Artistic 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 Quixote, Paquita and Western Symphony. Get to know Colin here.
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).”
How 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.”
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.
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
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
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.
Here 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.
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:
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.
Valentine’s Day Gift Guide
Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away, Pittsburgh! Here are four ideas to help you plan the perfect Pittsburgh date night and the ultimate gift from the heart. Give a gift that…
Plan the perfect date with tickets to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Feb. 16-25, production of Swan Lake, ballet’s greatest love story. Dress up, dine out and get lost in this classic story of good versus evil.
Or, make that three dates to anticipate! Create a three-ballet package featuring Swan Lake, PBT: New Works and UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In the Night + Fancy Free for as little as $81. Plus, your love will eat up these VIP perks.
Treat the dancer lover in your life to classes at PBT Studios! Sign them up for our Swan Lake workshop, where adult students will learn iconic choreography from the ballet. Or, consider a class pass for PBT Barre Fitness, Pilates and other Community Division dance fitness options.
If your special person loves doing good, consider making an honorary gift to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre to support extraordinary art in our city. Plus, when you donate in a loved one’s name, they can experience behind-the-scenes benefits.
This holiday season, give less stuff and more experiences. With a calm click of your mouse, you can wrap up unforgettable gifts and skip the retail rush. Prepare to make memories!
The Experience Gift
Give your loved one quality time on the town. Choose from iconic stories like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and West Side Story Suite. Dress up, dine out and get lost in some of ballet’s most exciting choreography. You can purchase single tickets here or opt for a three-or-four-ballet subscriber series, which comes with VIP benefits. Or, purchase a gift certificate for your giftee to apply toward the tickets of their choice.
The One-of-a-Kind Keepsake
Shop local for the dance — or Pittsburgh — lover in your life. Peruse the PBT Boutique online or at the Benedum Center (during any The Nutcracker show time) for a variety of Pittsburgh- and ballet-inspired gifts. Choose from PBT apparel, hand-crafted Pittsburgh decor and jewelry, collectible nutcrackers, vintage ballet posters and even autographed pointe shoes from PBT ballerinas!
The Resolution Maker
Help the fitness lover in your life ditch the January gym crowds and mix up their workout routine. Adults and teens ages 14+ can work their muscles and refresh their minds with classes like barre fitness, ballet, dance cardio, Pilates and TRX training. Ballet classes feature live piano accompaniment, and all classes are held at PBT’s newly renovated PBT’s Strip District Studios, an American Institute of Architects Pittsburgh People’s Choice award winner. Pick a class package or purchase a gift certificate.
Pssst: You can wrap up a two-week class card for $25. View our class schedule here. Schedule a class to claim this offer at checkout.
The “No More Toys Please” Present
Give the budding ballet dancers on your list the gift that just keeps giving. Ballet classes give kids a creative outlet and teach discipline, poise and confidence along with enviable dance skills. Plus, they’re FUN. And what kid doesn’t love dancing? Sponsor Children’s Division or Student Division classes at PBT School for the youngsters on your list. They’ll love seeing the professional dancers around the studios!
Pssst: For a limited time, save 25% on pro-rated Children’s Division tuition. Email PBT School to register. Offer ends 11/27/17 at 11:59 p.m.
The Do-Gooder Gift
Shopping for someone who has it all and likes sharing it with others? Honor them with a philanthropic gift in their name. Instead of gathering dust, this gift goes right to work, providing ballet tickets for families who couldn’t otherwise afford it or need-based scholarships for aspiring young dancers. Plus, when you donate in a loved one’s name, they can experience behind-the-scenes benefits.
In high school, Joseph Parr’s touchdown dance of choice was a tour jeté — An elaborate end zone leap uniting his two athletic passions. Football and classical ballet.
Ballet is art, but it’s also intensely athletic – requiring a level of speed, strength and precision on par with any sport.
Growing up in Ohio, Parr played football from fifth grade through high school graduation as a member of the Wooster High School Generals. He started on the offensive and defensive lines early on but, with a boost from ballet, had picked up speed and agility by high school.
“As I got faster and more trim, I eventually moved to linebacker and running back,” Parr said.
And he also became more and more serious about ballet, a discipline that has helped pro athletes, like Lynn Swann, better their on-field balance, control and agility.
For Parr, it became his life’s work. He’s been dancing professionally in the PBT Corps de Ballet for nearly 10 years.
Here, he shares how both his career choice and his first love ultimately improved his performance (and his touchdown dance).
What motivated you to get involved?
“I’ve always loved watching it on TV and played pickup games whenever I could growing up.”
When did you begin dancing and what motivated you to give it a try?
“My mom put me in ballet class when I was little, and I did it for a few years, but I didn’t really love it. After that, I told her I just wanted to play sports. I started ballet again when I was 15 and basically had to start over from scratch. I pretty much forgot EVERYTHING.
A friend of mine was a dancer and heard through the grapevine that I had danced when I was younger. She told me they had no guys at their studio and she convinced me to try a class, adding that I would be in a room full of girls.”
What hooked you about ballet?
“When I started back again, I liked the challenge and felt like, if I kept at it, it would help me improve with football. The old “Lynn Swann played football” that I heard before was reason enough. But then I came to PBT for the summer and I saw guys like Daisuke Takeuchi and Alan Obuzor do amazing things in the studio and I said, “That’s what I want I do.”
What about with football?
“I just loved everything about it…the sounds from shoulder pads hitting each other, working together with teammates, motivating and pushing each other to be better. All the grass stains, bumps, bruises, game days, and the physical challenges are memories I will carry with me forever.”
What kind of crossover did you notice between ballet and football?
“Pretty much every exercise we do in ballet helped me for football. All the balancing at barre kept me upright on the field. Quick movements at the barre and during petite allegro made me much lighter on my feet, allowing me to be more elusive. Having to do big jumps (and landing them safely) gave me a better understanding and awareness of body control.
Proper technique is also key in both. Just as you can hurt yourself if you’re not tackling properly; one can injure themselves if they’re not landing big jumps correctly or even by doing plies the wrong way. The communication between a quarterback and receiver can be similar to a guy and girl partnering in ballet. If a quarterback expects a receiver to run a post route and the receiver runs a curl route, there could be an interception. If two dancers aren’t on the same page while doing partnered turns or lifts, the movements won’t work.”
Do you think there are cross training benefits for student athletes? Do you think football in any way influenced the way you cross train for dance?
“I think cross training is extremely important. You can find different ways to push your body and strengthen different muscles that you may not be working during your regular sport or activity. We lifted weights regularly during the season and off season so football gave me a good foundation and understanding of how to cross train.”
Can you speak to the strength, endurance and overall athleticism necessary to your art form?
“I can definitely recall one time a repetiteur asking me how I was feeling and I casually responded that I was OK but a little sore. After that they jokingly said, ‘Sore?! Of course you’re sore! You’re a ballet dancer, you’re supposed to be sore every day of your life!’ That about sums it up. Every day, we are pushing and testing the limits of our bodies to become better technicians and artists. We have to possess the strength to do big jumps and the endurance to execute them when we’re tired. All the while doing that with a smile on our face that says, ‘This is a breeze. ‘ I’m so amazed at how strong the ladies are in the corps when they have a long dance, go hold a position on the side of the stage for several minutes, and then break away from the position and go dance some more. It looks so effortless but there is no way that’s easy!”
How do you cross train now?
“I like to lift weights, do exercises on a therapy ball, different types of push ups and pull ups, planks and hop on an elliptical every now and then. I try to have my most intense workouts during the off-season so I have more time to recover while preparing my body for the rigors of the season ahead.”
What advice would you give other aspiring male dancers, especially in their early training years?
“The best advice I can give is what I call the three S’s. Show up, suck it up, and shut up. You only get better at ballet by doing more ballet. Ballet can be incredibly rewarding one second and then one second later you feel terrible about yourself. It happens to everyone so you have to suck it up. For the last S, you have to be respectful and listen to your teachers. They know what they’re saying and only want to see you be the best you can be.”
With the NFL recently relaxing the rules on touchdown dances, we need to know what yours would be.
“I didn’t score a touchdown until after I started dancing and I totally did a tour jeté. I’m pretty sure nobody had any idea what that was, but it felt good for me! Now that I’m a little more experienced, I might have to hit ’em with a double saut de basque. I’m also a big fan of the classic: spin the ball and then pretend it’s a roaring fire to warm up my hands… Not sure if that’s the exact title.”
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From May through July, PBT dancers take a well-deserved break from their full-time rehearsal schedule. For many dancers, summer layoff is a time to travel, to soak in the sun, to guest perform and teach, to rest and recuperate. But whatever their summer plans, we’re grateful that these PBT dancers found time to snap stunning dance shots in the open air. Enjoy the gallery and a glimpse into their summer breaks.
The launch of PBT School’s annual Intensive Summer Program quickly brings PBT to life during the company’s quiet summer break. Students ages 12-22 flow out into the hallways and lounges during their breaks; stretching, talking, and relaxing in their downtime. They practice six days a week, spending over 180 hours in the studio. But, in talking to 10 of these 225 students you wouldn’t realize the intensity of their schedule unless you asked. Their passion out shined any fatigue they may have felt as they described some of their biggest challenges and lessons from the past five weeks.
Hometown: Charleston, SC
“Just the incredible amount of progress you can see in yourself and in other people in only five weeks is really neat. I would say probably one of the biggest challenges is being self critical and learning to work in a positive way… not being afraid of failing and focusing on the possibilities of what you can do, and really allowing yourself to learn what you can from teachers, because you can’t really learn anything if you’re afraid of failing.”
Hometown: Takoma Park, MD
“The teachers care for the students’ futures, not just right in the present working on their technique. When I get corrections from certain teachers or see others corrections given, it’s more ‘when you’re twenty you’re going to have to be able to do this in a company.’ It’s more future-oriented.”
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Level: Men 2B
“Coming to ISP made me realize that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought. I used to think, ‘Oh that role isn’t for me’ or, ‘That variation isn’t something that I feel comfortable doing.’ But, with working with, say Christopher (Budzynski) or Li Chou (Cheng), you get crossover with the company, and I figured out that I actually can achieve those variations, those roles, and bring them energy.”
Hometown: Akron, OH
“(The teachers) are all amazingly qualified and they care; you can really see. They give us corrections and they want us to improve. All of the teachers are very particular about their details, especially in the port de bras which is really nice, because I like Balanchine a lot so sometimes I lose the classical flowiness of my arms. They really pay attention to that, it’s something I can work on to have my positions where they need to be.”
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
“The most surprising thing for me is how the American dancers helped me every day and how they talked to me. They were really friendly.”
Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
“The most changing thing for me was coming into class every day and being around a group of kids where everyone is very serious and dedicated…I would say the biggest challenge is adapting to each teacher and remembering specific things they liked compared to other teachers.”
Hometown: Austin, TX
Level: Men 2B
“Taking care of myself is probably a big one – my body and how I’m feeding myself especially. It’s been interesting figuring out how to get through an 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. day.”
Hometown: Denver, CO
“Just the experience. I think all the excursions are so fun. And the classes. I’ve never taken jazz or contemporary before; I just do strictly ballet, but they’re so fun and I think I want to do more of it now. Introduction to that has been pretty awesome.”
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Level: Men 1
“Holding your position. I make sure when the teacher gives me a correction that I try to do that as much as I can and remember to hold my arm in a special way…I had my first official pas de deux class here and it was fun, though kind of hard.”
Hometown: Puebla, Mexico
Level: Men 2
“I’ve been here since the (school) year for the grad program. But for the summer I think I’m getting in better shape, having all-day technique classes – every day.”
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invites children from ages 5-8 to audition on Saturday, Aug. 5, for the opportunity to receive a full or partial scholarship to study ballet during the 2017-2018 school year. Registration begins at 1 p.m. with auditions following from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at PBT Studios in the Strip District, 2900 Liberty Ave.
As part of its Community Youth Scholarship program, PBT will be awarding up to five full and three partial scholarships for children to train in its Children’s Division. Although the program focuses on early exposure, PBT commits to funding scholarship recipients’ training all the way
through the school’s Pre-professional Division if they choose to pursue it long term.
PBT created the scholarship program in June 2013 to make the school, company – and art form – more widely accessible to students and families throughout the greater Pittsburgh area. In addition to talent and passion for dance, students must demonstrate financial need to be eligible
for scholarship funds.
At the audition, students will take a basic dance class instructed by PBT School Children’s and Student division faculty members. No previous dance experience is required. Children must be 5 to 8 years of age by Sept. 1, and must qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program or
meet similar requirements to be eligible for a scholarship. During the audition, PBT School will host an information session on PBT and the art of ballet for parents and family members.
“It’s really important to ignite the passion at a young age so they can take advantage of training and learning opportunities during these formative years,” said Marjorie Grundvig, PBT School co-director. “Some of these children could be our next generation of professional dancers. And
whether they choose ballet or a different career path, many will learn valuable skills from ballet that they’ll find helpful in other areas of their lives.”
The annual program aims to expose children to dance at an early age and make top-tier training accessible to talented students who demonstrate financial need. The program focuses on students from ages 5 to 8 – a pivotal stage to begin classical ballet training. Currently, 23 promising young students are receiving ballet training at PBT School through the Community Youth Scholarship Program.
By reducing potential barriers to training, these scholarship programs help widen the pool of talent that the company can attract to auditions, accept to its school and ultimately even recruit into the company, which is made up of 50 percent PBT School alumni.
The program is funded by an endowment fund from the Ladies Hospital Aid Society, among others, and by many individual donors who value the power of dance to enrich the lives of children.
To register for the audition, please complete the online registration form here. For questions, please contact Christina Salgado, director of education and community engagement, at 412-454-9105 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited. For full audition guidelines and program details, please visit www.pbt.org/youthscholarships.
Joining 225 elite dancers from more than 24 countries and 20 states, two Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Graduate Program students will compete in the final round of the 11th-annual World Ballet Competition (WBC) June 19-24, in Orlando, Florida. Pittsburgh dance fans can tune in to a live online broadcast of the competition by visiting worldballetcompetition.com and clicking “Watch Live.”
Japan natives Saki Tsuruta, who turns 20 on June 18, and Masanao Ito, 20, will perform the virtuosic grand pas de deux from the classical ballet Le Corsaire. This challenging showpiece takes the form of a dance for three in the full-length ballet, but is often staged as a duet for competition settings.
Tsuruta and Ito are full-time students in PBT School’s Graduate Program, a pre-professional training program for dancers who have graduated from high school and are preparing for professional ballet careers. More than half of PBT’s full-time company members trained in PBT School’s Pre-professional Division, and its alumni also have gone on to dance professionally with other U.S. and international companies. PBT Principal Dancer Yoshiaki Nakano, an alumni of the Graduate Program, took home a silver medal from the WBC in 2010.
Judged by major international dance masters and artistic directors, the WBC draws aspiring young dancers, of ages 9 to 24, from around the world to compete for more than $150,000 in cash, scholarship awards, job contracts and dance merchandise. All dancers were pre-selected through a rigorous video audition process and will be competing in the categories of Soloist, Pas de Deux, Ensemble and Choreography. Prizes include the $10,000 Grand Prix award, which is open to all categories. Tsuruta and Ito will compete in the pre-professional Pas de Deux category.
The week-long event invites audience members for each day of the competition and is also broadcast live online worldwide (except for the gala performance). Each day’s livestream begins with a pre-show broadcast, which gives viewers interview and backstage access. The competition’s electronic scoring system also shares results with the audience in real time.
Since 2007, the WBC has drawn elite dancers representing more than 65 countries. Over the past ten events, competitors earned more than $1.5 million dollars in scholarship awards, cash prizes, job contracts, and dance merchandise, and 9 million video views have been generated online. Since its inauguration, the WBC has helped launch the professional careers of previous competitors now affiliated with prestigious ballet companies in five continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
The event’s concluding Gala Performance on June 24, will feature winning competitors and internationally recognized professional dancers, including New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Daniel Ulbricht.
The WBC is presented by the Central Florida Ballet and funded in part by the Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program, sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the State of Florida, and supported by the United Arts of Central Florida.
On a recent weekday afternoon, a group of ballet dancers ducked into the shell of an abandoned Strip District building for an impromptu photo shoot. Like the greenery sprouting between the slabs of concrete, the dancers made this unlikely spot their studio for a few hours, striking pose after pose against the graffitied cement walls.
Behind the lens was someone with an eye for a good location: 20-year-old Emily Northrop, who’d noticed the wide-open space, the light streaming through the steel frame and the chance to juxtapose the gritty space with graceful dancers.
But she also brought something even more important to the table: an innate sense of timing. Northrop, along with her subjects, is a pre-professional dancer in PBT School’s Graduate Program.
It’s no small task to translate the dynamism of dance to a still photograph. In dance photography, much depends on the timing. It’s the key to catching a fully extended arabesque or a grand jeté at the pinnacle of its arc.
So it’s no surprise that many successful dance photographers, like Northrop’s role model Rachel Neville, are former dancers. It’s essential for capturing both the energy and the technique at their peak.
A Florida native, Northrop grew up in Seattle and started dancing around age 10. She trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet through high school, where she took her first photography class, and just finished her second year in PBT School’s Graduate Program.
“I think I really enjoy how you see your hard work pay off,” Northrop said of her love for ballet. “It’s a great way to express yourself and work through feelings. When I have stressful stuff going on in my life, when I dance it just completely erases all of the stress.”
Over the past year, Northrop began merging her two artistic passions. She saved up to buy a camera and started heading to photography classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers after ballet each day.
She started her practice with portraits.
“I like to do portraits that have meaning behind them. They’re not just faces, they have an important message to say.”
Around the New Year, she began experimenting with dance – and that elusive ability to effectively freeze motion into one frame.
“Being a dancer helps immensely,” Northrop said. “When I’m taking the photos I can feel the timing in my body. Knowing the technique…you know how to turn the angles to make the dancers body look the best.”
Over time, and after taking a weekend workshop with Neville, whose photographs have been featured in Dance and Pointe magazines and by a variety of dance companies, Northrop began cultivating more detailed concepts for each shoot.
“I’ve been thinking more in the form of shapes rather than dance poses,” Northrop said. “For some of my dance photos, the ones that are a little bit more thought out…I thought of a word I wanted to express first and we did a bunch of different poses that expressed that word.”
For inspiration, Northrop scrolls through thousands of Pinterest photos, admiring other photographers’ work and filling her mind with ideas.
“I’ll look at thousands of images. When I go to bed it will be in my brain and when I wake up usually there will be some ideas there.”
She’s also taken inspiration from Neville’s ability to coax peak performance from her subjects and to conceptualize photos that put interesting dynamics at play.
“I noticed that (Neville) definitely pushes the dancers to their limits technique wise to get the best technical photo,” she said. “Now I am definitely more picky. I will give many, many corrections for one pose…to get the very best that they can make it look.”
Whether it’s dance, portraits or artistic side projects, Northrop showcases her work on Instagram under the handle @NorthropPhotography and on Facebook. One day she hopes to make it professional. For now, much like her 10-year pursuit of ballet, it’s all about the practice.
“I feel like the only way you get better is by practicing more and more. I really do love it.”
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Hit the Road with PBT: Chautauqua, NY
July is the perfect time to squeeze in that weekend getaway you’ve been meaning to take, and we have the perfect destination. On July 13, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will perform with Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at the Chautauqua Institution in Southeastern New York. PBT will perform excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty, along with Rubies, the steamy second movement of Balanchine’s Jewels. Join us Saturday night in the Institution’s open-air amphitheater and spend the weekend exploring the area.
Visiting the Institution is the perfect opportunity to learn about a new topic or skill in a relaxing environment. The 750-acre lakeside community hosts classes, lectures, performances, and other programs for all ages every summer. There are several lectures and performances Friday, as well as several week-long classes, should you be inspired to expand your visit for a whole week. To get a taste of the community, buy a gate pass Saturday morning, shop the Crafts Alliance Craft Show in the afternoon, and enjoy dinner at the Heirloom Restaurant in the historic Athenaeum Hotel before heading to the performance.
At just about 2.5 hours from Pittsburgh, the area is home to Chautauqua Lake, state parks, wineries, and more lakeside towns than you will have time to explore. After purchasing your tickets for PBT’s performance and gate pass for the Institution, expand your itinerary to spend a long weekend in the area. We’ve already started planning the trip for you: Check out our Top 5 Things to Do on your Chautauqua getaway with PBT.
For the Shopper: Browse in Mayville, Lakewood and the Chautauqua Institution
Chautauqua Lake is circled by towns to explore and shop while you visit. Mayville, Lakewood, Bemus Point and the Chautauqua Institution itself are just a few of the places you will want to check out. A daily gate pass for the Institution is your ticket into its restaurants, shops, and beautiful grounds. Once you’ve explored the Bestor Plaza and grounds, there are countless shops to visit nearby where you can find locally-made ceramics, jewelry, and home decor as well as hand-crafted cheese and sweets to satisfy your palette. For one-of-a-kind gifts, check out Alpacaville to browse alpaca socks and sweaters or Chautauqua Miniatures and Dollhouse Gallery to browse dolls and accessories for the kid in you. Bonus: Visit the Art Loft just half a mile from the Chautauqua Institution. The lumber mill turned gallery/gift shop features work from over 100 artists.
For the Out-doorsy Type: Explore Panama Rocks Scenic Park
Check out Panama Rocks’ rock passages, caves, and crevices on the park’s mile-long hiking trail. The hike is accessible for all ages and will take you by 300-million year-old rock formations and hemlocks. One of the Sierra Club’s “Ancient Forests of the Northeast” and one of Chautauqua County’s most popular destinations, the park is the perfect shady destination for your trip. Bonus: Take NY-394 on your way there and stop at Reverie Creamery to buy artisan cheese for your park picnic!
For the Beach-goer: Kayak on Chautauqua Lake
The 17,000-acre lake offers the perfect opportunity to soak up some sun by kayaking and enjoying the water. Evergreen Outfitters offers lessons and rentals for those who may need to brush up on their skills. For the more adventurous, Chautauqua Marina rents power boats and water skis in addition to kayaks. And for the “landlubbers” there are a variety of public parks and beaches, such as Long Point State Park and Westlake Public Beach in Barcelona Harbor of nearby Lake Erie. And you can also check out water and other recreational opportunities on the Chautauqua Institution campus.
For the History Buff: Scope Out Dunkirk Lighthouse and the Town of Lily Dale
At a 40-minute drive from Chautauqua Institution, the Dunkirk Lighthouse guides boats into Lake Erie’s Dunkirk Harbor. The lighthouse is over a hundred years old, but you can still climb to the top of the observation deck for a stunning view of Lake Erie. Also be sure to check out the Veteran’s Museum and Light Keeper’s House to see its extensive collection of military artifacts. Bonus: For a unique sight-seeing experience, stop by the town of Lily Dale along NY-60 on your way. The town is home to Lily Dale Assembly, “the world’s largest center for the religion of Spiritualism.” You can explore the grounds’ fairy trail, museum, or schedule a reading with one of the town’s mediums.
For the Winelover: Luxuriate in a Sunday Morning Vineyard Walk and Warehouse Brunch
Led by Fred Johnson, owner of Johnson Estate Winery, this “walking classroom” will give you the chance to learn about wine making while touring the winery and vineyards. A light brunch with complimentary wine pairings will follow. This outdoor “class” is the perfect wrap-up to your weekend at Chautauqua before you head home. Tickets are $25. Visit johnsonwinery.com for more information.
Join PBT at the Chautauqua Institution to make a weekend of these activities, and to see Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Saturday, July 13. Purchase tickets here.
Photos courtesy of Chautauqua Institution
It wasn’t easy to whittle down material from nearly 50 performances to just top 10 ballet photos, but we were able to assemble a short list of shots that left a lasting imprint on our imaginations. Captured in the studio, on stage and behind the scenes, these images represent our favorite photographic memories of the 2016-2017 Season. Enjoy!
This was one of the first photos taken in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s brand-new Byham Center for a dance, a two-studio annex building at PBT Studios in the Strip District. Here, company members are settling into their bright new rehearsal studio.
We love this atmospheric shot from PBT’s redesigned Giselle, which opened the season in October. Here, the “Wilis” move in their signature arabesque formation, while their queen, Myrtha (danced by Julia Erickson), commands center stage. The thick forest and full moon of Peter Farmer’s new scenic designs add even more dimension.
As Yoshiaki Nakano sails over the flowers, he seems to symbolize the effervecense of PBT’s magical The Nutcracker, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this season.
This top 10 ballet photo was captured right after the September ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Byham Center for Dance. As they watch PBT dancers rehearse in the new Ryan Studio, PBT School students Grace Bond and Eden Lewis illustrate the special connection between the company and school, where aspiring dancers see their role models at work every day.
The Queen of Hearts, danced by Julia Erickson, is seeing red in this shot from PBT’s February production of Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland. This scene in particular, complete with playing-card tutus, leaps off the stage with its brilliant character acting and crisp Corps de Ballet dancing.
This shot made our top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017 thanks to an intimate angle captured from the wings. Here, the ghostly Wilis of Giselle separate ill-fated lovers Giselle and Albrecht, danced by real-life husband and wife Alexandra Kochis and Christopher Budzynski. This production marked the final performance of Budzynski’s ballet career and the last time the husand-and-wife duo would share the stage.
We can’t get enough of our new studios, especially when Principal Julia Erickson is sailing through the air in this gorgeous emerald-green costume from George Balanchine’s iconic Jewels.
The extension and intentsity of this photo from Dwight Rhoden’s Ave Maria, part of the March mixed repertory collaboration with Dance Theatre of Harlem, made it an instant pick for our top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017. Plus, hats off to PBT dancer Diana Yohe, who received a promotion to soloist in recognition of her brilliant performances this season.
There’s nothing quite like sitting in on a working studio rehearsal. You can see every expression the dancers make, hear each breath they draw and see the muscle behind the movement they make look so effortless. Here, Alexandra Kochis and Luca Sbrizzi rehearse for the title roles of Romeo and Juliet, and made it difficult to leave the studio with dry eyes.
Seen here onstage, Romeo and Juliet ended the 2016-2017 Season on an “emotional high.” The scenery was exquisite and the score is a masterpiece unto itself. But the dancing and acting, portrayed here by Yoshiaki Nakano and Amanda Cochrane, were enough to reduce us to tears.
Make more photographic memories next season! Don’t miss a banner season, featuring Dracula, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, PBT: New Works and UPMC Presents West Side Story Suite + In the Night! Learn more here.
Pittsburgh native Lexi Troianos is 15 years old and she already wears two very important hats: She’s a student in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Pre-professional Division’s full-time High School Program and a full-time freshman in high school. She’s been dancing since age three, and now has her sights set on a professional career in ballet. This week, she’s approaching the ballet world’s equivalent of “finals” — back-to-back performance weekends in downtown Pittsburgh. First up, she’ll perform May 19-21, in Pre-Professional Showcases at Point Park University. The following weekend, May 26-27, she’ll take the Byham Theater stage for Spring Performance, which features 200+ students of PBT School’s Student and Pre-professional divisions. For a dancer, performance opportunities are what it’s all about. It’s a chance to showcase all they’ve learned, to test their technique, to nurture their stage presence, to give themselves over to the pure joy of performing and being in the moment, just dancing. But as effortless as it appears onstage, these performances are the product of a lot of hard work. Compliments of Lexi, here’s a window into a day in the life of a serious ballet student:
5:15 a.m. // Wakeup Call
The day starts at dawn for Lexi, who lives with her family in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. It’s time to pack up her dance — and book — bags for a full day of studio and schoolwork. Lexi remains enrolled in the Seneca Valley School District, where she studies remotely and sometimes stops by the school for tests and other projects.
8-9:30 a.m. // Morning Ballet Class
Dancing starts bright and early with an 1.5 ballet class, a daily ritual for student and professional dancers alike. Lexi heads to her spot at the barre to stretch out and limber up before faculty member Christopher Budzynski, former PBT principal dancer, calls the class to order. Each class begins with barre combinations. Dancers warm up as they slowly loosen and lengthen their muscles, focusing on tendus, passes and plies. About 45 minutes in, dancers sideline the barres to make space for center combinations. In class, Lexi says she usually focused on specific aspects of her technique that feel off kilter that day. One day it could be turnout, and another the way she articulates her feet through each movement. “Overall, I think (class) makes you better as a dancer. It just warms you up for the rest of your day. I believe you can always get better.”
9:45-11 a.m. // Bluebird Rehearsal
Next up, Lexi changes into a teal rehearsal tutu to channel her inner fairy-tale princess. She and her partner, Kobe Courtney, are among three couples performing the sprightly “Bluebird Pas de Deux” from the classical ballet The Sleeping Beauty. Under Budzynski’s guidance, Lexi focuses on her technique and the joyful, yet regal presence required for the role. As she nears the final stretch of rehearsals for the spring performances, she says she’s focusing on “the fluidity of my arms and transitions…I think it was one of our better runs.”
11:30 a.m.-2:25 p.m. // Study Break
Now, Lexi heads to PBT’s upstairs cafe to switch gears. Laptops flip open, headphones pop in and Lexi and her fellow full-time high school students settle in for a few hours of schoolwork. Occasionally, students will bounce ideas off each other for a writing assignment or swap thoughts for other projects, but most home in on the task at hand. Today, Lexi is working on English and History assignments. Around noon, she’ll break for some lunch. On the menu for today is a chicken, parmesan and ranch wrap, a handful of almonds and some fruit. She’ll scatter in occasional snacks throughout the day to keep her energy up.
3-4:30 p.m. // Afternoon Ballet Class
After a few study hours, Lexi heads back down to the studio to warm up for her second ballet class of the day. The 1.5 class will prepare Lexi and her fellow student dancers for an afternoon runthrough of the program planned for this weekend’s Pre-Professional Showcases at the Benedum. Lexi is the zone at barre – hair tightly wound into a bun, wearing the customary black leotard and tights. As she prepares for center combinations, Lexi slides her feet into her pointe shoes, winds the ribbons around her ankles and sheds a layer of warm-ups. While Janet Popeleski explains the combinations, Lexi and her classmates seem to etch each movement into their muscle memory by sketching her instructions with an outstretched hand or foot. Class is essential to fine tuning technique and avoiding injury by gradually warming up the muscles until they’re supple enough for full-steam dancing.
4:30-6 p.m. // Pre-Professional Showcase Studio Runthrough
It’s time for a dry run of the works that these students have been rehearsing for months. While PBT School co-directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall watch on, Lexi runs through a handful of works, including the virtuosic Odalisque variation from Le Corsaire. These works pack serious classical technique, so Lexi and her fellow students must summon the stamina necessary to execute the challenging choreography with presence and personality. When they’re not dancing in a work, students sit cross legged at the back of the studio, cheering on their fellow dancers with bursts of applause for complex variations and technical feats. As she gets ready to dance each work, Lexi says, “I think about the music and the story behind it.”
6 p.m. // Drive Time
Dancing is done for the day, so Lexi head homes for some dinner and down time. But before bed, Lexi usually fits in some more schoolwork before catching up with her friends on Instagram and Facebook and winding down before bedtime.
10 p.m. // Bedtime
Now for some shuteye. Lexi will be back at it tomorrow morning, so it’s important to stay well-rested for the week ahead. During performance weeks, Lexi says, “You almost feel like you want to work even harder…you want to get perfect. Once you do get onstage, all of the nerves just go away, because you’re just dancing and it all flows out. There are no worries, nothing else in the world exists.”