PBT School’s Spring Performances Blend Old and New

After the curtain comes down on Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2018-19 season, a new one rises to showcase the talented dancers of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School for the School’s annual Pre-professional Showcase and Spring Performance. On May 17-19, PBT School’s Pre-professional students perform in Point Park University’s George Howland White Performance Studio, and from May 24-25, students from the pre-ballet division up share the Byham Theater stage in the culmination of a year’s worth of training.

A stunning production of classical and neoclassical work lies in store, complete with a few new surprises. Audiences can look forward to a diverse repertoire, including choreography from company dancers Yoskiaki Nakano and Jessica McCann, says graduate student Jack Hawn.

“We’re doing Raymonda,” Hawn said, “which is purely classical. And then Yoshi is choreographing his pieces more neoclassical, still with the structure in classical music. And then Jess’ choreography is very contemporary, very experimental movement.”

For the first time, a hip-hop piece, choreographed by PBT faculty Gino Vaccaro, will be including in the Pre-professional Showcase.

“It’s exciting that as the school we get to experience that kind of program.”

Students performing Vaccaro’s hip-hop dance.
Photo: Nicole Sauter

Hawn will be performing the lead role in Raymonda opposite fellow Graduate student Allison Durand, bookending both of their student careers before joining the PBT company in the 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020.

“So much of this year for us is revolved around auditions and stressing about where we are going be next year,” Durand said. “And so I’ve always just been looking forward to the day of the Showcase because I just knew I’m going to know what’s happening next year. I’m going to be able to breathe.”

Allie Durand rehearsing “Divertimento No. 15.” Balanchine choreography © The George Balanchine Trust
Photo: Nicole Sauter

Durand, Hawn and the rest of the Graduate students will be performing in both the Pre-professional Showcase and the Spring Performance. The Spring Performance will feature over 200 students from preparatory ballet through the Graduate Level. Students will get to perform a wide range of choreography, from Balanchine to Petipa and works by PBT School Faculty.

Dancers from the student division – pre-ballet through Level V – will all take the stage together for a tremendous performance of “Carnival of the Animals,” choreographed by Student Division Principal Eun Young Ahn set to the humorous musical suite by famed French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

Brining such diverse choreography and such a wide range of experience to the stage is no easy feat. It’s the mark of hard work of students and faculty that sets the Spring shows apart and makes the Pre-professional Showcase and the Spring Performance possible.

“I hope people make it out to see it,” Hawn said. “It’s a lot of hard work that goes into it for many, many months and there are some really talented people dancing in this show and some really talented choreographers and teachers working on it as well. It will be a real treat.”

See PBT School’s Pre-Professional Showcase May 17-19 at Point Park University and don’t miss the Spring Performance May 24-25 at the Byham Theater.

New Dancer Spotlight: Jack Hawn

Jack Hawn, a PBT School student since 2012, has been recruited by Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr to join the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre company for its 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-2020. He’s no stranger to the PBT stage, however. Jack has performed in company productions of The Sleeping BeautyLe Corsaire, Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Alice in Wonderland and, most recently, The Great Gatsby. He’s also a fixture in PBT School studios, providing piano accompaniment for School classes and writing original music for PBT School ballets. Get to know Jack here:

Fun Facts

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Family: “I have a large extended family, three remarkable younger brothers, an endlessly supportive father and step-mother, and my mother, who passed away years ago, but is always with me.”

Pre-performance ritual: “Before a show, I like to listen to music while getting into makeup and costume. Then, I always try and spend a few quiet moments on stage or in the wings before the music starts to enjoy the anticipation and energy that makes performing so thrilling.”

Hobbies: “When comfortable weather comes around, I like to spend as much time as I can hiking and camping. I also like playing music, trying new styles on different instruments.”

Favorite food: “Anything my grandmother cooks. I grew up next door to my grandparents, which was a very impactful part of my childhood. For me, her food means home.”

Favorite musician/song: “It is very hard to choose just one! However, I’m a big fan of Dave Van Ronk, the enigmatic folksinger who ruled Greenwich Village in the ’60s.”

Ultimate dream role: “I would enjoy taking a stab at playing the antagonist – Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet or Espada in Don Quixote.”

Favorite role to date: “Portraying Lord Montague in Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet is a definite highlight.


How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your time in the PBT School Graduate Program? How has it prepared you for a professional position?

“The Graduate Program has offered me the opportunity to develop a solid technical foundation and an individual artistic voice, while gaining an understanding of the demands of dancing in the corps de ballet.”

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

“I cannot recall an exact moment, just a desire for as long as I can remember.”

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

“I recognize how lucky I am to be in my position. I aim to remember that and enjoy the process and the hard work each day.”

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

“Ballet is hard work and places hurdles often. Overcoming those obstacles and going on stage, where all that work becomes justified, brings me a great sense of satisfaction and joy.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

“I am looking forward to doing what I love, at a company that I love, with friends and colleagues that I love, in a city that I love.”

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

“A musician or composer. I’ve been able to work as an accompanist for ballet classes here at PBT for several years, and was lucky enough to compose original music for two ballets that were performed by PBT School.”

Casting for The Sleeping Beauty Has Arrived

Casting for The Sleeping Beauty has been announced! Three thrilling couples will take on the roles of Princess Aurora and Prince Désiré, and their cast of fairy-tale friends and foes will be performed by the talented dancers of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.

Fri., May 10, 8 p.m. Sat., May 11, 2 p.m. Sat., May 11, 8 p.m. Sun., May 12, 2 p.m.
Princess Aurora Amanda Cochrane Hannah Carter Alexandra Kochis Amanda Cochrane
Prince Désiré Yoshiaki Nakano Alejandro Diaz Luca Sbrizzi Yoshiaki Nakano
Carabosse Eun Young Ahn Corey Bourbonniere Cooper Verona Eun Young Ahn
Lilac Fairy Hannah Carter Marisa Grywalski Marisa Grywalski Hannah Carter

The Sleeping Beauty with the PBT Orchestra runs May 10-12 at the Benedum Center. Get tickets and view the full cast list here.

Explore The Sleeping Beauty

Story Ballets: The Sleeping Beauty

Inspiration for a ballet can come from anywhere, but some of history’s most beloved ballets are inspired by stories. Fairy-tales, classic fables, dramas and tragedies have spurred some of the most magnificent productions, leaping from the page to the stage. Once such classic is The Sleeping Beauty, which will close Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2018-2019 season with the PBT Orchestra.

The story of Sleeping Beauty dates back hundreds of years to an oral history that originated in France in the 1500s, weaving the tale of a princess, cursed into a deep sleep. The fairy-tale we know and love today was published in 1697 as The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood by Charles Perrault, and then famously adapted by the Grimm brothers, omitting the darker elements of the story.

While early versions of The Sleeping Beauty ballet based on Perrault’s text were performed as long ago as the 17th century, it’s the collaborative efforts of director Ivan Vsevolozhsky, choreography Marius Petipa and composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky that modern audiences know best. The trio teamed up in 1890 for a showcase of their collective talents.

In its first iteration, Vsevolozhsky, Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty was roughly four hours long, making it one of the most lengthy story ballets in history. Since then, adjustments were made to reduce the run-time and even further engage audiences. PBT’s first performance of The Sleeping Beauty opened at the Benedum Center in 1979, and 40 years later we bring Princess Aurora and her friends back to the stage once again.

The Sleeping Beauty is a classic story ballet for good reason. It’s a tour de force of Petipa’s classical choreography full of your favorite fairy-tale characters, like Princess Aurora, her prince, the fairies and forest friends. Hear the fullness of Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score played live by the PBT Orchestra and step into the storybook in one of history’s most beloved story ballets.

See the magic in action May 10-12 at the Benedum Center. 

New Dancer Alert: Four New Company Members Signed for 2019-2020 Season

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

PBT School graduate students Allison Durand, of Charleston, South Carolina, and Jack Hawn, of Detroit, Michigan, will both join the company as apprentices for the 2019-2020 Season. Two students of Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Grace Rookstool, of Whidbey Island, Washington and Sam DerGregorian, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, will also join PBT as apprentices.

Durand and Hawn will make their final performances as students in the school’s two year-end performances: Pre-Professional Showcases, May 17-20, at Point Park University, and Spring Performance 2019, May 24-25, at the Byham Theater.

In other roster changes for the 2019-2020 Season, dancers Marisa Grywalski, of Columbus, Ohio, and Corey Bourbonniere of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, were promoted to soloists. 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 Dancers

Sam Dergregorian

Sam DerGregorian is from Albuquerque, New Mexico. He started dancing at age 9 with La Mesa Dance Academy, and at age 16 he was a member of the New Mexico Ballet Company. While at NMBC, he performed in productions including “The Nutcracker” and “The Wizard of Oz.” He attended summer courses at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Ballet Chicago, Miami City Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. He was invited to join the PNBS Professional Division, where he trained for two years. While at PNB he performed with the company, including productions of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” With the school, he performed in productions including original works, Jerome Robbins’ “Fanfare,” “Pinocchio” and “Snow White.”

Allison Durand

Allison Durand, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, has trained in PBT’s Graduate Program and Intensive Summer Programs since 2016. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she studied with Michael and Olga Wise of Robert Ivey Ballet Academy; Charleston County School of the Arts; Amanda Neikirk; and Carroll Thompson. She also attended the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive. She has performed in “Giselle,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Romeo and Juliet,” George Balanchine’s “Rubies,” “The Great Gatsby” and “The Nutcracker” with PBT, and has choreographed numerous works on fellow students during her time in the grad program.

Jack Hawn

Jack Hawn received his early training near his hometown of Detroit, Michigan before joining the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School in 2012. Since then, he has performed in PBT productions such as “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Le Corsaire,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Nutcracker,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Great Gatsby.” Additionally, Jack has composed original music for two PBT School ballets: “Dovetail” and “Gust.”


Grace Rookstool

Grace Rookstool was born and raised on Whidbey Island, Washington. Her love of ballet began watching her older sisters dance at local studios on the island. She joined them at age 3, and began her classical ballet training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle when she was 8 years old. She spent the next eight years in the Student Division and another two years completing the Professional Division Program. She has had the opportunity to dance with the company in many productions, including “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” During her time in the PD Division, she was selected for an exchange program with Dresden Semperoper Ballett where she performed as a guest apprentice in “La Bayadère.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Promotes Two Dancers to Soloist for the 2019-2020 Season

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has promoted two corps de ballet dancers to the rank of soloist for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Season, which runs from October 2019 to May 2020.

Dancers Marisa Grywalski of Columbus, Ohio and Corey Bourbonniere of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, will begin their first mainstage season as soloists this fall with PBT’s 50th Anniversary Season opener “Giselle,” on stage Oct. 25-27 at the Benedum Center.

About PBT’s Newest Soloists

Marisa Grywalski
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Marisa Grywalski joined PBT in 2014 from the PBT School Graduate Program, where she trained for three years. Grywalski also received training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and Houston Ballet Academy. Her repertoire includes Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, La Bayadère, Giselle and Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker, as well as featured roles in Jerome Robbins’ The Concert; William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat, Elevated; and Dwight Rhoden’s Ave Maria. Marisa was named one of Pointe Magazine’s Stars of the Corps in 2015.




Corey Bourbonniere
Corey Bourbonniere, a native of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2012. Before joining the company, Bourbonniere trained with the State Ballet of Rhode Island and Heritage Ballet in Rhode Island, as well as the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Graduate Program. He also attended summer programs at the American Academy of Dance and Texas Ballet Theater. Among his many PBT performances, Corey’s favorites include Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, as well as featured roles as a Stomper in Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room, the Third Sailor in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, Bernardo in Robbins’ West Side Story Suite and Drosselmeyer in Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker.


5 Things To Know About Dance Theatre of Harlem

When Dance Theatre of Harlem teamed up with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for a run of sold-out performances in 2017, audiences called for an encore. DTH returns to Pittsburgh to celebrate diversity, collaboration and education for two weeks of performances and programs. Here are five things you need to know about the past, present and future of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

  • It has its roots in civil rights. Dance Theatre of Harlem was formed in 1968, at the height of the civil rights movement, by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook. The inspiration to start the school, and eventually the company, is said to have been sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dance Theatre of Harlem’s early days were housed in an old garage, doors wide open for passersby to see inside.
  • Co-Founder Arthur Mitchell made history himself. In 1955, he became the first black principal dancer at New York City Ballet. He was the protege of famed choreographer George Balanchine, who created a pas de deux for Mitchell in which he was partnered with a white woman. “This was 1957,” Mitchell told the LA times in 2010, “before civil rights… The skin colors were part of the choreography. He saw what was going to happen in the world and put it on stage.”
  • DTH made sure dance was for everyone… From the very beginning, a founding tennant of Dance Theatre of Harlem was its inclusivity. Opening the school, Mitchell and Shook created a space for dancers of every color and background to express themselves freely. Dress codes were relaxed to encourage students who might feel uncomfortable in traditional ballet school attire to enroll. The result was a lasting impact on the dance world.
  • …and still does. Dance Theatre of Harlem has become a beacon of inclusion, innovation and moving art. The diversity championed by Mitchell and dancer Virginia Johnson – now DTH’s artistic director – built a company on which a cohesive identity was bolstered by the individual energy of each dancer. It’s shattered the idea of the cookie cutter dancer and showcases a diverse company in an art form that was once thought to be for only specific body types.
  • PBT + DTH is back! After an exciting partnership in 2017, Dance Theatre of Harlem returns to Pittsburgh to share the stage with PBT at the August Wilson Cultural Center once again. A cumulative century of dance experience unites these two companies as they perform together in Stanton Welch’s expressive Orange and reach into their respective repertoire for repertory signatures.

Because of Arthur Mitchell’s drive and the continued work of artists like Virginia Johnson, Dance Theatre of Harlem remains a beacon for the ballet world. PBT is thrilled to partner with such a renowned company once again. Join us at the August Wilson Cultural Center from March 15-24 as we celebrate the incredible work, moving art and collaboration of Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Announcing Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Season

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr is proud to announce the company’s 50th Anniversary Season lineup, featuring a mixed-repertory production of Pittsburgh talent at the August Wilson Cultural Center and a celebration of George Balanchine and P.I. Tchaikovsky in honor of PBT’s milestone season.

The five-ballet season runs October 2019 through April 2020 and includes: “Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra;” “The Nutcracker;” “Beauty and the Beast;” “Here & Now” featuring choreography by Kyle Abraham, Dwight Rhoden and artist in residence Staycee Pearl; and “Balanchine & Tchaikovsky” with the PBT Orchestra to celebrate PBT’s landmark 50th Anniversary Season.

PBT will begin its 50th Anniversary Celebration on July 13 with a performance at Chautauqua Institution with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra featuring vignettes of The Sleeping Beauty, set to P.I. Tchaikovsky’s stunning score.

Subscriptions start at $81 and are on sale now at www.pbt.org or 412-454-9107. Season ticket packages feature 20 percent savings over single tickets and a variety of subscriber benefits. Single ticket sales will open Aug. 6, at www.pbt.org or 412-456-6666.



“Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra
Oct. 25-27, 2019 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot | Music: Adolphe Adam

Hope, heartache and betrayal cast their haze on one of the most breathtaking ballets of the Romantic period in “Giselle” with the PBT Orchestra. A village girl is doomed by a lover’s deceit to a ghostly sisterhood of spurned maidens intent on revenge in what Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls a “bewitching and beguiling dance with death.” Audiences will lose themselves among the mist and supernatural beauty of the fascinating scenery, story and score by Adolphe Adam.


“The Nutcracker”
Dec. 6-29, 2019 — Benedum Center
Choreography & Concept: Terrence S. Orr | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

The magic of “The Nutcracker” comes to life on the Benedum Center stage! Beneath the Stahlbaum’s Christmas tree, a battle between the gallant Nutcracker prince and the ruthless Rat King unfolds, ensnaring the young Marie and sending her on an adventure through the Land of Enchantment. Stunning scenes, sparkling snowflakes and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score make “The Nutcracker” Pittsburgh’s favorite holiday tradition.        

PNC Presents “Beauty and the Beast”
Feb. 14-23, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography: Lew Christensen | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

Beauty comes from within. So does the nature of the Beast. See both sides of the story in “Beauty and the Beast.” The classic tale weaves a tender love story between the gnarled trees of the enchanted forest. Audiences are offered a glimpse at unexpected romance, heartbreak and the power of love through striking scenery and stunning neoclassical choreography.


“Here & Now” ft. Kyle Abraham, Staycee Pearl & Dwight Rhoden
March 20-29, 2020 — August Wilson Center
In partnership with the August Wilson Cultural Center
Choreography & Music: Mixed Repertory

This mixed-repertory production brings together three celebrated choreographers to create stunning dance for the here and now in the August Wilson Cultural Center. “The Quiet Dance,” from Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham, captures the feelings of frustration and isolation through sweeping movement, beginning in silence and then carried by the gentleness of Bill Evans’ arrangement of Bernstein’s “Some Other Time.” Staycee Pearl, local choreographer, will create a brand new ballet for the program. And the beloved popular music of Paul Simon sets the stage for Dwight Rhoden’s physical and visceral “Simon Said.”

“Balanchine & Tchaikovsky: A 50th Anniversary Celebration” with the PBT Orchestra
April 17-19, 2020 — Benedum Center
Choreography: George Balanchine | Music: P.I. Tchaikovsky

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s storied history with Balanchine and Tchaikovsky is revived in this mixed-repertory production celebrating two of ballet’s greatest contributors. The music of P.I. Tchaikovsky has provided the backbone for many of George Balanchine’s most exquisite ballets, including the invigorating “Theme and Variations,” the expansive “Allegro Brilliante” and the consummate “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux,” set to the classic music of Swan Lake. This special 50th Anniversary event also features “Diamonds,” the brilliant third movement of Balanchine’s “Jewels.”

The Great Gatsby: Page, Stage and Screen

The Great Gatsby is one of the most well-known, distinguished American novels. Published in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story chronicles a sweltering New York summer through the eyes of Nick Carraway. Nick relates the story of how he was absorbed into the social strata of the wealthy in the roaring 1920s under the wing of Jay Gatsby, his mysterious, extravagant neighbor. Gatsby holds lavish parties to win back the love of his youth. His love and obsession, the married Daisy Buchanan, is the final bridge to build for Gatsby to live the American Dream.

The Great Gatsby is, at its core, a story about reinvention through capitalism, the American Dream and unrequited love. Fitzgerald hides this all under the guise of a decadent tale of love and betrayal. With a story so timeless and characters so mystifying, it’s no wonder the novel has inspired readers for decades.

The delicacies of the story remain an integral part of American popular culture. And nothing shows that more than the various incarnations of the novel since its publication. Gatsby has made his way to the big and small screens, including the 1974 film directed by Jack Clayton starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, and Sam Waterston, and the 2013 Baz Luhrmann adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. Both films brought to life the tension and the righteousness of the 1920s with exquisite visuals and biting energy. A 2000 TV movie also captured the spirit of the novel, with music composition by Emmy nominee Carl Davis, who created the original score for PBT’s newest balletic rendition of the novel.

The Great Gatsby has been incarnated as a ballet for decades. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has performed interpretations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel since the late 1980s, beginning with Andre Prokovsky’s choreography in 1987. This production of The Great Gatsby marked PBT’s first performance in the newly-renovated Benedum Center.

Bruce Wells choreographed a version performed by PBT in 1996, and in 2008, the production was given a reinvigorated style with a new rendition featuring choreography by Lauri Stallings and John McFall. In total, PBT as performed The Great Gatsby four times. Nearly 10 years since the last time audiences accepted their invitation to Gatsby’s soiree, PBT is partnering with Jorden Morris and Carl Davis for a sweeping, cinematic adaptation and a world premiere at the Benedum Center.

Jorden Morris’ fascinating interpretation of The Great Gatsby offers an opportunity to reflect on the ways Gatsby’s story has been told through ballet at PBT and through other companies around the world. The Northern Ballet, California Ballet, Washington Ballet and Hong Kong Ballet have each told the story of Gatsby’s rise and fall, each with a different life and energy unique to the understanding of Fitzgerald’s text.

Jorden Morris’ production of The Great Gatsby comes at a fascinating time. It was 10 years ago that we brought The Great Gatsby back into the limelight, complete with ‘20s flair, flapper dresses and boisterous music. With this latest iteration, the production takes on a completely new verve with lively dance, jazzy tunes and cinematic set pieces. We’re escaping to a time of glamour that veils a desire to live as mysteriously as Gatsby himself. Join us!


See PBT’s brand new production of The Great Gatsby on stage with the PBT Orchestra Feb. 8-17, at the Benedum Center. Get your tickets here.

Mozart in Motion Casting is Here

Mozart in Motion Casting

Casting for Mozart in Motion has arrived! Three stunning, uniquely-different ballets provide the perfect opportunity to see your favorite PBT dancers performing the choreography of two dance legends: George Balachine and Jiří Kylián.

Mozart in Motion with the PBT Orchestra runs Oct. 26 – 28 at the Benedum Center. Get tickets and see the full cast list here.

At Sunday’s performance, principal dancer Julia Erickson will take her final bow with PBT.

Learn more about Divertimento No. 15, Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze.


7 Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancers

Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

From May through July, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers take a well-deserved break from their full-time rehearsal schedule. For many dancers, summer is a time to travel, soak in the sun, guest perform and teach, rest and recuperate. Here, eight PBT dancers share some snaps of what they’ve been up to on and off the stage.

Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Principal Julia Erickson spent several weeks in sunny LA, guest performing with Barak Ballet and posing for stunning dance shots on the side. Photo by: Kat Westerman / Cameras and Dancers


Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Corps de Ballet dancer Jessica McCann and Principal Yoshiaki Nakano traveled to Yoshiaki’s native Japan to guest perform in and choreograph for the World Dream Gala, which featured the couple’s new work The Pulse of Our Heart, set to original music with traditional Japanese drums. Photo by: Shin-style


Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Corps de ballet dancer Jake Unger found time to soak up some sun in his home state of California.


Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Fresh from PBT’s production of Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite, corps de ballet dancer Corey Bourbonniere revisited his role as Bernardo in Francesca Zambello’s production of West Side Story at The Glimmerglass Festival in New York. Photo by: Karli Cadel


Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Corps de ballet dancer Emily Simpson California dreaming at Zuma Beach.


Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
PBT dancers, and newlyweds, Joseph Parr and Diana Yohe made a trip to their home stage of Ohio to guest star as lovers Giselle and Albrecht in City Ballet of Cleveland’s production of Giselle. Photo by: Susan Bestul


Summer Dance Photos from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
…And these honeymooners also took in the mountain majesty of Colorado’s El Dorado State Park.



Pro Tips for a Successful School Year

School-year pointers for the serious ballet student 

From Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School graduate student to company soloist, dancer Gabrielle Thurlow has discovered that hard work and unwavering passion yield high results. As serious ballet students head back to the studio, Thurlow shares her pro tips for maximizing your school year and staying inspired. 

From a PBT School student to a soloist, what skills have you mastered? How have you grown?
Since becoming a soloist, I have learned the importance of grit. I’ve learned that casting should not affect how hard you work. You may not always get the role you hoped, but that does not mean you should give up. There is always going to be someone better than you. But instead of feeling defeated, use that to fuel you. Hard work does pay off, whether that is sooner or later. I’ve always loved ballet class, and I use it every morning to get my body and mind going in the right direction.”  

Looking back on your time as a full-time ballet student, what advice would you give your younger self…or any serious ballet student?
“I would advise a younger student to watch a lot of different dancers. There’s so much you can learn from watching people. You can decide what you like and what you don’t. Try to discover why you like a certain dancer, but maybe not another as much. Then, try to implement what you like on your own technique, while finding a way to make it your own. Remember what you did not find beautiful and try to make sure you don’t form bad habits.”

As a student, what did you do outside of class to maximize your experience?
“As a student, I would seek out lots of corrections, which I still do today. I like to have different people watch my rehearsals because they give different feedback. Also, even if a different person suggests the same thing, they might say it in a different way. It may then “click” better with me. If no one is available to me, I will sometimes record myself. This can often be difficult to watch, as I am usually my own worst critic, but it does help me see things to try to improve.” 

How do you increase your flexibility and strength now as a professional?
“I do a lot of Pilates and cardio work, which I still find very useful today. Pilates works the deep intrinsic muscles in our bodies, which are so important for ballet. It stretches and strengthens at the same time.  It also works your alignment, which I believe helps avoid injuries. Cardio is good for building and maintaining stamina, which is important for various repertoire.”

What were your goals and challenges as a student? What are they now?
“My goal as a student was to become a professional in a ballet company. I was fortunate enough to get hired at PBT.  Now my goal is to continue to improve my artistry and technique. This is a constant battle, because there is always room to grow.  With new roles come new challenges and different steps to work on. I am less comfortable in adagio, so I often find myself working on stability and control.”

As a student, what motivated or inspired you during the school year?
“As a student, the allure of company life was my motivation. I love the art form so much that the thought of making it my career was so inspiring. Getting to that point was a lot of work. I danced full-time as a student and spent my evenings working as a server in a restaurant. However, I never thought of giving up because I had so much passion for it.”  

When you’ve had a tough day, mentally or physically, how do you bounce back?
“Although I do love ballet, it can often be challenging, both physically and mentally. After a particularly tough day, I try to get out of my head and leave the studio behind. I find it helpful to take a long walk with my dog and talk things out with someone I’m close with. For me, it’s important to have someone that supports me, and I’m grateful to have several of those people in my life.” 

What are your dance bag essentials?
 “Toe spacers (corn prevention!), water bottle, snacks, leg warmers and extra pointe shoes.” 

New Dancer Spotlight: Jonathan Breight

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer Jonathan Breight

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr recruited Pittsburgh native Jonathan Breight from PBT School’s Pre-professional Division where he’s trained since 2013 — first as a full-time high school student and then as a Graduate student. Breight also has participated in PBT School’s Intensive Summer Program and in Point Park University’s International Summer Dance Program. Breight has performed in PBT productions of West Side Story Suite, PBT: New Works, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Alice in Wonderland, Giselle and Beauty and The Beast. He also teaches pre-ballet classes for PBT School’s Children’s Division and assists PBT’s education department with adaptive dance classes for students with special needs. Get to know Jonathan here:

Fun Facts

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Forest Hills

Family: “My Father, Rev. Ronald M. Breight, or “The Good Reverend” as we like to call him, is the Pastor of Christ Lutheran Forest Hills. My Mother, Linda Breight, is a teacher assistant at The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. I have one older and two younger brothers: Miguel, David and Timothy. My older brother, Miguel, is a specialist in the U.S. Army. David attends The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and enjoys competing in the Special Olympics. My youngest brother, Timothy, attends Woodland Hills and loves fishing with Dad…Our dog Bailey adds to the excitement of the house.”

Pre-performance ritual: “Chapstick. Aquaphor: it’s my must-have.”

Hobbies: “I play the hand bells, teach for PBT school, used to perform in Woodland Hills musicals, and can sign ASL.”

Favorite food: “My favorite food is spaghetti with Alfredo sauce and garlic shrimp.”

Favorite musician/song: “It depends on the day… but today I would say anything Phantom of the Opera! Yesterday I would have said Barrette Sisters, but tomorrow might be Rhianna.”

Ultimate dream role: “Performing in William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite.”

Favorite role to date: “King of Hearts in PBT’s Alice in Wonderland.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer Jonathan BreightQ&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your time in the PBT School Graduate Program? How has it prepared you for a professional position?

“I have grown as an artist during my time in the Grad program by setting and working toward three goals: a personal daily goal, a monthly goal and a year-long goal. While I will continue goal setting, the transition from student to company member will be a large step, because you no longer have a safety net of student learning. You’re held to higher expectations, and the criteria of hard work and dedication is a standard. However, the work ethic and passion to push toward greater learning never stops, only changes, shaped by what we choose to see. The day you lose your pursuit of growing is the day you should stop dancing.”

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

“I was a musical theater and marching band geek who could sing and act, but one of my teachers at the time said I needed to be a triple threat if I wanted to “make it in this business.” I used to hate ballet; in fact I skipped my ballet classes during the summer of 2012 at Point Park. It wasn’t until I came to PBT and found a passion for ballet that I became serious and knew I wanted to pursue this career.”

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

“I would love the opportunity to learn Divertimento No.15. There is a beauty to George Balanchine’s works because of how purely they are preserved through the Balanchine Trust. As a new dancer, you are told to push toward becoming something different, a “standout,” in order to achieve success. However, working within the preservation of the Trust, you learn to give everything you have within the boundaries of Balanchine’s vision. My goal then becomes finding this balance.”

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

“For me there are two parts – personal and professional. Personally, I love dance: classical ballet, neoclassical, contemporary, modern, etc. I love ballet; I love pushing the limits of each style every day and building off of what has been accomplished the day before. Professionally, as a teacher in PBT School, I often hear the kids talking about the company members they idolize and look up to.  I aim to follow those I grew up aspiring to be, pass on the values and work ethic I was given the chance to emulate, and to help guide our younger students towards their own goals and aspirations, as not only young dancers, but the young people they will become. Our Children’s Division Ccoordinator, Kaila Lewis, continues to be my role model in transitioning into the person and teacher I want to become.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

“Everyone is going to tease me for this, but I want to say The Nutcracker. There is a real beauty in becoming not only versatile in learning so many different and unique roles, but also in having so many performances as opportunities to grow. The repetition of performing The Nutcracker year after year offers a unique potential, allowing room for artist development in building the different facets of each character.”

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

“If I had not pursued a ballet career, I would have pursued something in the math and sciences. I enjoyed the precision of mathematical calculations and the pursuit of knowledge expansion.”

New Dancer Spotlight: Yu Chieh Chao

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer Yu-Chieh Chao

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr recruited Yu-Chieh Chao, of Pintung City, Taiwan, from PBT School’s Pre-professional Division where he’s trained since 2015. Prior to PBT School, Yu-Chieh trained with the Taipei National University of Arts. He has performed in PBT productions of The Nutcracker, PBT: New Works and West Side Story Suite and in PBT School performances of Etudes and the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty. Get to know Yu-Chieh here: 

Fun Facts

Hometown: Pingtung City, Taiwan

Family: I lived with my parents, my sister, and my grandma at home in Taiwan. I am the only person who dances in the family.

Pre-performance ritual: Taking a deep breath.

Hobbies: Swimming and biking

Favorite food: Chocolate and fruit in general

Favorite musician: Lana Del Rey

Ultimate dream role: Des Grieux from Manon or Albrecht from Giselle

Favorite role to date: Bluebird from The Sleeping Beauty

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer Yu-Chieh Chao
Yu-Chieh (second from right) performs alongside PBT company dancers in JoAnna Schmidt’s Lightworks, part of PBT’s March PBT: Premieres program at the August Wilson Center.


How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your time in the PBT School Pre-professional Division? 

“I think I have grown as an artist during my years in PBT School by learning from my teachers. The schedule and the training really helped me to build my technique and prepare to be a professional ballet dancer.”

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

“I think it was the first time I saw a ballet video that was one of my favorite dancers, David Hallberg doing the prince in The Sleeping Beauty. All the movement that he did was so powerful and elegant. It made me want to be a dancer as good as him.”

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

“I hope I can become more comfortable performing on stage. For me, I still get nervous when I’m dancing in front of people, and I hope I can get better by getting even more opportunity.”

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

“For me, the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer is I get to do the thing I love every day and it be my career.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

Mozart in Motion is what I most looking forward to do next season.”

5 Ways to Maximize Your Ballet Under the Stars Experience

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Ballet Under the Stars sets the stage for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2018-2019 Season with a free, al fresco performance on Sun., Aug. 19, at beautiful Hartwood Acres park. Here are 5 ways to maximize your Ballet Under the Stars experience.

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Early birds have the most fun. Soak up some fun in the sun before kicking back for Ballet Under the Stars. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. with food trucks and free family fun, including craft and dance activities, photo ops with costumed dancers, a ballerina dress-up station and more!  Plus, spread your blanket, set up your chairs and claim a prime performance spot!

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Eat dinner with the dancers. Mingle with artists before the show at our pre-show Picnic in the Park! Head to the VIP tent for wine and dinner by DiAnoia’s Eatery, voted one of Pittsburgh’s best new restaurants by Pittsburgh Magazine. Tickets, which cost $60 for adults and $20 for kids, benefit repertory, scholarships and community education programs.

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Or, pack your own picnic. Whether it’s wine and cheese or a full supper spread, Hartwood Acres is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic with your performance experience. If you prefer to travel light, visit one of Hartwood Acre’s featured food trucks and bring a bite back to your blanket.

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Don’t be afraid to dance along. Sit back, relax and let the music move you. The combination of fresh air, open sky and inspiring art never fails to bring audience members to their feet – or get them swaying in their seats!

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Plan your next ballet experience. Get a look at the main-stage lineup for PBT’s 2018-2019 Season, which features classic stories and exciting contemporary masterworks. Then, check your program for your exclusive Ballet Under the Stars promo code, and save 30% on any 2018-2019 Season ballet!


Find more Ballet Under the Stars details here!