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!

 

New Dancer Spotlight: Caitlyn Mendicino

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr recruited Pittsburgh native Caitlyn Mendicino from PBT School’s Graduate Program, where she’s trained since 2016. She began ballet classes at PBT at age 4 and continued her training in Pittsburgh with Nicolas Petrov, PBT’s founding artistic director, and Mansur Kamelatdinov in 2007. She continued at the Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh and went on to graduate from North Carolina School of the Arts. She danced as an apprentice with Charlotte Ballet for two years before joining the PBT School Graduate Program. She also has completed summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Austin and Boston Ballet among others. Mendicino has performed in PBT productions of Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Dracula, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and Giselle. Her repertoire also includes The Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, and Balanchine’s Valse Fantasie and The Four Temperaments. Get to know Caitlyn here. 

Fun Facts

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Tell us a little bit about your family: “My parents relocated not too long ago to Ohio, where my dad is a foot and ankle surgeon (very lucky for me). I have one older brother who will be starting his first year of law school in the fall. Besides that, my extended family still lives in Pittsburgh, and they are the best support system anyone could ask for.”

Pre-performance ritual: “If I am able to see into the audience before the show or during it, I always look for my dad. He is easy to spot with his grey hair. Seeing him and family in the audience gives me confidence and calms me down if I’m nervous.”

Hobbies outside dance: “I love photography, crocheting and baking (I make pretty good French Macarons).”

Favorite food: “Either my family’s homemade spaghetti sauce with cavatelli or popcorn.”

Favorite musician/song right now: “Fleetwood Mac is my favorite musical group, but my favorite song would be Norwegian Wood by the Beatles.”

Ultimate dream role: “Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.”

Favorite role to date: “Principal in first movement of George Balanchine’s Western Symphony.”

Six-question Q&A

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

“I think the graduate program has helped me become stronger not only in my ballet technique but also in my performance quality. I have had the opportunity to perform with the company a lot as a grad, which has enabled me to pick up choreography quickly and work on my stage presence. Having the opportunity to work with these professionals has helped me mature as a person, get out of my comfort zone as a dancer, and grow as an artist.”

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

“There is one moment that I would describe as my epiphany. My last year at Charlotte Ballet I was performing The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux in the pre-professional showcase. Patricia McBride coached me on this role, teaching me the importance of giving your entire self when you dance as well as dancing from your heart. In that performance of The Sleeping Beauty I felt what she had taught me. It was such a wonderful experience and reassured me that ballet is what I wanted to do professionally.”

 

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

“I want to work on my stage presence and artistry as a dancer. Those are two things that any dancer can always improve upon and grow throughout their entire careers.”

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

“I would say that the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer is the ability to inspire other people through my dancing. I know that when I was little, going to performances of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre inspired me to become a ballet dancer. I love that I could possibly inspire someone like 4-year-old me to pursue their dreams.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

“I’m definitely excited for Mozart in Motion, but I am also looking forward to The Sleeping Beauty because it is my favorite classical ballet.”

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

“I think I would be in the medical field, either a nurse or a doctor. I would want to do something that helps people and being in medicine would definitely accomplish this.”

3 Reasons Summer Intensives Are Invaluable

Just when the academic school year winds down, the summer intensive season gears up for serious ballet students.

From late June to mid July, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s annual Intensive Summer Program (ISP) packs over 180 hours of concentrated technique and repertoire classes into five weeks that are as inspirational as they are intensive.

There’s are many reasons over 200 students swap a month of summer relaxation for an Intensive Summer Program spot at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Here are just three ways summer intensives help students become better dancers:

Build momentum.
With school out for the summer, ISP provides a focused environment to concentrate solely on your dancing. You’ve worked hard all year to hone your technique, expand your flexibility and build strength. Summer intensives help you avoid backsliding and start the next academic year at an advantage. In addition to dance classes, ISP integrates Pilates mat classes and access to reformer training and other cross training equipment. Over five immersive weeks at PBT School, you can grow by leaps and bounds as you zoom in on the details that lift your dancing to the next level.

Expose yourself to new faculty and feedback.

In addition to PBT School’s respected roster of faculty members, ISP offers the opportunity to work closely with Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and Ballet Mistress Marianna Tcherkassky — both of whom are American Ballet Theatre alums — and guest instructors from other prestigious companies. Students benefit from exposure to different teaching styles, fresh feedback and a wealth of perspectives and experiences from expert instructors with diverse backgrounds.

Meet and mingle with other dancers.

With five weeks away from home, it’s a chance to break out of your comfort zone and network with fellow dancers who share your passion for your career path. Find new friends and fresh inspiration by swapping insights with talented dancers from across the country and around the world. You never know when you’ll next cross paths in the increasingly connected dance world.

Learn more about Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s annual Intensive Summer Program here. For updates on annual audition dates, which run from January through February, sign up for PBT School email updates here.

New Dancer Spotlight: Colin McCaslin

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer - Colin McCaslinArtistic Director Terrence S. Orr recruited Colin McCaslin, of Vineland, New Jersey, from PBT School’s full-time high school program, where he trained for two years. Before joining PBT School, McCaslin trained with the Atlantic City Ballet School under Phyllis Papa and in Miami City Ballet School’s summer intensive. He has performed with PBT in The Nutcracker and West Side Story Suite and with Atlantic City Ballet in Carmen and Swan Lake. His repertoire also includes excerpts from Giselle, La Sylphide, The Sleeping Beauty, Don QuixotePaquita and Western Symphony. Get to know Colin here.

 

Fun Facts

Hometown: Vineland, NJ

Family: “I come from a family of 13, two of whom were adopted from China. My parents are pretty much the most selfless people you’d ever meet; they’ve always done their best to make sure I could do what I loved.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I usually just listen to music and prepare myself mentally.”

Hobbies: “I don’t really have too many hobbies, but hanging out with the people I love and a good cup of coffee are two of my favorite things.”

Favorite food: “Salmon (if done well), but I also love pizza, sausage and sushi.”

Favorite musician: Paul McCartney

Ultimate dream role: Basilio in Don Quixote

Favorite role to date: “I had a lot of fun performing the first movement of Western Symphony, but I also loved performing Paquita (in PBT School’s Pre-professional Showcases 2018).

Six-question Q&A

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancer - Colin McCaslinHow do you think you’ve grown during your time in the PBT School Pre-professional Division? How has it prepared you for a professional ballet career?

“I feel that I’ve established a strong foundation as well as been given many challenging opportunities from which I can continue to learn and grow. I think in a lot of ways the many rehearsals throughout the day are not unlike that of a company schedule. The dynamic of the Pre-professional Division really does a great job of preparing dancers for a professional career. I feel I’ve become a lot stronger and more confident having been given so many incredible opportunities.”

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

“I never really had one moment, but every time I go on stage I’m reminded of why and how much I love this art form.”

 

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

“Just to keep on working; everything can always be better.”

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

“I think the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer is bowing after a good performance, knowing that you gave it your all.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

“I’m definitely looking forward to The Great Gatsby.”

If I weren’t a ballet dancer…”I think I’d be an attorney.”

New Dancer Alert: Four New Company Members Signed for 2018-2019 Season

See all four dancers on stage this weekend in Spring Performance 2018, their final performance with PBT School! Snag seats here.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has signed four more dancers to the company roster for the 2018-2019 Season, which opens Oct. 26-28, with Mozart in Motion with the PBT Orchestra.

Orr recruited the following dancers from PBT School’s Pre-professional Division: Jonathan Breight, of Pittsburgh; Colin McCaslin of Vineland, New Jersey; Yu-Chieh Chao of Pingtung, Taiwan; and Caitlyn Mendicino of Pittsburgh. All four dancers will join the company as apprentices.

Earlier this season, Orr announced the hire of PBT School graduate students Christian García Campos, of Puebla, Mexico, and Tommie Kesten, of Pittsburgh, who also will join the company as apprentices for the 2018-2019 Season.

In total, Orr has hired six dancers from PBT School’s Pre-professional Division this year.

“The Pre-professional Division is where dancers begin making the transition from student to professional. At this stage, dancers are honing their performance skills, cultivating their individuality as artists and testing their technique in company repertoire,” Orr said. “It has been a pleasure to work closely with these dancers. They’ve stood out on stage in both student and professional performances, and they’ve proven their passion, not only for their art but for this company.”

PBT School’s Pre-professional Division prepares students for professional ballet careers with an intensive training schedule, extensive performance opportunities and high-quality repertoire. The program also serves as a powerful cultivation and recruiting tool for PBT’s company roster: More than half of PBT’s professional dancers are PBT School alumni.

The four new dancers, along with García Campos and Kesten, will make their final performance as students in the school’s Spring Performance 2018, May 25-26, at the Byham Theater.

Later, they’ll make their professional debuts at PBT’s free Ballet Under the Stars performance at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, at Hartwood Acres, followed by Mozart in Motion, the company’s main-stage season opener, Oct. 26-28, at the Benedum Center.

About the New Dancers

Jonathan Breight

Pittsburgh native Jonathan Breight has trained in PBT School’s Pre-professional Division 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. He will perform in excerpts from George Balanchine’s “Western Symphony” and in PBT Principal dancer Yoshiaki Nakano’s “The Symphony” among other works at PBT School’s Spring Performance 2018.

Yu-Chieh Chao

A native of Pingtung, Taiwan, Chao has trained in PBT School’s Pre-professional Division as a full-time high school student since 2015. Prior to PBT School, he trained with the Taipei National University of Arts. Chao 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.” He will perform in “Graduation Ball” and excerpts from “Western Symphony” among other works at PBT School’s Spring Performance 2018.

 

Colin McCaslin

Colin McCaslin, of Vineland, New Jersey, has trained for two year’s in PBT School’s Pre-professional Division as a member of the full-time high school program. Before joining PBT School, McCaslin trained with the Atlantic City Ballet School under Phyllis Papa and in Miami City Ballet School’s summer intensive. He has performed with PBT in “The Nutcracker” and “West Side Story Suite” and with Atlantic City Ballet in “Carmen” and “Swan Lake.” His repertoire also includes excerpts from “Giselle,” “La Sylphide,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and “Don Quixote.” McCaslin will perform in “Graduation Ball” as well as excerpts from “Paquita” and “Western Symphony” at PBT School’s Spring Performance 2018.


Caitlyn Mendicino

Pittsburgh native Caitlyn Mendicino has trained in PBT School’s Graduate Program since 2016. She began ballet classes at PBT at age 4 and continued her training in Pittsburgh with Nicolas Petrov, PBT’s founding artistic director, and Mansur Kamelatdinov in 2007. She continued at the Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh and went on to graduate from North Carolina School of the Arts. She danced as an apprentice with Charlotte Ballet for two years before joining the PBT School Graduate Program. She also has completed summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Austin and Boston Ballet among others. Mendicino has performed in PBT productions of “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” “Dracula,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Giselle.” Her repertoire also includes “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Le Corsaire,” and Balanchine’s “Valse Fantasie” and “The Four Temperaments.” Mendicino will perform in excerpts from “Swan Lake” and “Western Symphony” at PBT School’s Spring Performance 2018.

Learn about fellow PBT School graduates and incoming company dancers, Christian García  Campos and Tommie Kesten, here.

Photo Gallery: From Ballet Students to Stars

See the next generation of professional dancers, including newly hired company members Christian García Campos and Tommie Kesten, on stage this month in PBT School’s Pre-professional Showcases and Spring Performance 2018.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Pre-professional Division is a training ground for the next generation of aspiring dancers. According to Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr, “The Pre-professional Division is where dancers begin making the transition from student to professional. At this stage, dancers are honing their performance skills, cultivating their individuality as artists and testing their technique in company repertoire.” PBT’s company roster is a testament to this — Orr has recruited more than half of its dancers from the Pre-professional Division. Here, get an exclusive look at our stars while they were still students:

 

Your Guide to PBT School’s Spring Performances

Emerging talents of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School will take the stage for two May productions in downtown Pittsburgh, showcasing student dancers from the beginning of their training journey to the cusp of their professional stage careers. Here’s who and what you can expect to see.

Pre-Professional Showcases

When: May 18-20
Where: Point Park University, George Rowland White Performance Studio, 201 Wood Street
Who: PBT School pre-professional students
What: Did you know that more than half of PBT’s company roster were recruited from PBT School’s Pre-professional Division? At these special showcases, you can scout emerging talent and get the first look at newly signed company dancers Tommie Kesten and Christian García Campos. Plus, guess who might be joining the company next (hint: exciting news coming later this week). See aspiring professional dancers perform new works choreographed by PBT School faculty members and PBT Principal dancer Yoshiaki Nakano, along with David Lichine’s one-act Graduation Ball, excerpts from George Balanchine’s Western Symphony and Paquita with choreography after Marius Petipa.
Tickets: $25 at www.pbt.org or 412-454-9107

GET TICKETS

Spring Performance 2018

When: May 25-26
Where: Byham Theater, 101 6th St.
Who: 200+ students of PBT School’s Student and Pre-professional Divisions
What: Experience classical and contemporary works performed by budding ballet dancers to polished pre-professionals. In addition to the Pre-professional Showcase works above, see the training journey come full circle as students in Preparatory Ballet through the Graduate Program take the stage together in a work conceived by PBT School faculty members and inspired by the classical ballet Coppélia.
Tickets: $26-36 at www.pbt.org or 412-456-6666

GET TICKETS

New Dancer Spotlight: Christian García Campos

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer - Christian Garcia CamposArtistic Terrence S. Orr recruited Christian García Campos, of Puebla, Mexico, to the company from the PBT School Graduate Program, where she has trained since 2014 — first as a full-time high school student and then as a Graduate student. She’ll make her official company debut at PBT’s Aug. 19, Ballet Under the Stars performance at Hartwood Acres, followed by the company’s main-stage season opener Mozart in Motion in October. Get to know Christian here.

Fun Facts

Tell us about your…

Hometown: Puebla, Pue., México

Family: “With two surgeons as parents, both my sister and I decided dance was our path. She has a dance studio back home.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I try to relax myself with music, but I definitely cross myself before entering the stage.”

Hobbies: Playing the piano, drawing and writing

Favorite food: Tacos and sushi

Favorite song: “No no no” by Beirut

Ultimate dream role: Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) or Nikiya (La Bayadère)

Favorite role to date: A bride in PBT’s production of Dracula 

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancer - Christian Garcia CamposQ&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your time in the PBT School Graduate Program?
“I believe that I have matured my dancing, trying to pay more attention to the small but meaningful details, which make the difference. I also think I’ve worked on trying to throw myself out there without worrying about the outcome. That usually does the trick, which hopefully will help throughout next year.”

Describe your ballet “epiphany” – the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do professionally.
“I don’t think there was an exact moment, but I remember that when I was younger in my home studio, I would love going to rehearsals. My fun on Fridays and Saturdays wouldn’t be about parties, it would be about going to do what I loved the most. Some people wouldn’t understand it, but that’s how I knew I wanted to keep doing this for however long I could.”

What are some of your personal goals for your first season as a company dancer?
“I want to grow as a teammate. I believe the experience that you get as a student might be different from the one you get as a professional dancer with your coworkers. I also want to expand myself and be brave in doing things I’m not used to doing, to not stay in a comfort zone, not to focus too much on certain things so I don’t forget to loosen up a bit.”

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer? 
“There’s just so much to it. It’s like entering a whole new world that not everybody gets to experience. To be backstage, to witness how magic gets done before a show, and of course being on stage. It’s like escaping reality for a little bit. The lights, the costumes and makeup, how the music completely wraps up my entire focus. I live for those tiny moments that happen in which I indulge completely in the moment, and I couldn’t be more satisfied than that.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?
“Definitely Mozart in Motion; it’s not every day that you get to dance something a little less classical and what better than (these works by George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián). Also I’m very curious about The Great Gatsby. ”

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…
“A marine biologist. The ocean mesmerizes me and I love animals way too much (haha). It’s always been sort of a dream to work with dolphins.”

New Dancer Spotlight: Get to Know Tommie Kesten

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancer - Tommie Kesten

Artistic Terrence S. Orr recruited Pittsburgh native Tommie Kesten to the company from the PBT School Graduate Program, where she gained main-stage experience in PBT productions of The NutcrackerSwan Lake, PBT: New Works and West Side Story Suite.  She’ll make her official company debut at PBT’s Aug. 19, Ballet Under the Stars performance at Hartwood Acres, followed by the company’s main-stage season opener Mozart in Motion in October.  Get to know Tommie here.

 

 Fun Facts

Tell us about your…

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Family: “I am named after my oldest brother Tommy, who passed away before I was born. My other brother, Ty, passed away in 2016 while racing his dirt bike. He was only 17 and I was 15. My parents and I started a foundation to honor his life, 1sixfoundation.org. It brings a lot of comfort to make amazing donations in his name. Whenever I am on stage I am always performing for my big brothers in heaven.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I have been dancing since I was 2 years old. My mom would always say “Piece of cake” before I would walk on stage and I would say “Piece of pie” back to her. It just kind of became a ritual and we have stuck to it.”

Hobbies outside dance: “I enjoy riding my bike on trails and finding cute little coffee shops on Sunday mornings. I love playing with my bulldogs and realizing how precious life is; I love family time.”

Favorite food: “I’m kind of addicted to pretty much anything on the menu at DiAnoia’s and I am obsessed with cupcakes.”

Favorite musician right now: Bruno Mars

Ultimate dream role: George Balanchine’s Jewels

Favorite role to date: Western Symphony, (which I performed in PBT School’s Pre-professional Showcases), is my favorite role so far. It has challenged me in so many ways and I had fun in every rehearsal.”

Six-question Q&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your time in the PBT School Graduate Program?
“I feel I have grown as an artist during my first year at PBT as a grad student because PBT has given me so many performance opportunities. I have performed at PBT more in this one year than I have at any other program I have attended in the past. Also, the opportunities I’ve had to dance and perform with the company this year have been a great learning experience. Especially when I got to perform in Jessica McCann’s the silver line (in the March PBT: New Works program). I was alongside many principal and soloist dancers, so it was amazing to learn and dance so closely with them in a small setting. This is what I feel has prepared me most for a professional position.”

Describe your ballet “epiphany” – the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do professionally.
“I would describe my ballet “epiphany” as having a really special teacher, Mr. Piper, come into my life at the right time. His method of teaching made me fall in love with ballet. I became more and more interested every day and just knew that I was meant to pursue this amazing art form. When I started this year at PBT, I just felt it was the perfect place for me. It has been a dream to dance with this company since I was a little kid because I would always come to the shows growing up and wanted to see myself on that stage one day making my dreams come true.”

What are some of your personal goals for your first season as a company dancer?
“Some of my personal goals for my first season as a company dancer would be to keep improving my technique and learn as much as I can from the dancers around me. (PBT Principal) Hannah Carter and (corps de ballet dancer) Jessica McCann have been so helpful already by letting me pick their brains and ask them questions about what to expect my first year. Also, when my partner and I were rehearsing Sugar Plum (pas de deux) on our own, (PBT Principal) Alejandro Diaz would just be walking by and he would always come in and give us tips on how to improve our dancing together. I am very thankful for their help and how warm and welcoming everyone has been.”

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer? 
“I would say the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer is working as hard as I can every day, to the point of exhaustion, and being able to go to bed every night feeling like I gave it all I’ve got. Being able to set a goal for myself and finally reaching that goal is one of the most fulfilling things to me. For me, it always has been and always will be about the personal growth.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?
“I am most looking forward to dancing The Great Gatsby and Mozart in Motion (featuring works by George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián) next season!”

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…
“Although I can’t imagine my life without ballet, I would have to say if I weren’t a ballet dancer I would be a contemporary dancer since that is what I grew up doing.”

Alexandre Silva to Make Final Bow of 12-year Career

This weekend, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s final performance of UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free will celebrate the final bow of a very special artist.

Soloist Alexandre Silva will retire from his 12-season career with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre following the company’s season finale production, dancing Jerome Robbins’ In The Night opposite his long-time partner Julia Erickson.

Alexandre Silva - Final Bow - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Julia Erickson and Alexandre Silva in Jerome Robbins’ In The Night

“Alexandre is a very special artist. He has wonderful technique and brings a pathos to his dancing that resounds beyond the stage and into the audience. He’s taken on so many roles for us — even beyond dancing. He helps his colleagues in rehearsals, in class and has made so many meaningful contributions to PBT as an organization. We will miss him greatly,” said Terrence S. Orr, PBT artistic director.

Silva, a native of Brazil, joined PBT in 2006 after performing professionally with Sesi Minas and later with Utah Regional Ballet in the United States.

Fans will remember Silva for his rich technique and artistic interpretation and the regal bearing he brought to roles including Albrecht and Hilarion in Giselle, Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake and Drosselmeyer and Sugar Plum Cavalier in The Nutcracker.

Alexandre Silva - Final Bow - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Alexandre Silva and Julia Erickson in Swan Lake

Principal dancer Julia Erickson, his frequent partner over more than a decade, had the opportunity to dance opposite him in many of these iconic ballets.

“He really is one of the kindest souls that I know. He knows who is and has such a subtle sense of confidence. He’s such a caring partner and a breath of calmness that’s really wonderful to have around. He’s served so many amazing roles in the company. He’s got this really great instinct and versatility to his artistry. I always know he’s there for me and I’m going to miss our partnership a lot. It’s meant so much to me,” Erickson said.

For many seasons, Silva also had the opportunity to dance opposite his wife, former PBT principal dancer Christine Schwaner, who now serves as a faculty member for PBT School.

Alexandre Silva - Final Bow - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Alexandre Silva and his wife, Christine Schwaner, in Giselle

Following their 2012 performance of the lead roles in the romantic ballet Giselle, Jane Vranish of the Post-Gazette wrote, “{Silva} was the perfect Albrecht, certainly one of the most coveted dramatic roles in the ballet repertory, and the perfect partner — a handsome lover who rued his actions. He also supplied a smooth muscular technique, with a series of double cabrioles and swooping backbend that drew gasps…This couple was genuine, and they drew the audience into their story with an emotional attachment. It was real. It was honest. It was a privilege to watch them.”

Just as it has been a privilege to watch Alexandre on stage for over a decade.

Join us in celebrating Alexandre’s career — and his final bow — at our 3 p.m. Sunday, May 6, performance of UPMC West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free at the Benedum Center.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Signs Two New Dancers for 2018-2019 Season

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancers

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has signed two new dancers to the company roster for the 2018-2019 Season, which opens Oct. 26-28, with Mozart in Motion with the PBT Orchestra.

PBT School graduate students Christian García Campos, of Puebla, Mexico, and Tommie Kesten, of Pittsburgh, will both join the company as apprentices for the 2018-2019 Season.

They’ll make their final performances as students in the school’s two year-end performances: Pre-Professional Showcases, May 18-20, at Point Park University, and Spring Performance 2018, May 25-26, at the Byham Theater.

“These dancers captured our attention with their stage presence and technique, not only through their work with PBT School but also in the professionalism they’ve show on stage in company productions like ‘The Nutcracker,’” Orr said. “We look forward to officially welcoming them to the company in July when we begin rehearsing for our new season.”

García Campos and Kesten will make their official company debuts at PBT’s free Ballet Under the Stars performance at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, at Hartwood Acres, followed by Mozart in Motion, the company’s main-stage season opener, Oct. 26-28, at the Benedum Center.

Single ticket sales for Mozart in Motion and other 2018-2019 Season productions open Aug. 7, 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

Christian García  Campos

Christian García Campos, of Puebla, Mexico, joins the company from the PBT School Graduate Program, where she has trained since 2014 first as a full-time high school student and then as a Graduate student. Prior to PBT, García Campos trained with the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and with Estudio y Compañía de Danza Antoinette in Puebla, Mexico. García Campos has performed in PBT productions of “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” “Dracula” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Her repertoire also includes “Etudes,” “Giselle,” “Don Quixote” and the role of Arabian in “The Nutcracker.” She will perform in excerpts from “Swan Lake” and George Balanchine’s “Western Symphony” among other works at PBT School’s Pre-professional Showcases and Spring Performance 2018.

 

Tommie Kesten

Pittsburgh native Tommie Kesten joins the company from the PBT School Graduate Program, where she gained main-stage experience in PBT productions of “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake” and “PBT: New Works.” Prior to joining  PBT School in 2017, she trained with Miami City Ballet School and Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh and completed summer intensives with the School of American Ballet and PBT School. Her repertoire includes George Balanchine’s “Walpurgisnacht,” “Valse Fantaisie,” and “Raymonda Variations;” Peter Martins’ “Eight Easy Pieces;” Jerome Robbins’ “Glass Pieces;” and multiple roles, including the Sugar Plum Fairy, in “The Nutcracker.” In May, Kesten will dance a principal role in excerpts from Balanchine’s “Western Symphony” among other works featured in PBT School’s Pre-professional Showcases and Spring Performance 2018. She’ll also appear alongside company dancers in Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite,” part of PBT’s May 4-6, season finale.  

5 Things to Know About Jerome Robbins

Jerome Robbins - West Side Story Suite Pittsburgh

PBT’s May 4-6, production of UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free is part of a nationwide, year-long celebration of the 100th birthdays of choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein. They collaborated on several important works, including the ballet Fancy Free (the basis for the hit musical On the Town) and the Broadway and film sensation, West Side Story.

Jerome Robbins - West Side Story Suite PittsburghHere are five things you should know about Jerome Robbins, the dance icon behind PBT’s season finale production of UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free:

1. He started young. Jerome Robbins was just 24 years old when he began choreographing his first ballet and claim to fame, Fancy Free, which later inspired the Broadway hit On the Town. At the time, Robbins was still dancing as a founding company member of Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre) and had to create the ballet on the fly – between stops, on the tour bus and in hotel lobbies. Fancy Free was an instant sensation, sparking 22 curtain calls at the time of its premiere. In the ballet Robbins and Bernstein (and designer Oliver Smith) capture a moment in wartime New York that they – and the original audience – were all living in. Smith’s spare and wistful set design and Bernstein’s jazzy score create an atmosphere that is – to this day – undeniably American. Robbins’ first try at professional choreography signaled his genius for natural, spontaneous movement that adeptly reveals character and relationships.

2. He was an iconic choreographer in ballet…Following his choreographic debut at American Ballet Theatre, Robbins joined New York City Ballet and quickly ascended to the post of associate artistic director, working alongside George Balanchine. With the exception of brief sabbaticals, Robbins worked with NYCB from 1949 until his death in 1998 and created many of his great works there. Among the more than 60 ballets he created during his career are Fancy Free, Afternoon of a Faun, The Concert, Dances At a Gathering, In the Night, In G Major, Other Dances, Glass Pieces and Ives, Songs, which are in the repertories of New York City Ballet and other major dance companies worldwide. His final ballets include A Suite of Dances created for Mikhail Baryshnikov (1994), 2 & 3 Part Inventions (1994), West Side Story Suite (1995) and Brandenburg (1996).

3. And on Broadway. In addition to his work in the ballet world, Robbins is world renowned for his work as a director and choreographer in theater, movies and television. His Broadway shows include On the Town, Billion Dollar Baby, High Button Shoes, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Miss Liberty, Call Me Madam and Fiddler on the Roof. His last Broadway production, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (1989), won six Tony Awards including best musical and best director.

4. He is an icon in dance with the awards and accolades to back it up. In addition to two Academy Awards for the film West Side Story, Robbins has received five Tony Awards, including best choreography for West Side Story, five Donaldson Awards, an Emmy Award, the Screen Directors’ Guild Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Robbins was a 1981 Kennedy Center Honors Recipient and was awarded the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur.

5. He worked with one of our own. PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr remembers Jerome Robbins as exacting, intuitive and genuinely genius. Over his three decades with American Ballet Theatre, first as a principal dancer and then as the company’s ballet master, Orr worked repeatedly with Robbins – in the studio as a dancer and later as a repetiteur for his works. “I’ll never forget Jerry’s genius for the details that make a masterpiece,” Orr said. “Fancy Free, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. I had the privilege of learning one of the sailor parts from original cast member John Kriza and dancing the role for many years with ABT. We plan to do Jerry proud with this program.”

And to think: In the 1930s, Robbins intended to study either chemistry or journalism at New York University until the Depression depleted his family’s ability to support his education. It was then that Robbins returned to his early aptitude for music, dancing and theatrics. The rest is Broadway and ballet history.

Experience the PBT premieres of three Robbins masterworks in UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free on stage with the PBT Orchestra May 4-6, at the Benedum Center. Get your tickets here.

Behind the Scenes: Dancers Make Vocal Debuts in ‘West Side Story Suite’

In West Side Story Suite, PBT dancers won’t just be dancing…they’ll add singing to their repertoire too.

In honor of international centennial celebrations for choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein, PBT will be bringing ballet fans a triple threat of company premieres — and acting, singing and dancing performances — in UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free on stage May 4-6, at the Benedum Center.  

To prepare for their vocal debuts, the dancers have been working with Joan Barber, a vocal coach from the Jerome Robbins Foundation, who was the original Somewhere soloist for West Side Story Suite when it debuted with the New York City Ballet. As an actor and singer, Barber has performed on Broadway and sung on the original sound tracks of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Pocahontas and others.

She’s also taught voice lessons for 30 years. And beginning this winter, Barber has worked extensively with PBT’s newly minted vocalists on their range and annunciation as well as the intention behind each lyric they sing.

“What does the song mean and who are you singing to?” Barber prompts. “They’ve all got their own individual interpretation of how to do the songs, and I encourage that…Bernstein’s music is so rich. Sondheim’s lyrics are so rich…every dot, every accent mark…everything means something in this music.” 

Here’s how 4 dancers summed up their vocal journeys:

Julia Erickson - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreJulia Erickson

“I sing a fair amount but we’re talking along to songs I like in the shower/car/kitchen! It’s totally new. That being said I was in the school chorus in sixth grade. And I would say it feels totally natural. It is scary but they have been so supportive throughout the entire process. The singing is just another extension of the character — another means of expression. It’s a fantastic thing to get to explore…using my voice on stage for the first time at this late date in my PBT career! The more we learn about how to use the instrument, the more dynamic and complex we realize it is. And singing and dancing at the same time doesn’t just add one additional element; when you add in stage direction, projection, annunciation, style, breath and all the other things it’s quite a bit more to manage!”

Jessica McCann

“Singing and dancing is something I’ve never experienced at this magnitude. I’ve only taken one singing class in my life and I don’t have fond memories. The coaching I’ve received as Anita has been inspiring and empowering. I was told to stay in my head voice on the very high notes instead of switching to my soprano, which is what I was doing in the beginning, and I feel like I’ve grown more than I was expecting to! I have a new-found confidence in my singing, especially on those higher notes. Being coached to take hold of what I have and strengthen it has been incredible. (Barber) really pushed me and believed in me when I didn’t.”

Joseph Parr

“We had to sing in front of the entire company two years ago to audition for the lady who wound up being the vocal coach for West Side Story Suite.  That was a kind of nerve-wracking, but besides that day it’s been a great experience!  By the time the show comes I will have sung in front of the company enough times that a couple more hundred people won’t make me more or less nervous.  It’s harder to sing in front of people face to face with the lights on than in a packed house with the lights off.  I felt that way when I had to sing for A Streetcar Named Desire and this is way more fun to sing.”

Amanda Potts

“I would consider myself to be a quiet person and throwing myself into the role of Rosalia is the farthest outside my comfort zone I have ever pushed myself. I grew up singing in choirs, but being vulnerable enough to perform solo work isn’t something I ever pictured myself doing. And yet, the more we rehearse, the more I find myself really enjoying it.”

 

 

 

Experience the PBT premieres of UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free on stage with the PBT Orchestra May 4-6, at the Benedum Center. Get your tickets here.

Get to Know Our Newest Soloists

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Soloists

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has promoted three Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers to soloists for the 2018-2019 Season, which kicks off in October. We sat down with Masahiro Haneji, of Hokkaido, Japan; William Moore, of Ipswich, England; and JoAnna Schmidt of Eustis, Florida, to learn more about their motivations, goals and growth. Then, see them on stage in UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free, May 4-6, at the Benedum Center.

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist this season?

Masahiro Haneji - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreMH: “The 2017-18 season was a very concentrated year for myself as an artist. I was able to truly commit to all the new roles and the opportunities given to me without any distractions as well as a great team to support me throughout the year. Roles such as Renfield (Dracula) and Jester (Swan Lake) whose personalities carry such a vital role in the ballet’s dynamic challenged me to perform technically difficult variations while staying in character. I cannot wait to add more personalities to my (hopefully) never-ending list of characters with the upcoming performance of a sailor in Fancy Free and a Shark in West Side Story Suite.

 

William Moore - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreWM: “Dancing at PBT gives you the opportunity to dance a large range of different styles, which will always make you grow as an artist.  In addition, this year I took on the challenge of choreographing my own work on the company for the March PBT: New Works program. Having the chance to explore my own ideas has helped me broaden my understanding of what it is to be an artist/dancer and has given me another way of looking at dance. ”

 

JoAnna Schmidt - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

JS: “I’ve started to dance for my own fulfillment more this year. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s something that took me far too long to learn. I used to assume everybody shared the same, hypercritical opinion of my dancing that I have and it was such a distraction. Worrying about all the ways you might not measure up certainly doesn’t allow much room for growth. Now, when it’s time to perform, I’ve tried not to pressure myself, to let go and enjoy the moment instead of dwelling on potential failure.”

 

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

Masahiro Haneji - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreMH: “As a soloist I cannot wait for the opportunities to work on more featured roles that will help broaden my abilities to improve on challenges I have yet to face as a corps de ballet member — such as standing out as an individual rather than matching my fellow dancers.”

 

 

William Moore - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreWM: “Every year as a dancer I like to set new goals. I think some for next year will be to stay healthy and take on each program with a fresh mindset so I can give as much to each role as I possibly can.”

 

 

JoAnna Schmidt - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

JS: “I aspire to become more dynamic, to take more risks and push the boundaries in my dancing.”

 

 

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

Masahiro Haneji - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
MH: “There’s no real way to explain why performing gives a rush of happiness like no other, but the simplest way to explain it is the feeling that you are creating a dream come true for the audience. When I am performing, I am no longer the person I am off stage; I have the chance to show the audience something they’ve never seen before or will ever see again as each performance is unique.”

 

William Moore - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreWM: “For me, being in the studio developing a role is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a professional dancer. From the first rehearsal to the show is such a journey and collaboration with everyone. It’s great to be a part of such an exciting experience!”

 

 

JoAnna Schmidt - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

 

JS: “There are so many ways it is fulfilling, but there’s something about dance that is uniquely exposing. When you dance, those who watch you are going to see who you really are, whether you like it or not. I think it’s beautiful to be taken out of your comfort zone in that way. Dancers can’t hide who they are…unless they want to stifle their artistry. I’m a pretty introverted person, so dance forces me to make myself visible.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?

Masahiro Haneji - Pittsburgh Ballet TheatreMH: “Among next season’s performances I am most excited to perform The Sleeping Beauty again. My first year as a company member I was given the opportunity to perform the role of Bluebird with fellow company member JoAnna Schmidt. I am really looking forward to see how much I have matured both technically and as an artist since my premiering year in 2014.”

 

 

William Moore - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

WM: “I’m a huge Jiří Kylián  fan, so i would have to go with the first program (Mozart in Motion), although the whole season will be great!”

 

 

JoAnna Schmidt - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

JS: “I am looking forward to all the productions, but especially the Mozart in Motion program because it will be challenging to incorporate the brilliant styles of Balanchine and Kylián!”

Sneak Peek: West Side Story Suite

This spring, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre celebrates the 100th birthdays of iconic choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein with a triple bill of PBT premieres: UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In The Night + Fancy Free, on stage May 4-6, at the Benedum Center.

Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) is a cultural giant in both ballet and Broadway dance. His Broadway hits include On the TownBillion Dollar BabyHigh Button ShoesWest Side StoryThe King and IGypsyPeter PanMiss LibertyCall Me Madam, and Fiddler on the Roof. His last Broadway production, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway (1989), won six Tony Awards including best musical and best director.

Throughout his career, which included a long-term position as New York City Ballet’s associate artistic director, He choreographed more than 60 ballets, including Fancy Free and In The Night, which PBT also will perform in May.

“No choreographer has so epitomized the American scene, or been so prolific in his expenditure of his creative energy. He contributed a great body of superb work to our dance culture, represented all over the world, and in the continuous performances of musicals during the last 35 years.” New York City Ballet

Beginning in the late 1940s, Robbins teamed up with the brilliant composer Bernstein to create West Side Story, a modern take on Romeo and Juliet,  which sets the love story on the streets of 1950s New York in the crosshairs of two feuding gangs: The Jets and the Sharks.

Capturing the essence of the full-length musical, West Side Story Suite premiered in 1995 and samples iconic songs and Tony-winning choreography from the duo’s Broadway musical (1957) and Academy Award-winning film (1961) with choreography by Robbins, music by Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and scenery by Oliver Smith.

In the words of Principal dancer Julia Erickson, “West Side Story is such a crowd pleaser. It’s based off of Romeo and Juliet, so it’s a universally compelling story and I think that the suite picks out the greatest parts of it and puts it together in something that can be presented in an evening of ballet.”

Get a sneak peek: