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.

 

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.”

 

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

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has added Erin Casale to the company roster for PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020, which opens Oct. 25-27, with “Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra.

Casale will join the company as an apprentice for the 2019-2020 season. 

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

Erin Casale

Erin Casale, originally from Johnstown, Pa., began her ballet training with Johnstown Concert Ballet. She then moved to Stafford, Va. and furthered her training with Academy of Russian Ballet under Yuri and Jasmine Nikitenko. She then graduated from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s full-time program and completed two years in the graduate program. She has attended summer programs with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and The Harid Conservatory. As a graduate student, she has had the opportunity to perform with the PBT company, including productions of George Balanchine’s “Divertimento No.15,” Terrence S. Orr’s “The Nutcracker,” Jordan Morris’ “The Great Gatsby,” “Swan Lake” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” With PBT School, she has performed in various productions including, “Raymonda,” “Swan Lake,” “Le Corsaire,” “Glazunov Suite,” George Balanchine’s “Western Symphony” and “Theme and Variations,” and new works choreographed by PBT company dancers Jessica McCann and Yoshiaki Nakano.

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 Musician Advances to Final Audition Round for American Music Abroad


Although PBT School pianist Ellen Gozion is well-known at PBT for her classical accompaniment, she will travel to New York City this month for a major musical accomplishment of a completely different genre – American folk music.

In just a few weeks, Gozion will join Pittsburgh-based ensemble Chatham Baroque as finalists in the live audition round for the U.S. State Department’s American Music Abroad 2013-2014 Season.

When she’s not in the studio accompanying PBT School ballet classes, Gozion specializes in folk singing and banjo playing, and most recently teamed up with Chatham Baroque as a guest musician for the group’s American Music series.  In a unique cross-over collaboration, the traditionally classical Chatham Baroque chose to feature Appalachian music for the series and for the musicians’ American Music Abroad bid.

More than 300 U.S. ensembles representing a wide array of musical genres applied for the American Music Abroad live auditions. Gozion and Chatham Baroque are among only 40 finalists chosen for the live auditions. At the end of the live audition round, 10 ensembles and two alternate ensembles will be selected for a month-long international tour with the American Music Abroad program, which sends American roots music groups of diverse genres to more than 40 countries to present concerts, performances with local musicians, workshops and other projects to engage diverse audiences.

Despite the stylistic differences between classical and folk music, dance remains the common link between Gozion’s primary musical passions. As a music student at The University of North Carolina Greensboro, Gozion first discovered her affinity for folk through dance.

“I found out about it through dancing when I was in my 20s and that’s how I got into playing for folk dance,” Gozion said. “For me, [folk and classical music] serve different purposes in a way. The folk is very social…music doesn’t stand alone, it always accompanies an event…and classical music tends to be a more inward, personal experience for the audience. It’s powerful in a different way,”

At the American Music Abroad live audition round in New York City, Gozion and Chatham Baroque will perform some of their own musical repertoire and will also be challenged to arrange a new variation combining folk tunes from Turkey, China and Russia. Gozion will also lead a folk dance lesson as an example of a community engagement program to offer abroad.

“I am excited that we were chosen…“I think it would be really exciting to travel,” Gozion said. “We’re trying to preserve this folk tradition in a modern era.”

Listen to Ellen Gozion and Chatham Baroque here.

PBT School Alumni Make Company Debut

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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.

 

 

In first international tour in years, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre to dance in Israel

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Dancers with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre headed back to the studio a bit sooner this summer to prepare for a pre-season performance, but it won’t take place at the Benedum, Byham or any of the troupe’s other regular venues.

This week, the company will present a mixed repertoire program in Israel at the 25th annual Karmiel Dance Festival, which will feature about 5,000 dancers from across the world. The trip will mark the first time PBT has toured overseas in nearly 20 years.

“We’re very excited about it,” artistic director Terrence Orr said.

Read more

External URL
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/ae/theater-dance/in-first-international-tour-in-years-pittsburgh-ballet-theatre-to-dance-in-israel-647608/#ixzz22lRvOSHq