As the final structural steel beam soared skyward, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s campus expansion project took a big leap forward on Dec. 23.
PBT dancers, students, staff and supporters gathered outside PBT’s Strip District studios to celebrate the Topping Out Ceremony for the Byham Center for Dance. Slated to open in fall 2016, the new studio annex will make PBT more accessible to the broader community and open the doors to more aspiring ballet students who come from around the world to train in Pittsburgh.
“It’s been very exciting to see the Byham Center for Dance taking shape on our campus, and we are incredibly grateful for the hard work of the Jendoco construction team, our incredibly dedicated Board of Trustees and the supporters who helped us bring this dream to fruition,” said Harris Ferris, PBT executive director. “This is a milestone in our project, and signals an exciting new era for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.This annex will give us the space to engage more dancers from all backgrounds, whether they’re toddlers exploring creative movement, students pursuing ballet careers or adults seeking an inspiring fitness option.”
Honored guests and featured speakers included Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Councilwoman Deb Gross, Campaign Co-chairs Dawn and Chris Fleischner and Campaign co-chairs Carolyn and Bill Byham, in whose honor the new studio annex will be named.
Guests – including the Nutcracker himself – signed the beam before the team from Jendoco Construction Corporation and Lincoln Fabrication hoisted it upward bearing a Nutcracker along with the customary evergreen tree and American flag. The event concluded with an indoor reception and private studio rehearsal of company dancers and PBT School alumni Diana Yohe and Corey Bourbonniere performing The Nutcracker’s iconic Sugar Plum Pas de Deux.
When complete, the 14,000-square-foot annex will house two spacious dance studios, new Pilates, Gyrotonic and cross-training facilities and dressing rooms for adult open class students. IKM Architects designed the building, which features floor-to-ceiling studio windows facing Liberty Avenue. Jendoco Construction Corporation is general contractor. The expansion will help PBT School accommodate demand for its world-renowned training program and provide greater access to the benefits of dance and movement classes for the broader community. The annex also will benefit the company with more rehearsal space for full-length ballets like “The Nutcracker.”
Funding leadership for the annex building comes from Campaign Co-chairs Carolyn and Bill Byham, in whose honor the building will be named, and Dawn and Chris Fleischner, who contributed early gifts, along with other individual contributors. Since the plan’s inception in 2009, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has endorsed the campus expansion project with two Economic Growth Initiative grants totaling $2.25 million. The Allegheny County State Legislative Delegation – including PBT Trustees Sen. Jay Costa and Sen. Randy Vulakovich – were instrumental in securing the Commonwealth funding.
“This is a great day for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as it holds its ‘Topping Out’ ceremony to mark this monumental achievement. We all certainly look forward to the Byham Center for Dance taking its place among the fine arts venues that enhance the Greater Pittsburgh region. We are truly fortunate to live in an area that has so much to offer in the ways of museums, concert and performance venues and festivals. The arts build a strong foundation in our community,” said Pennsylvania State Senator and PBT Trustee Randy Vulakovich. “They are not only key tourism attractions and economic drivers, the fine arts enable people of all social and ethnic backgrounds to lead fuller, more meaningful lives. An appreciation of the arts helps develops self-esteem and self-expression. I want to thank everyone who has worked to make the Byham Center for Dance a reality. We are truly fortunate to have such strong support for a vibrant arts community, one that certainly enriches so many lives each day.”
The $6.5 million facility will connect to PBT’s current headquarters, which houses five dance studios, the costume shop and administrative space. This is where the company’s 30 full-time dancers rehearse and where PBT School instructs 1,000 students annually across its Children’s, Student, Pre-professional and Adult Open divisions.
The building project fits into the overarching Campaign for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, a $21.7 million strategy to grow PBT’s endowment, expand its campus and establish an Innovation Fund to sustain artistic and educational programs.
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