Three company dancers will rise to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s highest rank at the start of the coming ballet season. PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has promoted Hannah Carter, Alejandro Diaz and Luca Sbrizzi to principalfor the company’s 2016-2017 Season, which opens Oct. 28-30, with Giselle.
“These three dancers have proven themselves in principal roles for quite some time. They really deserve this, and it’s a joy to recognize them for their exceptional talent and work ethic,” Orr said. “Throughout the company our dancers are taking on ambitious roles and really pushing themselves on the stage and in the studio. It’s a deep pool of talent, and we’re lucky to have it.”
Get to know them here, see them onstage in the classical pirate saga Le Corsaire, April 15-17, at the Benedum Center.
Becoming a principal dancer is huge career milestone. What does this mean to you?
Hannah Carter: “This has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I think it’s every little ballerina’s dream to be principal and get to dance the leading roles in incredible ballets. For some people that changes over time but it never did for me.”
Alejandro Diaz: “It was kind of surreal because, I think by the time you’re at this point in your career you fully understand what it takes to be a soloist or a principal…There’s a combination of artistry and dedication and relentless love for the craft. It has to exceed everything else…It has to do with one’s own responsibility to the art form, because each artist is responsible for the product that they put onstage….”
Luca Sbrizzi: “Becoming a principal dancer has always been a dream of mine and I feel honored to have achieved such an important goal. When I first moved to the U.S. I made a promise to myself: to always put on stage the very best product I could. It has always felt like something I owed to the art form and I’ve kept this promise throughout my career. To me the promotion symbolizes that my love for ballet, my hard work and my dedication was recognized and rewarded. I feel very grateful for that.”
Now that you’ve reached this point, what advice would you give your younger self?
“Continue to work hard and stay focused, but enjoy it! You have to love what you are doing because it is so demanding, no one can want it for you more then you want it for yourself.”
“There are so many moments in a young dancer’s life, career, where you doubt yourself. It’s not just you that’s looking in the mirror saying you’re not good enough, it’s the teacher at the front of the room sometimes saying you’re not good enough, or the director saying you’re not right for this…If I had the knowledge that I have now, I would say, ‘You need to believe in yourself more, because the only person that’s going to make sure you make it is yourself. You’re going to have help. You’re going to have teachers that will show you the right way to move, to dance, but at the end of the day there’s only one person onstage dancing and that’s you.”
“The ballet world can be brutal at times. It can really take a toll on your self-confidence. You have to learn to be OK with not being perfect in an art form that strives for perfection. But at the same time always push yourself to be better. Be patient finding this balance and always believe in yourself.”
Describe your ballet epiphany – the first moment you can remember choosing ballet for your future.
“It’s hard for me to think of a specific time, because I went away to school so young for ballet that it was just always what I was going to do; that is what I had decided. But one moment in particular I can think of is doing a summer program at the Royal Academy of Dance when I was about 8. We went to watch The Royal Ballet in Coppѐlia and I just fell in love with it. I did the Act II doll dance for weeks and weeks after I came home and I decided one day I was going to dance that ballet as Swanhilda (the lead). – I haven’t gotten to yet!”
Alejandro Diaz: “I started early on doing Irish step dancing. I took my very first ballet season when I was nine…(Around age 15) I fell in love with partnering work. That’s when I really seriously started taking technique classes on a regular basis.”
Luca Sbrizzi: “For me it wasn’t a single moment or epiphany, but rather a sequence of events that led me to becoming a professional dancer. At first I only did ballet because my sister owned a ballet school and I felt I had to do it. At age 15 I wanted to quit because I was being bullied, but then I received a scholarship to go study ballet in Florence and I felt I couldn’t pass up that opportunity. After two years I was considering quitting again and that’s when I received a scholarship to go to Boston Ballet School. It was difficult to convince my parents to let me move to the United States, but when I finally did I knew that I had to be serious about ballet and make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In a way I feel the universe just knew what was best for me. It guided me through this path from the very beginning, allowing me to meet amazing teachers along the way who shared their knowledge and instilled in me the important core values that made me the person and dancer I am today.”
You’ve achieved a major career milestone. What is your next goal in this new role?
“To enjoy getting to dance the principal roles that I worked hard to get to, but to continue to work hard and stay focused.”
“I’m really quite content with how far I’ve come. But I think a good dancer is a smart dancer, and a smart dancer understands their strengths and their weaknesses…You learn to make your weaknesses stronger and you learn to refine your strengths…My goal for myself is to stay healthy and just really enjoy the fact that we get to be in a studio and work on some of the most beautiful works of art and put them onstage. That’s really what it’s about for me next season, just taking it in and understanding that we’re blessed that we get to do this on a regular basis. I’m very fortunate that I’ve made it as far as I have…I love what I do and I worked as hard as I could and I spend every moment thinking about it. I’m passionate about it. I want to just keep doing that until I can’t.”
“I know my weaknesses and I’m going to keep working hard to continue to narrow that gap between the dancer I am and the dancer I want to be. And of course, there are several dream roles in classical ballet I hope to perform, first and foremost Romeo. Every role is an opportunity to grow as an artist.”
Le Corsaire is the first time that audiences will see you since the announcement. What is your primary role and what do you think is the most significant thing about dancing it?
“I will be Medora, and the most challenging part about it is the actual choreography; the technique, it’s very difficult. You really feel like you accomplished something at the end of it though so that’s a great feeling.”
“I’m going to be performing Lankendem. Every one of the male roles with in the production are physically and technically demanding, but Lankendem is an interesting character because he’s this slimy, nasty kind of human being. He’s tries to cater to the Pasha…and can also be rude and harsh to the other characters onstage. He’s got this dual personality, if you will. It’s fun; it’s quite challenging… Lankendem has these very specific jumps, and you also have this great ending where you come straight down to the audience doing double tours…It’s really quite powerful…It’s been really great for our company to take on a ballet like this. We’re all getting stronger, we’re all improving from this. And that’s thanks to Anna-Marie Holmes (the stager for Le Corsaire). She has this incredible work ethic and she’s giving that to us. She’s telling us you can do this, you just have to put in the time. I think that’s going to show onstage when we perform. To me, the most exciting part of the ballet is the actual dancing. The story line is fantastic…it’s very intricate…but the actual dancing is just fantastic.”