While an incoming class of 43 graduate program dancers begin a new PBT School year, this September finds a trio of recent alumni rehearsing for their main stage debut as PBT’s newest company dancers. With PBT’s 2012-2013 Season premiere approaching, PBT dancers Casey Taylor, Corey Bourbonniere and JoAnna Schmidt reflect on their recent transition from student to professional.
Path to PBT
As a Pittsburgh native and Fox Chapel Area High School graduate, the reputation of PBT School made it a natural fit for Casey to take her ballet training to the next level. “I grew up here,” she said, adding that she definitely feels a lot of hometown pride as a member of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.
Originally from Rhode Island, Corey first experienced PBT School through the Intensive Summer Program, where he was inspired by the company dancers and acclaimed faculty members. “It was the best class I had ever taken,” he said of his ISP audition with PBT. “The challenge (of ballet) for me is something I love.”
Like Corey, JoAnna came to PBT from out of state following an inspirational encounter with PBT Ballet Mistress Marianna Tcherkassky at the World Ballet Competition job fair in her home state of Florida. There, JoAnna received the affirmation she needed to pursue ballet training over college. “She really helped me believe in myself and believe that I had a shot at doing this,” she said
Preparing for Professionalism
Since enrolling in PBT School, the three students built the strength, skill and experience necessary to bridge from student to professional.
“Coming up through the school from the beginning, I had a huge range of teachers,” Casey said. “It was a very well-rounded experience for me to get different backgrounds of technique.”
For JoAnna, the professionalism of the program and the opportunities it provided to interact with the company dancers distinguished her PBT School experience. “I gained so much strength and stamina in the graduate program. I think that was definitely a huge preparation for me.”
As a PBT School student, Corey danced alongside the company in nine season productions, including Uncommon at the August Wilson Center. “I had a big breakthrough when I got to perform (Mark Morris’) Maelstrom. It almost felt like an audition to me,” he said, adding that the live music and intimate venue created one of his most memorable onstage experiences.
From Student to Professional
Although this season marks their first as full company members, it won’t be the first time the three have performed alongside the company. This time, however, it will be different. For the three dancers, it’s the fruition of a dream that was many years in the making.
“I was just in awe of all of (the company dancers), and now I get to be one of them,” Casey said.
“As soon as I started I knew that I wanted to take it professionally,” said Corey of starting ballet training at age 14.
JoAnna experienced a similar sensation since starting ballet class at age 7. “I never had any other career in mind even from the start. I always wanted to be a ballet dancer,” she said.