New Dancer Spotlight: Colin McCaslin

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer - Colin McCaslinArtistic 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 QuixotePaquita and Western Symphony. Get to know Colin here.

 

Fun Facts

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).

Six-question Q&A

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancer - Colin McCaslinHow 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.”

Photo Gallery: From Ballet Students to Stars

See the next generation of professional dancers, including newly hired company members Christian García Campos and Tommie Kesten, on stage this month in PBT School’s Pre-professional Showcases and Spring Performance 2018.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Pre-professional Division is a training ground for the next generation of aspiring dancers. According to Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr, “The Pre-professional Division is where dancers begin making the transition from student to professional. At this stage, dancers are honing their performance skills, cultivating their individuality as artists and testing their technique in company repertoire.” PBT’s company roster is a testament to this — Orr has recruited more than half of its dancers from the Pre-professional Division. Here, get an exclusive look at our stars while they were still students:

 

New Dancer Spotlight: Christian García Campos

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer - Christian Garcia CamposArtistic Terrence S. Orr recruited Christian García Campos, of Puebla, Mexico, to the company from the PBT School Graduate Program, where she has trained since 2014 — first as a full-time high school student and then as a Graduate student. She’ll make her official company debut at PBT’s Aug. 19, Ballet Under the Stars performance at Hartwood Acres, followed by the company’s main-stage season opener Mozart in Motion in October. Get to know Christian here.

Fun Facts

Tell us about your…

Hometown: Puebla, Pue., México

Family: “With two surgeons as parents, both my sister and I decided dance was our path. She has a dance studio back home.”

Pre-performance ritual: “I try to relax myself with music, but I definitely cross myself before entering the stage.”

Hobbies: Playing the piano, drawing and writing

Favorite food: Tacos and sushi

Favorite song: “No no no” by Beirut

Ultimate dream role: Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) or Nikiya (La Bayadère)

Favorite role to date: A bride in PBT’s production of Dracula 

New Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Dancer - Christian Garcia CamposQ&A

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist during your time in the PBT School Graduate Program?
“I believe that I have matured my dancing, trying to pay more attention to the small but meaningful details, which make the difference. I also think I’ve worked on trying to throw myself out there without worrying about the outcome. That usually does the trick, which hopefully will help throughout next year.”

Describe your ballet “epiphany” – the moment you knew this was what you wanted to do professionally.
“I don’t think there was an exact moment, but I remember that when I was younger in my home studio, I would love going to rehearsals. My fun on Fridays and Saturdays wouldn’t be about parties, it would be about going to do what I loved the most. Some people wouldn’t understand it, but that’s how I knew I wanted to keep doing this for however long I could.”

What are some of your personal goals for your first season as a company dancer?
“I want to grow as a teammate. I believe the experience that you get as a student might be different from the one you get as a professional dancer with your coworkers. I also want to expand myself and be brave in doing things I’m not used to doing, to not stay in a comfort zone, not to focus too much on certain things so I don’t forget to loosen up a bit.”

What’s the most fulfilling thing about being a ballet dancer? 
“There’s just so much to it. It’s like entering a whole new world that not everybody gets to experience. To be backstage, to witness how magic gets done before a show, and of course being on stage. It’s like escaping reality for a little bit. The lights, the costumes and makeup, how the music completely wraps up my entire focus. I live for those tiny moments that happen in which I indulge completely in the moment, and I couldn’t be more satisfied than that.”

What are you most looking forward to dancing next season?
“Definitely Mozart in Motion; it’s not every day that you get to dance something a little less classical and what better than (these works by George Balanchine and Jiří Kylián). Also I’m very curious about The Great Gatsby. ”

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…
“A marine biologist. The ocean mesmerizes me and I love animals way too much (haha). It’s always been sort of a dream to work with dolphins.”

Children Invited to Audition for 2017-2018 Dance Scholarships

Children's Dance Scholarships - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

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 csalgado@pittsburghballet.org. Space is limited. For full audition guidelines and program details, please visit www.pbt.org/youthscholarships.

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.