Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Susan Jaffe Announces Move to American Ballet Theatre

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Susan Jaffe Announces Move to American Ballet Theatre

Effective December 2022, the Former ABT Principal Dancer Will Return to the NYC Company as Artistic Director

PITTSBURGH, PA (May 9, 2022) – Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Susan Jaffe announced this morning that she has been named Artistic Director of American Ballet Theatre, where she spent more than 30 years of her career. She will begin her new role at ABT in December. PBT remains in an excellent position to further realize the company’s vision and mission.

“What a profound honor it is for me to come back home to lead the artistic helm of American Ballet Theatre,” says Ms. Jaffe. “I have experienced so many iterations of my career at ABT. I was a student, second company member, main company member, teacher in the school, advisor to the chairman and a director of repertoire for this company. However, I wouldn’t have been able to take on this new challenge without everything I accomplished at PBT. It is an outstanding organization.”

“We are grateful for the contributions Susan has made to PBT,”says PBT Board Chair Mary McKinney Flaherty. “I look forward to working with the executive search committee to identify the next artistic director.”
Ms. Jaffe is PBT’s sixth artistic director in the company’s 53-year history. From the organization’s founding in 1969, PBT has evolved into a critically acclaimed company with international reach.
Her tenure featured many artistic achievements, including:
● Choreographing a new Swan Lake that debuted last Friday
● Stewarding PBT’s presence during the COVID-19 pandemic and spearheading
the creation of a robust library of collaborative and innovative digital programs,
including Fireside Nutcracker which won three Telly Awards
● Launching the Open Air: A Series in Celebration of the Performing Arts outdoor
festival in partnership with executive director, Harris Ferris, where she debuted
Bolero, her first original piece of choreography for PBT, which was also
performed at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Sculpture
● Guiding a successful return to the stage with Season Premiere with the PBT
Orchestra in October 2021
● Promoting innovative and classical works by leading choreographers, including a
showcase of five female choreographers at Here + Now in March 2022
● Launching a collaborative program between Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and
Point Park University in which graduate students of PBT School can receive
academic instruction from Point Park and earn a B.F.A. in dance in two years

Swan Queen Spotlight: Marisa Grywalski

Though Soloist Marisa Grywalski has danced in PBT productions of Swan Lake twice before, the upcoming production marks her debut as the Swan Queen. Marisa shares her journey from her first performance as a PBT School Graduate student to now dancing one of ballet’s most iconic roles. Don’t miss your chance to see her perform in Artistic Director Susan Jaffe’s new production of Swan Lake, running May 6 – 15 at the Benedum Center!

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What has it been like to learn Swan Lake under the direction of Susan Jaffe, who is such an iconic Swan Queen?
I started my journey with Susan and the role of Odette for one of our outdoor gala performances. I was to perform the White Swan Pas de Deux. She guided me through every moment, showing me not just where to step and how to angle my head, but explaining the intention, which is the most important aspect. Every moment has a meaning and every moment is an opportunity to tell the story of love, trust and tragedy. This holds true even today as she guides and teaches us all four acts. She often reprises the role to demonstrate what words cannot express. I see very much of her and the long history she has with Swan Lake in the choreography.

What part of the ballet holds a special place in your heart?
I love the entrance of Odette where she meets the Prince, as well as Odile’s entrance.

Tell us about your first performances of Swan Lake with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
I had the pleasure of dancing Terrance S. Orr’s Swan Lake twice. In my first experience when I was a PBT School Graduate student, I was one of the corps peasants in Act I. I also performed in the swan corps and was one of the princesses in Act III. This was my first time performing with the company where I was in all four acts. I loved every beautiful and painful moment; it was a real taste for corps de ballet life. I had responsibility and started to create positive and friendly relationships with the other professionals.

In the most recent production of Orr’s Swan Lake I danced again in all four acts, this time as a corps member of the company. I danced in the pas de six in Act I, as a big swan in Acts II and IV, and in Act III’s Spanish dance. I must mention that I danced all of these roles and every show with Danielle Downey by my side. Sharing all of these roles with her was so wonderful.

Artists: Marisa Grywalski and Danielle Downey | Photo: Rich Sofranko

Can you talk about your pre-show ritual?
Sometimes I take a really hot shower before I warm up to get my blood flowing. I tend to spend most of my time on stage — lots of walking around, marking movements, getting used to the space and most importantly choosing my shoes for the night.

How many pairs of pointe shoes have you used during the rehearsal process?
I use a new pair of shoes for pas de deux rehearsals. They need to be new in order for me to rehearse properly. The support is critical, especially for adagio work. Once softened a bit I then use them for our morning technique class.

Artist: Marisa Grywalski | Photo: Aviana Adams
Artist: Marisa Grywalski | Photo: Duane Rieder

How do you prepare for this role?
Susan has brought in an acting coach, Byam Stevens, for the company to work with. He has been focusing on all interactions between Odette-Odile and Prince Sigfreid. After working with Byam, I would say there has been a shift in how I am approaching both roles. Also, the steps are beginning to feel more natural after further discovering where they are stemming from. 

Walk us through what it is like to embody both Odette and Odile.
A dancer can spend their whole career developing deeper into these roles. I believe that we all have a bit of both characters in each one of us. For my first time learning these roles I started by exposing those similarities in myself. If it’s not coming from an honest place, then the audience will pick up on that.

Marisa will perform as Odette-Odile on Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. See the full casting list here and don’t miss your chance to see Swan Lake with the PBT Orchestra May 6 – 15 at the Benedum Center!

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Artists: Lucius Kirst and Marisa Grywalski | Photo: Aviana Adams

 

Swan Queen Spotlight: Jessica McCann

For Soloist Jessica McCann, dancing the iconic role of Odette-Odile in Susan Jaffe’s Swan Lake is a dream come true — and a dream that she has worked hard to achieve. From her first performance in Swan Lake with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2018 when she performed as a Little Swan and in the pas de trois, to now dancing the technically demanding lead role, Jessica finds the accomplishment well worth the challenge. Read on to discover how she is preparing for the daunting and exhilarating milestone of her debut performance as the Swan Queen. 

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What has it been like to learn Swan Lake under the direction of Susan Jaffe, who was such an iconic Swan Queen?
It’s been an absolute privilege and honor to have Susan in the studio with me, passing down all the knowledge and experience she has from her career and the legendary coaches she got to work with. It’s hard to put into words the gratitude I feel. It makes me feel safe, because I have her here guiding me into the most successful debut I could hope for in such an extremely difficult role, one I’ve dreamt of performing all my life. I’m fully trusting the process and it’s a lot of hard work and detailing. Susan is working closely with me, handing me all the tools for finding my own Swan Queen.

How do you prepare for this role?
There’s a lot to do and many ways I’ve been preparing for this role. When I’m not rehearsing the steps and working on my stamina, I listen to the music, think of the story, review the choreography and do a ton of positive visualization. We’ve also been working with dramaturge coach Byam Stevens who also worked closely with Susan Jaffe during her career. Then, of course, I’m being coached by Susan herself. Creating that dialogue and personal story in my head and with my partner is really important. 

Jessica McCann dances as a Little Swan in PBT’s 2018 production of Swan Lake | Photo: Aimee DiAndrea

How many pairs of pointe shoes have you used during the rehearsal process?
I easily kill one pair of pointe shoes within an hour of rehearsing the White Swan adagio from Act ll. With all the repetition and getting the steps just right, or that tender moment with my partner just right, it really kills the shoes. I dry the shoes out, glue them and wear them again the next day for something else, but on average I’m currently going through roughly four to five pairs of shoes a week, and that’s squeezing by. 

Thinking about my performance and what my “shoe plan” will be feels like a gamble. I’m currently thinking about wearing new shoes for Act ll, Act lll Black Swan and a third new pair for Act IV, so I’d have to prep three pairs of shoes per dress rehearsal and each performance. 

Can you talk about your pre-show ritual?
It’s different with every production because it depends on what role I’m doing, but I usually like to keep to myself. For big roles like this I’ll probably be ready early because I like living in the costume for a bit to make it feel normal and I fall into the role easier when the costume is on. I calm myself mentally, do positive visualization and make sure I’m in the right headspace. That’s extremely important to me. I also check in with my partner and we might try a few things after class. I just try not to psych myself out or get in my head too much about anything. After so much rehearsal I have to trust it’s in my body so the mind must be calm. You’ll probably also find me fussing over my pointe shoes until the show starts because they have to be just right.

Jessica McCann dances in the Pas de Trois in PBT’s 2018 production of Swan Lake | Photo: Rich Sofranko

Walk us through what it is like to embody both Odette and Odile.
I think we all have different sides to us as people, so drawing that out in yourself to the maximum in each direction is what it feels like to go from rehearsing Odette to Odile and back to Odette in the same rehearsal day. They are completely different. In order to make that switch, you have to know your character really well, which is what I’ve been working on. I’ve really just thrown myself into the experience and rehearsal process. I have to put myself there mentally to really dive deeper into these two roles.

Odile is a temptress — she’s seductive and finds joy in playing this game with Rothbart of Siegfried’s heart. Odette is a princess that has been taken by Rothbart and she’s essentially a hostage, a victim of a horrible curse. She’s kind, still has pride as queen of the swans and she knows what she must do at the end of this story, which takes a strong person to make that choice. She’s the kind of person who forgives the prince for his mistake of falling for Odile’s tricks, but knows she must sacrifice herself so the curse can be lifted. I really enjoy playing both types of characters. I’ve always loved roles with deep acting involved, so this is honestly a challenge I’m extremely excited about. 

Jessica McCann rehearses the Black Swan Pas de Deux with Corps de Ballet Dancer Colin McCaslin | Photo: Aviana Adams

What part of the ballet holds a special place in your heart?
The music. The story. The emotional depth of this ballet — it’s a masterpiece. I bring myself to tears listening to the music and watching the story unfold in my mind, specifically in Act IV where Odette has been betrayed by Siegfried. Even though she forgives him, the damage has been done. She says goodbye to her love and fights to break free from Rothbart to kill herself and break the spell. The music there is so overwhelming to me I’ll probably cry on stage. Another amazing moment in the music and story is in Act lll where it’s Odile’s first entrance with Rothbart. Arriving fashionably late of course, turning every head in the ballroom and immediately seducing Siegfried. I mean, what an entrance!!

Jessica McCann rehearses the Black Swan Pas de Deux with Corps de Ballet Dancer Colin McCaslin | Photo: Aviana Adams

Jessica will perform as Odette-Odile on Sunday, May 8 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, May 14 at 2 p.m. See the full casting list here and don’t miss your chance to see Swan Lake with the PBT Orchestra May 6 – 15 at the Benedum Center!

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Welcomes Two New Apprentices

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) is pleased to welcome two promising young dancers as company apprentices for the 2022 – 2023 season. Ariana Chernyshev and Maria Eduarda Pinto will gain exceptional professional experience and enjoy exciting performance opportunities with the PBT company under the leadership of Artistic Director Susan Jaffe.

“After the success of the inaugural year of the apprenticeship program, I am excited at the possibilities inherent in these dancers’ futures,” Ms. Jaffe says. “I look forward to nurturing them throughout the course of the 2022 – 2023 season and helping them take their artistry to new heights.”

In addition to the invaluable experience of rehearsing and performing alongside PBT company dancers, the apprentices will have the option to pursue certificate or college degree programs through partnerships with Point Park University, Seton Hill University, Community College of Allegheny County and Chatham University. PBT is grateful to Leslie Fleischner and her late husband Hans for their thoughtful support of young dancers pursuing careers in the arts.

About the Apprentices

Ariana Chernyshev

Ariana Chernyshev was born in Pittsburgh and trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School (PBT School) from Pre-Ballet all the way through to the Graduate program. Additionally, she attended summer programs at Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Cincinnati Ballet and The Washington School of Ballet. In 2019, Ariana accepted a trainee position at The Washington School of Ballet, where she performed with the company and danced lead roles in classical and contemporary works with the school. As a Graduate student at PBT School, she has had the honor of performing with the company in George Balanchine’s Rubies, Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. In 2022, Ariana performed as a guest artist of Tulsa Ballet’s Swan Lake. Ariana enjoys teaching yoga to the high school students at PBT School and is thrilled to perform Susan Jaffe’s Swan Lake in May!

Pittsburgh is home, and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to perform for my beautiful city and its vibrant community,” Ariana says. “We are so lucky to have Susan Jaffe as artistic director and I’m beyond excited to be a part of this new chapter for PBT!”

 

Maria Eduarda Pinto

Maria Eduarda Pinto was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she started taking ballet class at the age of two. She joined the Maria Olenewa Dance School and finished her studies at the Lyceu Dance School supervised by Lorena Boaventura. In 2020, she trained at Miami City Ballet with Aranxta Ochoa and Alexander Iziliaev. She won several awards in competitions in Brazil and was a finalist in the Latin America Selections of the Prix de Lausanne and the Youth America Grand Prix, in addition to participating in several international competitions such as Tanzolymp, ADCIBC, WBC and VKIBC.

I am very happy and excited to join Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as an apprentice because it has always been my dream as a dancer to start a professional career in a company with several renowned masters and excellent dancers,” Maria says. “It makes me very excited to give my best this season.”

Principal Dancer Alexandra Kochis Prepares to Take Her Final Bow

Alexandra KochisAfter 27 years as a professional dancer and 16 years at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Principal Dancer Alexandra Kochis has announced that she will be retiring at the end of the 2021-2022 season. Her performance as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake with the PBT Orchestra on Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. will be her last with the company. Alexa has been a principal dancer with PBT since 2009.

“It has been a pleasure to have the chance to work with Alexa over these last two years,” says Artistic Director Susan Jaffe. “The exquisite artistry of her performances will truly be missed by all of us. We wish her well on her next chapter.”

Originally from North Andover, Massachusetts, Alexa began her ballet training at the age of 5, and studied six days a week throughout her childhood. After graduating high school, she planned to attend college at Georgetown University, but changed her mind when Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director of the time Anna Marie Holmes offered her a position with Boston Ballet II in the corps de ballet. Alexa joined Boston Ballet II in 1995 and the company in 1998, where she met her husband Christopher Budzynski. 

In 2006, Alexa and Chris relocated to Pittsburgh and both joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre — Alexa as a member of the corps de ballet and Chris as a soloist. Alexa became a principal dancer in 2009. 

“I felt very supported and valued by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for the dancer that I was,” she says. “That allowed me to put myself out there more. Because the repertoire was so diverse, it was really food for growth. I certainly have danced roles and worked with choreographers that I never dreamed I would.”

Alexandra Kochis in “A Streetcar Named Desire” | Photo: Rich Sofranko

Favorite productions for Alexa from her career include Don Quixote, Giselle, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette, George Balanchine’s Diamonds, Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and John Neumeier’s A Streetcar Named Desire, a production that she calls “a seminal moment for PBT.”

“What a wonderful experience it has been to watch Alexa’s journey through this art form,” says Alexa’s husband and PBT School Faculty member Chris. “She has touched many lives and souls as she transcended the boundaries of the technique.”

Of her final performance in Swan Lake this May, Alexa says she is thankful for the technically difficult, physically demanding nature of the role of Odette-Odile. “The technique takes my mind off the emotional aspect of retiring because I focus on the work,” Alexa says. “I’m a big dramatic enthusiast, so it’s always nice when I get to die at the end of a ballet,” she adds.

After retiring, Alexa says there are many new possibilities on the horizon that she looks forward to, including teaching dance, writing fiction — an endeavor she began investigating during the pandemic — and lots of travel and camping trips in the mix. 

“Throughout my career, I feel like PBT has preserved a familial ethos. I’m really glad to have been a part of it,” Alexa says.

Audiences can see Alexa’s final performances with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre at Swan Lake with the PBT Orchestra, running May 6 – 15 at the Benedum Center. Her retirement will be recognized at her final performance on Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m.

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Alexandra Kochis and William Moore in George Balanchine’s “Diamonds” | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

Swan Queen Spotlight: Alexandra Kochis

Since she began her professional dance career in 1995, Principal Dancer Alexandra Kochis has danced six full length productions of Swan Lake, including two productions with Boston Ballet and four with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She has danced a variety of roles, from a guest in the First Act and Swan Corps to the Pas de Trois, Cygnets, Neopolitan and Odette-Odile. As she prepares to play the Swan Queen for her fourth and final time, Alexa shares with us why this production is special to her and why you should go see it!

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Artists: Alexandra Kochis and Alejandro Diaz | Photo: Rich Sofranko

What has it been like to learn Swan Lake under the direction of Susan Jaffe, who was such an iconic Swan Queen?
The experience of being coached by Susan has been very inspiring. I love that she comes at the role of the Swan Queen from such a human perspective. She very much wants us to convey the underlying emotions — of uneasiness, trepidation, elation and, ultimately, betrayal and heartbreak — that make up Odette’s character arc throughout the story. Because, underneath it all, Odette is a woman who has been transformed into a swan, but she still thinks and feels and loves like you and I. Susan also has such a lush and full style that really encourages us to bend and move and use our entire bodies to fully depict the emotions we are trying to convey.

What part of the ballet holds a special place in your heart?
I feel like there are too many favorite moments to pick just one! I love the moment, in the second act adagio when Odette chooses to submit to falling in love with Seigfried. She clasps Seigfried’s hand to her cheek and turns to face him. It’s an intimate and still moment I get to share with my partner — in this case William Moore — in the midst of all this difficult technique. I love when we can speak to each other with our eyes and convey how full our hearts are across the vast expanses of the theater.

I love that the music builds to a frenzied crescendo during the coda of the second act. It is intensely empowering to stand in the wings as the corps de ballet charges across the stage in their final arabesque chugs and then, as I run out for my coda, the music hushes and the conductor seems to hover on my very breath.

I love dancing as Odile in the end of the third act pas de deux when Siegfried kneels before me and I know that I have succeeded in my seduction. I throw my head back in a movement full of wicked, maniacal triumph and I am soaring on this wave of physical endorphins and music-induced euphoria. It’s pretty incredible.

And, I always love dying on stage, so getting to hurl myself into the lake at the end of this marathon of a ballet that I have just run — that’s pretty great, too.

How do you prepare for this role?
Ballet class everyday. Many hours of rehearsals and coaching with Susan and our rehearsal directors Steven Annegarn and Marianna Tcherkassy for the pas de deuxs and variations. Then, as we get closer to the shows, we start putting the acts together with the corps and other dancers. Finally, we run through the whole ballet to get a feeling of the stamina and pacing required. I also try to work in cross training with pilates, gyrotonics and cardio.

We are also fortunate to be working with a dramaturg, Byam Stevens, for this production. Byam is focusing on the acting, mime and character development for each individual partnership.

Walk us through what it is like to embody both Odette and Odile.
Swan Lake is special because I get to work on two very different flavors of movement — the slow, soft lyricism of Odette as well as the crisp, sharp dynamism of Odile. It allows a dancer to tap into two different sides of themself because, really, everyone has a little of both characters within.

Artists: Alexandra Kochis and Alejandro Diaz | Photo: Rich Sofranko

How many pairs of pointe shoes have you used during the rehearsal process?
It’s hard to calculate exactly how many pairs of pointe shoes I’ve used to rehearse Swan Lake because we have been working on it off and on for a while (since about January, I believe). I try to keep a rotation of shoes going so that each individual pair will have time to dry out and be re-glued between wearings so they last a bit longer. Plus, the different acts of the ballet require shoes to be slightly harder or softer depending on the types of steps I’ll be doing. All told, I will probably go through 20 pairs or so by the time May 14th rolls around.

Can you talk about your pre-show ritual?
My pre-show ritual is pretty straightforward. I like to allow myself lots of time. I don’t like to rush. I’ll take company warmup onstage with the rest of the company. I love taking class onstage. There is a hallowed-ness about it — the darkened theater, the space. Then I’ll wrap myself up in a warm blanket, put on some chill, feel-good music and do my makeup. Then, about a half hour before showtime, I’ll start putting my shoes and costume on to warm them up and get settled in them. It takes a bit of body heat to soften everything up and get them feeling like a part of my own body. At about 15 minutes out, I’ll head to the stage, check any props, pre-set water and tissues, feel the floor a bit and maybe practice any tricky moments with my partner. Then, I just take a few deep breaths and try to savor every moment.

What does it mean to you for Swan Lake to be your final performance before you retire?
I love that I am able to dance a full-length story ballet for my final performance because portraying a character and the dramatic side of ballet has always been one of my favorite things about this art form.

Being able to dance full-length Swan Lake — a big, beautiful ballet — on the Benedum Center stage — a big, beautiful theater — to music played by a live orchestra is truly one of the pinnacles of any dancer’s career. It will be somewhat of a “full circle moment” for me as I can still VISCERALLY feel what it was like to stand on the side of the stage in my pose as a member of corps de ballet in my second year as a professional dancer. I remember how it felt to hear that gorgeous Tchaikovsky score soaring out of the pit during the second act adagio. It gave me absolute goosebumps back then, and now that I am the one dancing that adagio as Swan Queen — well, it feels that much richer, I suppose.

Alexa will perform as Odette-Odile on Saturday, May 7 at 2 p.m. and her final performance will be Saturday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m. Don’t miss your chance to see her final bow with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre!

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Susan Jaffe: Swan Queen

When Susan Jaffe was 19 years old, she danced the lead role in Swan Lake for the first time with American Ballet Theatre. Forty years later, Susan’s journey with Swan Lake has come full circle as she finishes out her first full season as artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre with her own choreography of this iconic show. Read on to learn more about how Susan’s extensive experience informed her choreography for this new production, running May 6 – 15 at the Benedum Center!

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It all started when Susan’s coach at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) Elena Tchernichova taught her Swan Lake behind closed doors. As a very young member of the corps de ballet, Susan had to learn the role in secret for fear that the company members would be upset that someone so young was learning the role. At the age of 19, she danced the first of what would be many performances of Swan Lake as Odette-Odile while on tour with ABT in Miami, with Mikhail Baryshnikov playing Prince Siegfried. 

Susan Jaffe Dancing the Role of Odile | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

When she danced Swan Lake for the first time in New York City on April 28, 1982, The New York Times published a glowing review of her performance. “Susan Jaffe is the American Ballet Theatre’s wonderful new discovery, the star of the future who radiates a star quality so vibrantly now at the age of 19 that one is dazzled at the prospect of her development,” wrote New York Times Dance Critic Anna Kisselgoff. The review continues, “[Susan’s performance] was a beautiful triumph, a performance of amazing depth for a novice, but also thrilling in itself, in a young dancer’s understanding of this great Tchaikovsky ballet.” Read the full review here.

Susan danced Swan Lake every year after that, and was coached by some amazing people, including the legendary ballerina Natalia Makarova. In 1989, Susan was introduced to Irina Kolpakova, who had been Baryshnikov’s mentor and was the last student of the great Russian pedagogue Agrippina Vaganova.

“I wanted to learn from Kolpakova so much, I would’ve done anything,” Susan says. “So I basically stood in front of her with my arms at my side and said, ‘I don’t know anything. Teach me from scratch.’ I learned so much more than technique from her. She was one of the most brilliant, heartfelt performers that the world has ever seen.”

Susan went on to dance Swan Lake all around the world, guesting with companies in Sweden, England, Vienna and more. “I got to work with a lot of brilliant partners and experience other companies dancing Swan Lake as well,” Susan says.

Watch Susan performing the role of the Black Swan for American Ballet Theatre here:

Having danced the role of Odette-Odile so many times, Susan developed a keen understanding of the characters’ motivation, the symbolism in the music and dancing, and the themes of the ballet.

“It’s a great story of love and betrayal, and it really reflects our humanity,” Susan says. “When I sit in the audience and watch it, there are so many moments that I am moved to the depth of my soul.”

Susan says that one of the reasons why she loves Swan Lake is because of the wide range of emotions that the dancer portraying Odette-Odile has to convey. “It is the ultimate test of a ballerina’s powers, not only in character, but in physicality,” Susan says. “The dancer must show the softness and vulnerability of Odette, and the attack of Odile, a femme fatale. You have to develop all of those things in order to be a real interpreter of this role.

Susan Jaffe receives applause for her performance in “Swan Lake” | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

Susan is bringing her expertise to this new production with her own choreography created after the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. “It feels incredibly scary, but also incredibly exhilarating to be choreographing my own Swan Lake,” Susan says. While the storyline in Susan’s production will remain traditional, the new production coming to the Benedum this May will be her own rendition.

For example, Susan’s critical eye has adjusted Odile’s choreography. “When I was growing up, I saw a lot of Odiles that were just plain mean, and I thought, ‘The prince isn’t that stupid,’” Susan says. “If you’re going to be deceptive, you’re going to be alluring, kind, everything that the prince wants. So, I think that honors that the prince is truly deceived, not just by magic but by intention. I think, in that way, it’s almost more evil.”

Of course, when the prince isn’t looking, Susan says Odile will be glancing an eye at Rothbart, letting the audience in on the trickery happening onstage. “That’s how I interpreted the Black Swan — not as being mean spirited, but as being a siren,” Susan says. “I certainly had a lot of fun with that.”

The ending is another place where Susan has added her personal touch. “There are many endings to Swan Lake,” she says. “Mine is one of tragedy and redemption all at the same time. Because life is a dichotomy.”

Hear Susan discuss the inspiration behind her new choreography and get a peek into rehearsals:

You won’t want to miss your chance to see this new production of Swan Lake, running May 6 – 15, 2022 at the Benedum Center. If you would like to hear Susan speak about her new choreography in a conversation with acclaimed dance historian Elizabeth Kaye, join us for Director’s Cut at 6:30 p.m. on opening night.

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Announcing Casting For Here + Now!

Casting has been announced for Here + Now featuring five incredible pieces from an impressive lineup of internationally acclaimed — and all female — choreographers.

Get your tickets today and be sure to join us for this showcase of excellence in contemporary ballet!

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Casting for Here + Now

Learn about our company dancers and read their bios here.

SKIN + saltwater

Choreography: Staycee Pearl
Music: Original music by Soy Sos

Thursday, March 24 | 7:30 p.m.
Grace Rookstool and Josiah Kauffman
Jonathan Breight
Erin Casale
Sam DerGregorian
Danielle Downey
Christian Garcia Campos
Marisa Grywalski
Joseph Parr
Cooper Verona

Friday, March 25 | 7:30 p.m.
Gabrielle Thurlow and Corey Bourbonniere
Jonathan Breight
Sujanya Dhillon
Madeline Gradle
Jack Hawn
Caitlyn Mendicino
Jacob Miller
Luke Mosher
JoAnna Schmidt

Saturday, March 26 | 2 p.m.
Grace Rookstool and Josiah Kauffman
Jonathan Breight
Erin Casale
Sujanya Dhillon
Sam DerGregorian
Christian Garcia Campos
Danielle Downey
Joseph Parr
Cooper Verona

Saturday, March 26 | 7:30 p.m.
Gabrielle Thurlow and Corey Bourbonniere
Jonathan Breight
Sujanya Dhillon
Madeline Gradle
Jack Hawn
Caitlyn Mendicino
Jacob Miller
Luke Mosher
JoAnna Schmidt

Sunday, March 27 | 2 p.m.
Grace Rookstool and Josiah Kauffman
Jonathan Breight
Erin Casale
Sam DerGregorian
Danielle Downey
Christian Garcia Campos
Marisa Grywalski
Luke Mosher
Cooper Verona

Depuis le Jour

Choreography: Gemma Bond
Music: “Depuis le Jour” from Act III of the French opera Louise by Gustave Charpentier

Thursday, March 24 | 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 26 | 7:30 p.m.
Hannah Carter
Colin McCaslin

Friday, March 25 | 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 27 | 2 p.m.
Alexandra Kochis
Joseph Parr

Saturday, March 26 | 2 p.m.
JoAnna Schmidt
Jonathan Breight

La Pluie

Choreography: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa
Music: Aria from The Goldberg Variation by J.S. Bach BWV 988

Thursday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m.
Jessica McCann
Yoshiaki Nakano

Friday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 26 at 2 p.m.
Marisa Grywalski
Colin McCaslin

Three — 4, 6, 8

Choreography: Helen Pickett
Music: Knee Play No. 1 by Philip Glass

Thursday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 26 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m.
Corey Bourbonniere
Kurtis Sprowls
Josiah Kauffman

Friday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Sam DerGregorian
Jonathan Breight
Masahiro Haneji

Bright progressions

Choreography: Aszure Barton
Music: The Hour of Judgement, Mo’ Wiser, My Queen is Anna Julia Cooper, and To Never Forget the Source by The Sons of Kemet

All Performances
Corey Bourbonniere
Masahiro Haneji
Tommie Kesten
William Moore
Amanda Morgan
Yoshiaki Nakano
Grace Rookstool
Kurtis Sprowls
Victoria Watford
Diana Yohe

Announcing Casting for The Nutcracker

Casting for The Nutcracker has arrived! It’s the most magical time of the year as Marie and her Nutcracker prince journey to the Land of Enchantment encountering the Snow Queen and King, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, and the cast of memorable characters, performed by the talented artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.

View the full cast list here.

The Nutcracker returns to the Benedum Center December 10-29, 2021.

Get Tickets

Explore The Nutcracker

  • Watch: View the trailer here.
  • For Kids: Download The Nutcracker Children’s Guide for a kid-friendly synopsis and games or register for our virtual Dance the Story event on Dec. 9.
  • Synopsis & More: Read the story of the ballet, the history of the music and costumes, and more here. Find even more free virtual programs, videos and in-theater programs here.

Casting for Season Premiere is Announced!

Casting has been announced for our Season Premiere with the PBT Orchestra, featuring four distinct works that capture the essence and evolution of the art form – echoing voices of four internationally-acclaimed choreographers.

Get your tickets today and join us for PBT’s triumphant return to the Benedum!

Get Tickets

Casting for Season Premiere with the PBT Orchestra

Learn about our company dancers and read their bios here.

Petal

Choreography and Concept: Helen Pickett
Music: Philip Glass, Thomas Montgomery Newman

Friday and Saturday, October 22 & 23 – 7:30 p.m.

Jessica McCann, Grace Rookstool, Victoria Watford, Diana Yohe
Corey Bourbonniere, Lucius Kirst, William Moore, Yoshiaki Nakano

Sunday, October 24 – 2 p.m.

Marisa Grywalski, Tommie Kesten, Jessica McCann, Gabrielle Thurlow
Sam DerGregorian, Masahiro Haneji, Josiah Kauffman, Kurtis Sprowls

Grand Pas Classique

Choreography: Victor Gsovsky
Music: Daniel-Francois Auber

Friday and Sunday, October 22 & 24 – 7:30 p.m. & 2 p.m.

Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano

Saturday, October 23 – 7:30pm

Gabrielle Thurlow and Masahiro Haneji

Through the Window

Choreography: Jennifer Archibald
Music: Uno Helmersson, Frans Bak, Tokio Myers, Peter Gregson

Friday and Saturday, October 22 & 23 – 7:30 p.m.

Amanda Morgan, Jessica McCann, JoAnna Schmidt, Victoria Watford, Diana Yohe
Corey Bourbonniere, Masahiro Haneji, Josiah Kauffman, Kurtis Sprowls, Cooper Verona

Sunday, October 24 – 2 p.m.

Erin Casale, Tommie Kesten, Alexandra Kochis, Grace Rookstool, Gabrielle Thurlow
Jonathan Breight, Lucius Kirst, William Moore, Yoshiaki Nakano, Joseph Parr

Diamonds

Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: P. I. Tchaikovsky

Friday and Saturday, October 22 & 23 – 7:30 p.m.
Marisa Grywalski, Lucius Kirst

Sunday, October 24 – 2:00 p.m.
Alexandra Kochis, William Moore

Jessica McCann
JoAnna Schmidt
Gabrielle Thurlow 10/22 & 10/23, Marisa Grywalski 10/24
Diana Yohe
Corey Bourbonniere
Masahiro Haneji
William Moore 10/22 & 23, Lucius Kirst 10/24
Joseph Parr

Erin Casale
Elizabeth Devanney
Christian Garcia Campos
Madeline Gradle
Kara Hunter
Corabelle Kennedy
Tommie Kesten
Caitlyn Mendicino
Amanda Morgan
Grace Rookstool
Victoria Watford
Andres Angel
Nathan Bender
Jonathan Breight
Sam DerGregorian
Jack Hawn
Jesse Joiner
Josiah Kauffman
Jacob Miller
Colin McCaslin
Luke Mosher
Kurtis Sprowls
Cooper Verona

Four Dancers Awarded Apprenticeships to Join Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) Artistic Director Susan Jaffe has awarded paid apprenticeship positions to four young dancers as part of PBT’s new apprenticeship program for the upcoming 2021-2022 Season. Elizabeth Devanney, Sujanya Dhillon, Madeline Gradle and Jacob Patrick Miller will receive access to academic programs through university partnerships along with performance opportunities with the PBT company. Apprenticeship positions have been made possible through a generous gift from Hans and Leslie Fleischner

“We received hundreds of applications from young dancers around the country,” Jaffe said, “and I truly believe these four have exceptional talent. I’m thrilled to have them join our team.”

Devanney, Dhillon and Miller were chosen from among virtual applications. Gradle is a student in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s (PBT School) graduate program.

In addition to attending company class and rehearsals with PBT, apprentices will be able to continue their academic education through partnerships with Seton Hill University, Community College of Allegheny County and Chatham University. Apprentices will be offered the opportunity to take courses toward certifications, like entrepreneurship and exercise science, that can be applied to a degree. 

Apprentices will start their positions with PBT in the 2021-2022 Season. A fifth apprentice will be chosen from among PBT School’s summer program students. 

About the Apprentices

Elizabeth Devanney

Liz Devanney, of Bel Air, Maryland, began her training with Dance Conservatory of Maryland and continued with University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA.) After graduating from high school in 2019, she was invited to join the professional division at Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). She has attended summer programs at Pacific Northwest Ballet, Carolina Ballet, Boston Ballet SDP, School of American Ballet, and Next Generation Ballet. In 2020, she was selected for the Royal Danish Ballet – PNB Exchange Program and was one of 25 young dancers awarded a scholarship from the American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet to support her continued training. Her repertoire includes Kent Stowell’s Cinderella, Ethan Steifel’s The Nutcracker, Susan Jaffe’s Carmina Terra, Helen Pickett’s Petal, Kingdom of the Shade’s from Natalia Makarova’s La Bayadére and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Concerto Barocco and Serenade.

Sujanya Dhillon

Sujanya Dhillon, from Vancouver, Canada, has trained with Goh Ballet Academy, Miami City Ballet School and San Francisco Ballet School and has attended summer programs at all three. She received First Place Scholarships from Coastal Capital Savings and Affinity Dance in 2017, was awarded the Shakti Award for Artistic Achievement in 2019, and received the British Columbia Arts Council Grant in both 2018 and 2020. She also received a Young Artists Relief Fund grant from The American Friends of the Paris Opera & Ballet in 2020, created to support artists during the times of COVID-19. Her repertoire includes excerpts from La Bayadére, Don Quixote and George Balanchine’s Coppélia, as well as Goh Ballet Academy’s Four Seasons, Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker. 

 

Madeline Gradle

Madeline Gradle, of Falls Church, Virginia, joins Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre from the PBT School Graduate Program. She received early dance training with Arlington Center for Dance and The Washington School of Ballet, and attended summer programs with American Ballet Theatre: New York, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell. Madeline danced as an apprentice with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet for four years, expanding her repertoire with George Balanchine’s Chaconne, Stars and Stripes, Tzigane, and Walpurgisnacht, among others. She has performed with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in productions of George Balanchine’s Rubies, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, and Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker. Additionally, Madeline enjoys teaching in the PBT School’s Children and Community Divisions. 

 

Jacob Patrick Miller

Jacob Miller began his ballet training at Northeast Dance Center in Lawrence,Massachusetts. He left home to continue his training at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNSCA) in 2016, where he was awarded the Gillian Murphy Scholarship. After receiving his high school diploma in dance, Miller stayed at UNCSA for college and is currently working toward his BFA in Dance Performance. While at school, Miller worked with many renowned choreographers, such as Goyo Montero, Aszure Barton and Susan Jaffe. He has also performed principal roles in classical and neoclassical ballets, such as Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty and George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. Miller is thrilled to join Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as an apprentice after graduation!

Connecting in New Ways in the Time of COVID-19

Since March 2020, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) School has transformed ballet learning into a virtual experience. Home Zoom classes became the norm for the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and continued into the fall even as studios reopened with limited capacity. During the pandemic, PBT School Instructor Jamie Erin Murphy seized the opportunity in remote learning as a chance to connect PBT School Pre-professional students (ages 13+) to a rich array of local artists and teachers. 

In September 2020, Murphy created the Pittsburgh Connections Class Series, calling on the relationships she forged in her career as a modern, contemporary and jazz instructor for PBT School, accessibility program instructor for PBT’s education department, and freelance artist in the Pittsburgh dance community. Each Saturday, Pre-professional students – who spent most of their week in the studio – were digitally introduced to one of 18 guest teachers and artists, ranging in style from contemporary ballet and jazz to West African, Latin ballroom and Indian Kathak. 

Guest artists slowdanger, a multidisciplinary performance entity co-founded by Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, feel that exposure to diversified styles of dance is vital to the learning experience – especially within a ballet-focused curriculum. 

“Codified dance training focused on Western forms of dance can often view or categorize embodied experiences through a hierarchical lens,” they said. “As we continue to examine how our worlds must be reoriented towards more equitable change, this series provided young dancers with a broad range of moving experiences. This is essential in setting young dancers up for the many possibilities that are currently unfolding within the dance field.” 

Former PBT Principal Julia Erickson talks with students before class through Zoom.

“The breadth and depth of what other dance forms have to offer can be so enriching and expansive to one’s ballet training and to the formation of one’s burgeoning artistic voice,” added Former PBT Principal Julia Erickson. “Even if these students go on to join classical ballet companies, they will absolutely utilize these skills as they dance myriad styles within the scope of a modern day ballet company repertory.”

While learning new ideas and dance styles, students and teachers were also exploring what it meant to be physically apart. Despite the distance, guest artist Gia Cacalano still felt like connections were strong. Cacalano, a movement and visual artist, choreographer, instant composer, educator and performer, presented a unique class exploring a keener sensory awareness using proprioception, interoception and experiential anatomy. 

“It was an honor to connect with the students and be challenged within the ‘limitations’ of our current situation in distance,” Cacalano said. “Our greatest opportunities to invent, evolve, explore and create derive from the challenges and perceived obstacles in which to problem solve.”

Shannon Murphy, a dance artist and educator living in Philadelphia, also used her class to connect the students to their body. Shannon is a certified practitioner of the Franklin Method, a somatic practice that combines Dynamic Neuro-cognitive Imagery™, functional anatomy and movement practices – and she’s Jamie Erin Murphy’s sister. Her class utilized the constraints of learning remotely by focusing on slowing down, noticing bodily sensations and sharing experiences. After a COVID-influenced year, it helped to relieve stress, take a break from the screens and focus inwardly in the moment. 

“A career in dance has surprises and opportunities that change our lives just as much as the disappointments that make us question everything,” Shannon said. “Today’s dancer is a dancer that responds to the stresses of life, that takes care of themselves as much as they care for the dancer next to them, and can still see and feel the magic of dance. I hope that we can reflect on this past year from the future and understand that this did not ruin us but gave us skills to adapt, heal and thrive.”

 “I think it’s important for not only the students to be able to learn from [the guest artists],” Jamie Erin Murphy said, “but also the staff and the organization can learn and grow from these different artists explaining their backgrounds and what we don’t know about what they do and what’s happening in Pittsburgh.”

Photo provided by Naina Green

Guest artist Naina Green, founding director of Courtyard Dancers of Pittsburgh, connected to PBT staff and faculty as well as PBT School students. She shared the history and future of Kathak dance around the world and in Pittsburgh through a virtual lunch and learn hosted by the PBT Equity Project Transformation Team, which strives to discuss and implement Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) practices into the organization.

Katrina Chen, a 16-year-old Level 8 student from San Francisco, recognized the unique opportunity learning from Pittsburgh Connections Class Series guest teachers and artists. 

“Not only does learning from a different dancer enhance one’s personal repertoire,” Chen said, “but learning the deep rooted culture that is embedded within the dance form is a way of honoring and passing down the tradition through dance. I am more intrigued with the sharing of cultural experiences through dance as a way to educate myself on another’s culture. The more we as a community can respect each other’s differences, the more we are able to unite as a society.”

In addition to learning different styles of dance, Murphy hoped the series would bring greater awareness to the dance scene outside of the PBT bubble. PBT School is eager to make the Pittsburgh Connections Class Series a Pre-professional tradition – a milestone for PBT School students in the Student Division to look forward to as they become Pre-professionals. 

The series serves as a connection between students and teachers, staff and artists, and PBT and the community. Guest artists, such as Shanna Simons Dance collaborators Shanna Simons and Brady Sanders, and Michele de la Reza of Attack Theatre, will be part of Open Air: A Series in Celebration of the Performing Arts, a two-week outdoor series featuring more than 20 local performing arts organizations. 

After a year of darkened theaters, supporting Pittsburgh’s performing arts community is more crucial than ever. 

“It is getting the awareness out for our dance community that has struggled in the last year,” Murphy said. “We don’t have performances. If we get more awareness of what is happening with smaller companies or independent artists in the city, that’s huge for the dance community here. That’s one new face in an audience and or watching an online performance.”

Q&A – The Students’ Experience

Why is it important for you as a student to learn from dancers of different voices, styles and cultures?

Taking classes in such a wide selection of styles has the power to develop students’ ballet dancing. Different teachers may have a new way of explaining an idea that didn’t make sense before, make you think about your dancing in a new way, challenge you to really examine your relationship with the space around you. Every Pittsburgh Connections Class I attended, I was amazed at how each teacher brought something new to the table; every class added a new element to my dancing as well as myself as a person.
– Amelia Bandy, PBT School Level 6 student from the Greater Pittsburgh Area


Why do you think this type of learning and networking experience is important for ballet-focused students?

Ballet-focused students are usually very keen on becoming professional ballet dancers specifically. For some, this path is perfect. But, even among the small community of Pre-professional dancers, many will go into companies or performances that are not strictly ballet. It is important for these students to be exposed to other styles and artists in their area that can help expand their interest and artistic palette for non-classical styles. This way the students can start interacting with outside influences early on and enter other artistic communities in their area. They can then take part in educational opportunities and watch performances in other styles that they might end up auditioning for and performing in later in their careers.
– Caterina Baker, PBT School Level 8 student from Rochester, NY


Did you find connections with different dance styles throughout the series that you hadn’t experienced before?

Yes. I have definitely found many styles of dance that I enjoyed very much doing that I had never done before, like commercial jazz/musical theatre, learning how to move my body and help it heal if it’s sore, and improv class. These were some of my favorite classes that we learned, because they all taught me something that really interested me.
– Brady Allen, PBT School Level 8 student from Pleasantville, NY

 

Guest Artists Involved:

Chrisala Brown
Gia Cacalano
Michia Carmack
Kaitlin Dann
Michele de la Reza
Julia Erickson
Naina Green
Madeline Kendall
Kiki Lucas
James Washington Manning
Jamie Erin Murphy
Shannon Murphy
Pearlann Porter
Mario Quinn
Brady Sanders
Shana Simmons
Rozana Sweeney
Anna Thompson/Taylor Knight

The Profound Impact of a PBT School Scholarship

Meet Kaila Lewis!

If you’ve followed Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School on social media over the past year, you’ve witnessed the evolution of dance instruction from studios to screens and back again. Here PBT School’s Children’s Division Coordinator Kaila Lewis talks about her history at PBT and what it’s been like to teach ballet fundamentals virtually.

Q: What ignited your passion for ballet? 

A: My parents enrolled me in ballet classes when I was two years old, because I was not old enough for preschool at the time. I immediately fell in love with it and have fond memories of performing from a young age. 

Q: Even with a mask on, your face is a familiar one at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. How has your journey unfolded here? 

A: I’ve actually been involved with PBT School for almost 23 years, and it all started because of a scholarship. I began as a student in 1998 and started assisting younger classes while training in the Grad program. Every year, I gained more experience which led to more responsibilities. I’ve been a full-time faculty member since 2017. 

Q: What do you teach now?

A: I teach the majority of the Children’s Division classes from Grown-Up and Me through our Pre-Ballet 6 and Ballet Foundations classes. I also teach the Preparatory level and Levels 1, 2 and 3 in the Student Division.  

Q: You must love your job. What’s your favorite part?

A: My favorite part of teaching ballet, especially to the younger dancers is getting to create the magic. Ballet can be so magical, and the early years are so important to be able to put the love for the art form in motion.

Q: This time last year, the faculty and staff at PBT School were faced with major challenges. What was that like?

A:  I started with making videos for all of the levels in March 2020, and by April we started Zoom classes. It was so refreshing to get to see my students’ faces. I think that during an uncertain time, keeping up with their ballet training gave the students a sense of normalcy as well as a movement and creative outlet. It certainly is not easy but I am proud of how the school has kept going and how the students have remained committed.

Q: It must have been so nice to see your students, but that comes at a cost that many can’t afford, especially during times like this. Gratefully, PBT offers donor-funded scholarships to students in Levels 6 and above so that they can continue to pursue their dreams. Why would you encourage someone to contribute to scholarships?

A: Ballet promotes structure, discipline and passion. And while not all of my students will have the same path as me, I believe that it sets children up for success in all areas. It is usually evident during their school years because of how they learn to manage their time between school and ballet. They also tend to do well in school because they have been trained to work hard, accept constructive criticism and be attentive. I think these skills carry with them into college and even into their future careers. From training to performance opportunities, PBT can make a significant impact on a young dancer’s life. 


Last season, PBT was able to offer scholarships to 174 students with demonstrated need. Can our families count on your support so that our students are able to continue exploring their talent this year and for years to come?


Donate Today

Announcing the Cast of PBT’s Fireside Nutcracker!

This year, the magic of PBT’s The Nutcracker is coming to you streaming for the first time ever! See Marie, the Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy and all your favorite Nutcracker characters like never before.

Meet the Cast

Diana Yohe & Joseph Parr as Marie and the Nephew/Nutcracker
Gabrielle Thurlow & William Moore as the Snow Queen and Snow King
Jessica McCann & Yoshiaki Nakano as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier

See complete casting here!

Register to watch PBT’s Fireside Nutcracker at no cost from Dec.17-31 and take a peek behind the scenes of the production with our photo gallery!

Register Now

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Announces Changes to Remainder of 2020-2021 Season

In response to ongoing public health guidance and regulations on indoor assembly, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) will not return to the theater for the remainder of its 2020-2021 Season. Performances impacted by this decision include performances of “Cinderella” with the PBT Orchestra (Feb. 12-14, 2021), BNY Mellon presents “Here + Now” (April 8-11, 2021), “Modern Masters (April 15-18, 2021) and “Alice in Wonderland” (May 7-16, 2021).  

Building on the success of PBT’s inaugural Open Air Series performances in September, the company will present an Open Air Series in Spring 2021 for subscribers and the public. Programming for the spring Open Air Series will include excerpts from “The Sleeping Beauty,” “La Bayadère,” “Le Corsaire” and “Don Quixote,” as well as works choreographed by Helen Pickett, Gina Patterson, Annabelle Ochoa Lopez, Sasha Janes and PBT Artistic Director Susan Jaffe. Exact dates and location are still to be announced. Tickets will be put on sale this spring. 

“Thanks to generous funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and the Jack Buncher Foundation,” PBT Executive Director Harris Ferris said, “PBT successfully piloted the Open Air Series in early September. This new series, structured around a mobile performing arts venue, revived in-person performances and brought the community together to celebrate the arts. PBT partnered with other arts and culture organizations in Pittsburgh to connect with our audiences in new and unique ways. The Open Air Series will reemerge this spring as a festival with more performances and opportunities to experience the arts outdoors.

Ticket Information & FAQ

Subscribers and ticket holders will receive an email from the PBT patron services team outlining several options for their tickets, including the option to retain their ticket money on account to use for Open Air performances or other PBT events in the future. Ticket holders and subscribers may also donate the cost of their tickets to PBT’s Keep Us Dancing appeal or request a refund. 

For frequently asked questions regarding ticket options and subscriptions, click here.

“Fireside Nutcracker” & Upcoming Events

PBT will premier a virtual adaptation of its annual holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker,” on Dec. 17, 2020. “Fireside Nutcracker” brings the magic of the holiday season to homes across the region and beyond. Thanks to generous support from PBT sponsors, the virtual program will be offered at no cost to the public through Dec. 31. PBT’s production of “Fireside Nutcracker” is sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Giant Eagle and Clearview Federal Credit Union. 

The virtual run of “Fireside Nutcracker” will kick off with a special opening night event on Dec. 17, underwritten by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, sponsored by Carol Hefren Tillotson and Steffie Bozic, with additional support from Hefren-Tillotson, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Seton Hill University. 

Throughout the month of December, PBT will also offer more than a dozen “Nutcracker”-themed virtual education programs for $5 each. For more information and to register for access to the film, visit pbt.org/nutcracker.

The mission of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is to be Pittsburgh’s source and ambassador for extraordinary ballet experiences. While traditional performances are a challenge right now, PBT is dedicated to fulfilling that mission and connecting audiences to the art form. The company is currently exploring every avenue to be able to deliver world-class ballet to the region and beyond. PBT is planning an array of in-person events and online programs, including exclusive behind-the-scenes content and educational programming, beginning in the new year. Check pbt.org for the latest updates and offerings.