Day in the Life of a Ballet Student

Day in the life of the ballet student - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School
Day in the Life of a Ballet Student - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School
Pittsburgh native Lexi Troianos, 15, is a freshman in high school and a student dancer in PBT School’s full-time High School Program, which is part of the Pre-professional Division.

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.”

Day in the life of the ballet student - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School

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.”

See Lexi and her fellow pre-professional dancers perform this month in Pre-Professional Showcases, May 19-21, and Spring Performance 2017, May 26-27.

Romeo & Juliet with the PBT Orchestra

A Star-crossed Love Story

Received with acclaim in London, Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet expertly translates the poignancy of poetry to movement. In fair Verona, swords and egos clash over the forbidden love of Romeo and his Juliet. With melting pas de deux and spine-tingling chemistry, the dancers must immerse themselves in this love story, crystallizing the infatuation of two star-crossed lovers. Inspired staging breathes life into each fateful encounter – the first gaze at the masquerade ball, the iconic balcony scene, the candlelit tomb. Spiked with furious sword-fighting scenes and impassioned acting, this ballet offers a moving interpretation of Shakespeare’s iconic love story.

Choreography: Derek Deane
Music: Sergei Prokofiev

Learn More

SPONSORED BY:

Romeo & Juliet with the PBT Orchestra

A Star-crossed Love Story

Received with acclaim in London, Derek Deane’s Romeo and Juliet expertly translates the poignancy of poetry to movement. In fair Verona, swords and egos clash over the forbidden love of Romeo and his Juliet. With melting pas de deux and spine-tingling chemistry, the dancers must immerse themselves in this love story, crystallizing the infatuation of two star-crossed lovers. Inspired staging breathes life into each fateful encounter – the first gaze at the masquerade ball, the iconic balcony scene, the candlelit tomb. Spiked with furious sword-fighting scenes and impassioned acting, this ballet offers a moving interpretation of Shakespeare’s iconic love story.

Choreography: Derek Deane
Music: Sergei Prokofiev

Learn More

SPONSORED BY:

Meet Your Romeos and Juliets.

Romeo and Juliet Pittsburgh - Ballet Photo

Romeo and Juliet casting is up, and we can’t wait to see the chemistry between each leading couple. This production marks the North American premiere of Derek Deane’s epic adaptation, which dials up the drama with emotionally charged dancing and sumptuous Renaissance-era scenic designs. And let’s not forget another crucial casting element: The live PBT Orchestra will bring to life the famous Prokofiev score, which many believe rivals the great Tchaikovsky works. This masterpiece is onstage for one weekend only, April 21-23, at the Benedum Center. Get your tickets today!

Friday, April 21, at 8 p.m. // Sunday, April 23, at 4:30 p.m.

Hannah Carter Alejandro Diaz

Saturday, April 22, at 2 p.m.

Alexandra Kochis Luca Sbrizzi

Saturday, April 22, at 8 p.m. // Sunday, April 23, at 12 p.m.

Amanda Cochrane Yoshiaki Nakano

>>> View the full the cast list here.

*Casting is subject to change.

One Weekend Only: Romeo and Juliet takes the stage April 21-23, at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at just $28. Get your tickets here or call 412-456-6666. Groups of 8+ can save up to 50% by calling 412-454-9101 or emailing groupsales@pittsburghballet.org.

 

 

5 Facts to Love About ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Romeo and Juliet Pittsburgh - Ballet Photo

We could count many ways we love Romeo and Juliet, but allow us to wax poetic about just five facts, which make it the perfect season finale. This production dials up the drama with a sweeping staging that is completely new to Pittsburgh, to the United States, and to North America! Together with the PBT Orchestra, we’ll debut Derek Deane’s epic staging of Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers from April 21-23, at the Benedum Center. His reading reverberates with powerful acting and emotion, creating vivid poetry without speaking one word. Here are just 5 facts about Romeo and Juliet that make it love at first sight:

1.  It’s a feast for the eyes.

The curtain rises on a gorgeous scene straight out of Renaissance-era Italy. Derek Deane originally conceptualized this production for an in-the-round production at London’s cavernous Royal Albert Hall, so the scenery had to project. He says he was inspired by the “exquisite” setting of the 1968 Zeffirelli film to capture a cinematic quality in the ballet’s scenic designs. Scenic and costume designer, Roberta Guidi di Bagno, a native of Italy, brought his vision to life. Standout settings are the moonlit balcony scene and the eerie crypt with its somber procession of candle-bearing monks. Each performance features 63 characters, many of whom make multiple costume changes throughout the show.

2. Passions – and tensions – run high.  

This emotional roller coaster twists and turns from infatuation to fury and many fascinating shades in between. As they’re pushed to the brink of their emotions, protagonists reveal different sides of themselves, which creates unexpected and even startling moments between characters. The drama isn’t all in the sword-fighting scenes: Watch for evolving tensions among the members of the Capulet family, for example, and the character arcs that come along with it.

Romeo and Juliet Pittsburgh - Rehearsal photos
Dancers Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano rehearse Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony Scene. Photo by: Aimee DiAndrea.

3. But, the dancers keep it real.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has earned its place on the pedestal of great literature, theater and film. But with its themes of forbidden love and societal stresses, the story has stood the test of time because it’s relatable to real people. For his adaptation, Deane returned to the original text to analyze the characters and what makes them tick. Among his favorite interpretations are Lady Capulet, Tybalt and Juliet. His Juliet is a strong woman who knows what she wants, someone who has “so many layers to her.” Deane describes Tybalt, the “King of Cats,” as “uncontrollable…always looking for trouble.” And with her overwrought reaction to her nephew, Tybalt’s, death, Lady Capulet claims one of the ballet’s reigning dramatic moments.  Unlike the fairy-tale themes of great 19th-century works like Swan Lake or La Sylphide, Romeo and Juliet is a 20th-century ballet with real-world themes. This sense of reality is paramount to Deane’s interpretation.

4. Prokofiev gives Tchaikovsky a run for his money. And the PBT Orchestra will be playing it live.

Many credit Prokofiev’s score for cementing Romeo and Juliet’s place among the major works in the ballet repertoire. The intense, richly varied music is particularly famous for its character portraits and an emotional range that contains notes of both tenderness and violence. Prokofiev composed the score in 1935, though it wasn’t performed as a ballet until 1938. Three suites and 10 piano pieces extracted from the score were the first to reach the public. Although it was intended for the Kirov ballet, “Romeo and Juliet” premiered instead in Brno, Czechoslovakia (now in the Czech Republic) in 1938. It didn’t debut in the Soviet Union until the Kirov staged it in 1940. NPR’s Ted Libbey, author of its “Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music,” says “Romeo and Juliet is one of the most beautiful scores of the 20th century, and certainly one of the greatest compositions for the ballet stage, on a par with the great Tchaikovsky ballets.”

Romeo and Juliet Pittsburgh - Rehearsal photos
Dancers Yoshiaki Nakano and Amanda Cochrane rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet. Photo by: Aimee DiAndrea.

5. Without using one word, the dancing speaks volumes.

When it came time to translate Shakespeare’s poetry to motion, Deane first channeled the emotions of each encounter. “I visualize how the person should feel,” he said. Each dance carries its own emotional tenor from the lifts and elation of the balcony scene to the heartrending final dance in the crypt. Another choreographic feat can be found in the frenzied sword-fighting scenes between the feuding families. Two of Deane’s favorite moments sum up the ballet’s emotional extremes. One is Lady Capulet’s visceral reaction to Tybalt’s death, which Deane likens to a “Maria Callas moment.” But on the other side of the spectrum, he says, “I love that moment in the balcony pas de deux where they both realize there’s no way back. It’s destiny.”

One Weekend Only: Romeo and Juliet takes the stage April 21-23, at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at just $28. Get your tickets here or call 412-456-6666. Groups of 8+ can save up to 50% by calling 412-454-9101 or emailing groupsales@pittsburghballet.org.

Diana Yohe Becomes Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Newest Soloist Dancer

Diana-Yohe-as-Myrtha-in-Pittsburgh-Ballet-Theatre's-production-of-Giselle---1600
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer Diana Yohe of Willoughby, Ohio
Diana Yohe, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s newly promoted soloist

Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr has promoted company dancer Diana Yohe, of Willoughby, Ohio, to the rank of soloist for the 2017-2018 ballet season, which opens Oct. 27-29, with “Dracula” at the Benedum Center.

Yohe, an alumna of the PBT School Graduate program, joined the company in 2013 as a member of the Corps de Ballet. Over her four seasons with PBT, she has danced an increasing number of featured roles, including Myrtha in PBT’s October production of “Giselle” and Alice in its February production of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Diana-Yohe-as-Myrtha-in-Pittsburgh-Ballet-Theatre's-production-of-Giselle---870
Diana Yohe performing as Myrtha in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s October production of Giselle.

Her repertoire also includes featured roles in George Balanchine’s “Western Symphony;” Jiří Kylián’s “Petite Mort” and “Sinfonietta;” William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” Twyla Tharp’s “In the Upper Room;” Michael Smuin’s “Eternal Idol;” James Kudelka’s “The Man in Black;” Dwight Rhoden’s “Ave Maria;” and Marie and the Sugar Plum Fairy in PBT’s “The Nutcracker.”

Diana-Yohe-of-Pittsburgh-Ballet-Theatre-in-Dwight-Rhoden's-Ave-Maria
Diana Yohe and Corey Bourbonniere performing Dwight Rhoden’s Ave Maria, part of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre + Dance Theatre of Harlem collaboration at the August Wilson Center in March.

“Diana already has earned a number of leading roles in PBT productions, which makes this promotion incredibly well-deserved,” Orr said. “She brings a special quality to the stage, not only with exceptional technique, but also with a charisma that draws your eye whether she’s dancing a solo or corps role. I look forward to seeing all that she’s capable of achieving as a soloist.”

Yohe trained under Courtney Laves and Mark Otloski at the City Ballet of Cleveland before pursuing pre-professional training in Joffrey Ballet’s Trainee Program and in PBT School’s Graduate Program, which she joined in 2012.

See Diana perform in PBT’s 2016-2017 Season finale, “Romeo and Juliet” with the PBT Orchestra, onstage for five performances April 21-23, at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at $28 and are available online, by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting the Box Office at Theater Square. Groups of eight or more can save up to 50 percent by calling 412-454-9101 or emailing groupsales@pittsburghballet.org.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More

 

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More

 

#FacesOfBalletPgh: Zion Jackson & Bria Goldsmith

Students at Hill Dance Academy Theatre; aspiring professional dancers

Zion & Bria of Hill Dance Academy Theatre
Bria (left) and Zion (right) in the studio at Hill Dance Academy Theatre

It’s a Tuesday night in March, and Zion Jackson, 13, and Bria Goldsmith, 17, have just finished master classes with Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Lindsey Croop and Chyrstyn Fentroy. They’ll admit to a few pre-class jitters, but these two are no strangers to dance. Both are long-time students at Hill Dance Academy Theatre (HDAT), where they dance ballet, jazz, Horton, tap, African, modern and Afro-Caribbean and took tonight’s master classes. Their academy was founded by Ayisha Morgan-Lee, a professional dancer with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Howard University and a Master’s in Arts Management from Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College’s School of Public Policy & Management. The organization’s teaching artists include professional dancers, scholars and alumni, and its philosophy focuses on the dancer’s mind, body and spirit in a well-rounded program that prepares students for careers and life. For Zion and Bria, this philosophy rings true. Dance is central to their lives now, and both intend to build their futures around it. But regardless of what their future careers hold, they know it’s already changed them for life. Here are their stories:

How and when did you get your start in dance? What drew you to it?

Zion: “My first time coming to HDAT, I was 8 and my cousin did it. We used to always put on performances in my living room and show my parents, and they signed me up for dance. I also tried karate, but I was too graceful for it. So I did dance…When I first saw Misty Copeland’s performance on TV, I thought, ‘Hey that looks cool, I want to try that.’ It was very graceful. Of course it looked easy at it first, but it’s not easy (laughs).”

Bria: “I actually started because I came to one of HDAT’s summer intensive performances…my cousin (was performing). I was nine at the time and I didn’t do any outside activities, so my mom was like, ‘Do you want to try it?’ So that’s how I started dancing. I was never really a performer, I was more on the shy side. So I was thinking, maybe it would allow me to open up more and not be so timid and to myself and conservative…Something about dance just kept bringing me back in. I just enjoy it.”

How do you feel when you’re dancing?

Zion: “When I first started dancing I liked to stay to myself, and if I did do stuff, I liked to be in the back. But then as I started dancing I wanted to go to the front. When I dance I feel like I can touch someone in the audience. I feel loved by everybody around me. I feel like you develop a community around yourself. You feel like some people actually want to see you and are paying just to see you, so it’s kind of like a comfort feeling.”

Bria: “When I dance, I just feel a different type of energy coming out of me. Some people that are watching are not fortunate enough to dance for whatever reason, and I just want to make sure that I use this gift to the best of my ability, because everyone does not have the opportunity to dance. When I dance I try to make sure that I’m telling a story and that I’m just not going through the movement, but adding a little personality into it.”

What is your advice for someone who is on the cusp of trying someone new or expressing themselves through something like dance?

Zion: “At first it’s not going to be easy, but don’t give up. Don’t just take a class and be like, ‘OK I like it or I don’t like it.’ Make sure you keep taking classes, because in different classes you learn different things and you develop different feelings about dance. A lot of people say dance is your passion, but as it develops over time you can find that passion in dance.”

Bria: “Dance is very demanding. It takes a lot of work. But if you’re really passionate about it then maybe the work won’t really get to your head, because it’s something that you love. Also you shouldn’t worry about well, ‘She’s more flexible than me or she has better turnout than me’ or whatever it may be. It’s just you getting yourself better each day. I would just say, go for it. It’s a challenge, but if you continue to do it and continue to train, then your results will show.”

As a dancer, what do you take away from your ballet training, specifically, to improve your broader technique?  

Zion: “Whether you like ballet or not, it’s the basis of every dance. Everything drives from ballet just like Latin helps every other language form. In Horton, you always have to go navel to spine; even though the arms may be different, your main body frame and structure stays the same. Or in tap, you always have to stay on your toes or on the balls of your feet, so your relevé in ballet helps to make sure your calves are strong enough to do the exercises needed in different dances…Dance requires a lot of discipline, and ballet especially… Like posture in ballet: Some people will ask me, ‘Why are you sitting like that?’ And I didn’t even notice. Or I’ll be sitting and already pointing my feet, and I won’t notice that either. I feel like that influence in ballet, you carry it on through life.”

Bria: “Ballet is the foundation of all genres. Whatever genre you’re taking, ballet is going to show up in some way, shape or form. In ballet, you have to really understand the anatomy of your body. If you’re in any other genre, ballet is just there. That’s why I try each day in ballet to really get that down, so I can take it with me wherever I go.”

What was it like to take class with Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers?

Zion: “At first it was very intimidating. I see (Lindsey Croop) walk in, and I’m like, ‘Wow, she’s really graceful, she looks like she’s a really good dancer.’ And of course she is. I expected her to be really tough and hard on us, but she was very graceful and funny. She would also be really informative and tell us why we’re doing something, and make sure we’re breathing and just make sure that we’re doing what we’re supposed to (through) a friendly banter. You can see her personality. And when she danced and showed examples, you could see how her personality would show, which was a good influence on us.”

Bria: “It was kind of scary, because pointe isn’t really my strength at all and it’s just something that I have to continue to work on. But it turns out that she wasn’t as strict as I was expecting. She just really wanted us to know the different placements of our body. She wants to make sure that we’re dancing instead of doing the basics and just going through the movement. It was a nice class. She taught us some of her repertory, and it was really nice.”

Do you have a dancer role model?

Zion: “I think it would be Katherine Dunham or Pearl Primus. We had a choreographer come in and set some choreography on us that was choreographed by Pearl Primus, and I looked up how she used to dance. She was a very powerful woman and she was a very powerful dancer. She started in track…in something almost totally different from dance, so she inspires me.”

Bria: “Ingrid Silva. She is a dancer at Dance Theatre of Harlem. I watched her documentary a few days ago, and it just showed that you can do whatever you want to in life, no matter the obstacle or circumstance. It just really pushes me to make sure that whatever dream I have, I continue to go for that and I succeed no matter how long it will take me.”

What was your biggest takeaway from today’s master class?

Zion: “Our teacher today helped us understand that there are breathing points in ballet, and ballet is basically all breathing in the movement. Not to just do the movement, but to live in the moment. So while you’re living in the moment, you’re telling a story, and when you tell a story you have to breathe. Ballet is living…you have to breathe.”

Bria: “I learned to be more loose instead of being timid. She also taught that while we’re doing a fun and funky dance, make sure that you still continue to do the technique… the ballet foundation. Also I learned, you are your biggest competitor. Even though she didn’t say that bluntly, that’s what I got from it. You can’t compare yourself to whatever someone else has, you just have to fight to make sure that you’re better than what you were yesterday. That’s just the motto that I’m trying to keep with me throughout my dance career and I hope that takes me far.”

What are your plans for the future and for your career?

Zion: “I personally want to dance with Philadanco, because I like their style and how it’s really fast movement. It’s to its full extent. They do Horton, and that’s my favorite style of dance. Horton, Graham, Dunham, I like those types of dance styles, and Philadanco does that and it’s really upbeat. Every piece has a story behind it, and it’s really fast and I like that. And then I want to open my own dance company like Miss Ayisha has.”

Bria: “I’m a rising senior, so in college I do plan on dancing, depending on whether it’s a major or minor. Then, after college, if dance sticks with me throughout the four years, the company I would like to join is Ronald K. Brown Evidence. I just feel like that’s the company that I can relate most to. I think it was two years ago, they came to Pittsburgh and did an open community audition to perform with their dancers and I was picked among three other dancers. Right then and there I knew that I could see myself in that company when I grew up. I’ve seen a lot of companies, so me saying that now…says a lot. Hopefully I keep that mentality throughout my college years.”

What has dance given you that you’ll always carry with you, both within and beyond the dance world?

Zion: “Discipline. In dance there’s a lot of discipline. You have to know when to ask questions, when not to ask questions. Your posture. How to greet and make connections with people. The dance world is so small that you have to make different connections with different people and that will go a long way. In the real world it’s kind of like that…making different connections can get you pretty far in the dance world or not.”

Bria: “You have to network and put yourself out there and not be afraid to connect with other people. You might meet up with them a year later and you might be looking for a job and they might be one of the people who interview you and they might remember you. Not to be afraid to take on any challenge that comes your way and to never throw away an opportunity, because you never know where that could take you.”

Performing. Is that a big part of the equation for you – the ability to share your gift with others?

Zion: “My first time performing with HDAT I was 8 or 9…and even though I was in the back I felt like the spotlight was on me. I liked that feeling of having people watching you and coming just to see you. I like the rush of performing. Even backstage, preparing to perform, you meet so many people and there’s so many memories. Not everything is going to be perfect. Things go fast, and you have to be able to react quickly to those things. I have a lot of memories to take back with me before, during and after the performance.”

Bria: “It just brings you a satisfaction to know that you touched someone out in the audience in some type of way. I feel like dancing is just a way of life. Even if you don’t pursue that for the rest of your years, I feel like there’s always going to be a part of you that will always have a connection to dance. That’s where I am right now. I’m just trying to enjoy my last year here. I’m also in the stage of trying to find myself and trying to see how I’m unique and stand out from the rest.”

Why is it important to take class with and be exposed to people with different professional backgrounds?

Zion: “It keeps letting you get inspired to do different things and it helps you touch on different genres of dance that maybe you weren’t thinking about doing in the future or you haven’t done. I know sometimes in dance it gets really hard and it’s gets hard for you to keep moving on and pushing forward. When you keep having master classes, it inspires you to keep going so you can see the excellence that you can become when you get older.”

Bria: “It’s good to take master classes, because you never want to stay stuck on one style of dance. You want to get all the opportunities that you can to try other things, because you never know, you may like it. Also, taking master classes with different people, you may see them again. They may remember you…You just never know what you can get out of a master class. I just feel like it’s great to take every opportunity that you get.”

Why do you think dance is universal?

Zion: “I think dance is universal because I feel like whatever you do there’s going to be something that you love encrypted into it. Some people use dance as a stress reliever, and some people might use art, like coloring, as a stress reliever, so I feel like we all have different hobbies and different things that we can share with each other. To me, wherever I go, especially in Pittsburgh if you go to one of the cultural events, dancing is always part of the show. Or, you’ll see someone just getting up and dancing to their favorite song, whether it’s nodding their head or actually dancing. So even if you’re not taking classes 24/7, I feel like you still have a part of dance and that rhythm in your body.”

Bria “Dance is just one big community. The dance world is known to be small. Whenever you go out to different functions that revolve around dance, you can meet up with someone that you may have been in a master class with a few months ago…you can just meet people from all over. Also, I just feel that dance is in every type of activity. I know some football players take ballet classes for their muscles…or track…or any other type of sport. I just feel like dance is in everything and there’s no escaping it.”

We’re celebrating diverse, inspiring dance stories all month long. Join the dialogue and follow the series at #FacesOfBalletPgh.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More

 

#FacesOfBalletPgh: Adon Quinerly

Adon-Quinerly performing in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School's Spring Performance at the Byham Theater.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School student dancer; recipient of PBT’s Community Youth Scholarship

Adon Quinerly, a scholarship student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre SchoolAdon Quinerly was six years old when he auditioned for the inaugural class of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Community Youth Scholarship program. In his own words, “I thought it would be fun; I thought PBT would be a cool place to experience.” Now, at age 10, nearly four years into the training program, dance still makes Adon feel “happy.” He says his favorite part is “learning new dance moves” and picking up new choreography. Since joining PBT School’s Children’s Division, Adon has performed in the company’s main-stage production of The Nutcracker at the Benedum Center in addition to PBT School spring performances at the Byham Theater. Here’s why Adon’s pursuit of dance makes his mom, Maximillion Elliott-Quinerly, happy too.

Why do you think ballet is a good opportunity for Adon? Why did you decide to help him pursue or discover it?

“Dance was such a large part of my life during my pregnancy with Adon and directly after. I took him with me wherever I’d dance. When he was a baby, at times I would wear him when I taught or during congregational dances. I would grab a piece of cloth and wrap it around him and wrap him onto me.  As Adon grew, I began to incorporate him into the choreography whenever I could. Dance was very natural for him, as it was for me. Unfortunately for me, as a young person I did not have an opportunity to receive technical training. When I heard about PBT’s scholarship program, I wasn’t sure that Adon would want to pursue ballet in the way that he does.  However, I knew I had to at least put him in a position to have that option.  I wanted Adon to be able to explore his full potential in dance and not be limited by a limited dance vocabulary.  When he was awarded a scholarship with PBT, we were both very excited.  

Ballet is a beautiful language of discipline and grace, a foundational language from which one can build a dance vocabulary. I believe technical training offers the natural dancer an opportunity to expand their abilities and perfect their natural gift. Adon is developing beautifully under the guidance of PBT, and I am looking forward to watching his continued growth as a dancer and as a man.”

Why do you think these classes are an important part of his weekly routine and his life?

“The weekly routine is helping Adon to learn time management and prioritization of tasks. The discipline he is learning in ballet is transferrable to other areas of his life.”

Adon-Quinerly-performing-in-Pittsburgh-Ballet-Theatre's-The-Nutcracker
Adon Quinerly performing in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker

What do you think ballet brings out in Adon?

“Confidence.  Ballet is building Adon’s confidence and self-esteem; this is translating ballet into every area of his life.  Additionally, when he is at PBT and/or participating in PBT activities and performances there is a sense of community. He is a part of something that he loves and a part of a group of people who he is developing long-term relationships with.”

Why do you believe dance in general, and ballet in particular, is universal?

“I’ve spent almost a decade using dance as a platform to communicate with and bring together multi-cultural, multi-generational people from extremely diverse backgrounds. The language of dance transcends geographical, socio-economic, political and other boundaries; it draws people together to create beauty in community. Ballet in particular is a technical language that appears consistent cross-culturally. The issue is the foundational language is not known to all. This language, ballet, should be as accessible as one’s first language. However, even in the absence of audible cues, there is a kinesthetic teaching that takes place in dance. This way of teaching is invaluable particularly when one travels to teach.”

We’re celebrating diverse, inspiring dance stories all month long. Join the dialogue and follow the series at #FacesOfBalletPgh.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More

 

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More

 

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More

 

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem

Featuring the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra

In Collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Made possible with support from Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Benter Foundation, Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust and Richard E. Rauh

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre joins forces with Dance Theatre of Harlem for an exciting collaboration at the August Wilson Center. In PBT’s first cross-company pairing, the two companies will present a mixed bill program celebrating the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. A trailblazing company for classical dancers of diverse racial backgrounds, Dance Theatre of Harlem became a New York City institution in 1969 – the same year PBT was born in Pittsburgh. With five works on each eclectic program, the audience will see dance from choreographers, including Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, and hear music from artists, such as Johannes Brahms, Aretha Franklin, James Brown and Pittsburgh native Billy Strayhorn. Each company will perform signatures from its own repertoire, and the two troupes will collaborate on a staging of the bravura “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from Swan Lake.

Learn More