dancers, the majority of PBT’s Certified Instructors combine classical Pilates training with years of professional experience in the dance world. They understand first-hand the powerful role of Pilates in developing core strength as well as injury prevention and rehabilitation. As a result, PBT Pilates clients enjoy the same high-quality, distinctive instruction preferred received by PBT Company Dancers. The Pilates Method, or “Contrology” as it was called by founder Joseph Pilates, is a system of healthy body conditioning that creates a sleek, toned body while promoting strength, flexibility and agility. Pilates was founded on the integrative effects of these core principles: increasing body awareness, proper breathing and spinal alignment. The Pilates Method is not a quick fix; it is an experiential workout centered on the balance of body, mind and spirit.


PBT Pilates Advantage
By applying a customized technique to a standard method, the PBT Pilates Program offers a variety of unique benefits: • PBT Pilates Instructors guide each individual through carefully crafted, personalized exercises.

• PBT Pilates Instructors strive to educate and enlighten each client in order to achieve their individual goals. It is not a one-size-fits-all formula.

• PBT Pilates clients enjoy the same high-quality, individualized instruction preferred by many PBT Company Dancers

• PBT Pilates Instructors strive to create a healthy, sustainable fitness plan that will enhance all aspects of each client’s life.

• PBT Pilates clients use words like “Mindful”, “Artistry”, “Excellence”, “Personalized”, “Committed, “Dedicated,” “Inspired,” “Rhythm,” “Passion,” and “Purpose” to describe their experiences with the PBT Pilates Program.

PBT Pilates Instructors
All PBT Pilates instructors have successfully completed a comprehensive Pilates Teacher Training certification program with a classical base. But beyond that, PBT Pilates Instructors are selected because of their dedication and desire to share their passion for classical Pilates with their clients. The majority of PBT Pilates Instructors have distinctive experience as dance professionals, and many hold advanced degrees in Dance or Dance Education. Each Instructor infuses their own unique artistic expression into their workouts.

One client, “Lynn” puts it succinctly: “Pilates [at PBT] didn’t just change my body. It changed my life!”

To schedule a Pilates appointment, call Ann Corrado, Pilates Program Coordinator at 412-454-9136, email ACorrado@pittsburghballet.org, click www.pbt.org/pittsburgh-ballet-theatre-school/pilates, or just stop by: 2900 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15201.

Schools Get “In Step” with PBT

In Step.jpg

PBT dancer Corey Bourbonniere thinks he would have converted from tap to ballet training long before age 14 if he’d experienced a program like PBT’s “In Step” education series as a child.

While enrolled in the PBT School Graduate Program, Corey served as a dancer demonstrator for the program, which introduces students of all ages to the art of ballet through a series of performance-based instructional programs.

“You’re able to learn what your interests are when you’re exposed to things at such a young age,” he said. “I just think it’s great for kids to learn dancing at such an early age, just like they learn art and music.”

With PBT’s 2012-2013 Season premiering in October, the start of a new school year also kicks off a new season of opportunities for PBT and local schools and educators to bring classroom curriculum “In Step” with PBT.

Although each level of the series incorporates a costumed dancer, on-your-feet instruction and ballet basics, the programs can be adapted to a range of ages, classroom needs and curriculum connections.

While participating in an “In Step” program at Stanwood Elementary, for example, Corey demonstrated barre and centre work to a classroom of students and worked with small groups to combine ballet movements in a creative exercise.

“It was really fun to be able to work with them. You could just see their faces lighting up to be working with dancers,” Corey said. “Just like any other art form, you have to share it. The kids are the next generation. It keeps the art going and it keeps it alive.”

For educators, the “In Step” program taps into students’ energy and curiosity to blend learning about pointe shoes, choreography and training with on-your-feet activities. From ballet-related stories to creative movement and basic ballet positions, the “In Step” series offers programs for Pre-K through Grade 12.

“Students were attentive, because the information and dancing were in perfect balance with each other. Observing the various poses and movement that were demonstrated by the dancers helped students to be more confident when it was their turn to try the movements. This program was informative, interactive, and most importantly, fun!” said Kathy Vollrath of Hempfield Area School District.

The “In Step” series includes Ballet FUNdamentals (PreK-2), In Step (Grades 3-12), Preschool Discover Dance (Ages 3-5) and Discover Dance (all ages), a partnership with Gateway to the Arts. For more information, or to reserve a program for your classroom, contact PBT Director of Education and Community Engagement Kathryn Gigler at kgigler@pittsburghballet.org.


PBT School Alumni Make Company Debut


While an incoming class of 43 graduate program dancers begin a new PBT School year, this September finds a trio of recent alumni rehearsing for their main stage debut as PBT’s newest company dancers. With PBT’s 2012-2013 Season premiere approaching, PBT dancers Casey Taylor, Corey Bourbonniere and JoAnna Schmidt reflect on their recent transition from student to professional.

Path to PBT
As a Pittsburgh native and Fox Chapel Area High School graduate, the reputation of PBT School made it a natural fit for Casey to take her ballet training to the next level. “I grew up here,” she said, adding that she definitely feels a lot of hometown pride as a member of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Originally from Rhode Island, Corey first experienced PBT School through the Intensive Summer Program, where he was inspired by the company dancers and acclaimed faculty members.  “It was the best class I had ever taken,” he said of his ISP audition with PBT. “The challenge (of ballet) for me is something I love.”

Like Corey, JoAnna came to PBT from out of state following an inspirational encounter with PBT Ballet Mistress Marianna Tcherkassky at the World Ballet Competition job fair in her home state of Florida. There, JoAnna received the affirmation she needed to pursue ballet training over college. “She really helped me believe in myself and believe that I had a shot at doing this,” she said

Preparing for Professionalism
Since enrolling in PBT School, the three students built the strength, skill and experience necessary to bridge from student to professional.

“Coming up through the school from the beginning, I had a huge range of teachers,” Casey said. “It was a very well-rounded experience for me to get different backgrounds of technique.”

For JoAnna, the professionalism of the program and the opportunities it provided to interact with the company dancers distinguished her PBT School experience. “I gained so much strength and stamina in the graduate program. I think that was definitely a huge preparation for me.”

As a PBT School student, Corey danced alongside the company in nine season productions, including Uncommon at the August Wilson Center. “I had a big breakthrough when I got to perform (Mark Morris’) Maelstrom.  It almost felt like an audition to me,” he said, adding that the live music and intimate venue created one of his most memorable onstage experiences.

From Student to Professional
Although this season marks their first as full company members, it won’t be the first time the three have performed alongside the company. This time, however, it will be different. For the three dancers, it’s the fruition of a dream that was many years in the making.

“I was just in awe of all of (the company dancers), and now I get to be one of them,” Casey said.

“As soon as I started I knew that I wanted to take it professionally,” said Corey of starting ballet training at age 14.

JoAnna experienced a similar sensation since starting ballet class at age 7. “I never had any other career in mind even from the start. I always wanted to be a ballet dancer,” she said.


Learn more about PBT’s newest company dancers here.