After leading the company for 23 years, Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has announced he will retire in June 2020 after celebrating the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s upcoming 50th Anniversary Season.
Over more than two decades as artistic director, Orr has grown the company’s repertory with more than 20 new commissions and dozens of acquisitions. He has debuted ambitious story ballets like La Bayadère, Romeo et Juliette and A Streetcar Named Desire; curated major masterworks by dance giants like Jerome Robbins, Jiří Kylián and Twyla Tharp; and provided a platform for emerging choreographers, including from within the company. His original production of The Nutcracker has been a Pittsburgh classic for close to 20 years. During his tenure, the company has grown its ticket sales, school enrollment and campus. It has debuted the country’s first professional sensory-friendly production of The Nutcracker and increased accessibility and educational programming in the theater, studio and community.
“I have made Pittsburgh my home and certainly my life ever since,” said Orr, who has lived in Sewickley with his wife, PBT Ballet Mistress Marianna Tcherkassky, since becoming PBT artistic director in 1997. “It has been exciting to watch the company grow and rise to incredible heights.”
“We’ve developed a distinct voice and special place in the city where you can experience the great classics, the great choreographers and the emerging voices moving this art form into the future. It has been my honor to lead this company for the past 23 years and great privilege to lead it through its 50th anniversary. I want to thank the dancers, musicians and patrons who have become like family. You have made my time here something I will always cherish.”
Orr, a California native, began his dance career at San Francisco Ballet, where he became a principal dancer by age 17. He went on to lead a celebrated career at New York City’s American Ballet Theatre (ABT), rising from corps de ballet to principal dancer. He joined ABT’s artistic staff while he was still performing and served as ballet master from 1978 to 1997. He has staged works for ballet companies worldwide, including the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, the Paris Opera Ballet, La Scala, Australian Ballet and National Ballet of Japan.
“Hundreds of students and professional dancers can attest to the immeasurable influence and passion that Terry passes on to future generations,” said Dawn Fleischner, chair, PBT Board of Trustees. “Terry is beloved by the entire organization and we can’t say enough about the indelible legacy he created in Pittsburgh. His vision has set the stage for an exciting future for this company and we will be forever grateful for his leadership.”
The PBT Board will work out the next steps of succession planning by forming a search committee and begin the search for a new artistic director starting this summer.
“It’s been a real privilege and honor to work in partnership with Terry over the past 13 years and he will be greatly missed,” said Harris Ferris, executive director. “I look forward to supporting the board in the forthcoming search and transition in artistic leadership.”
Orr will close his career with PBT by leading celebrations for the company’s 50th Anniversary Season, which opens in October at the Benedum Center. The season will honor the company’s history with a five-production lineup featuring Giselle with the PBT Orchestra (Oct. 25-27), The Nutcracker (Dec. 6-29), PNC Presents Beauty and the Beast (Feb. 14-23), Here & Now at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center (March 20-29) and Balanchine & Tchaikovsky with the PBT Orchestra (April 17-19) as well as exciting repertoire to be performed on tour on prestigious national stages including the Chautauqua Institution, Northrop at University of Minnesota and others soon to be announced.