5 Ways to Maximize Your Ballet Under the Stars Experience

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Ballet Under the Stars sets the stage for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2018-2019 Season with a free, al fresco performance on Sun., Aug. 19, at beautiful Hartwood Acres park. Here are 5 ways to maximize your Ballet Under the Stars experience.

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Early birds have the most fun. Soak up some fun in the sun before kicking back for Ballet Under the Stars. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. with food trucks and free family fun, including craft and dance activities, photo ops with costumed dancers, a ballerina dress-up station and more!  Plus, spread your blanket, set up your chairs and claim a prime performance spot!

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Eat dinner with the dancers. Mingle with artists before the show at our pre-show Picnic in the Park! Head to the VIP tent for wine and dinner by DiAnoia’s Eatery, voted one of Pittsburgh’s best new restaurants by Pittsburgh Magazine. Tickets, which cost $60 for adults and $20 for kids, benefit repertory, scholarships and community education programs.

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Or, pack your own picnic. Whether it’s wine and cheese or a full supper spread, Hartwood Acres is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic with your performance experience. If you prefer to travel light, visit one of Hartwood Acre’s featured food trucks and bring a bite back to your blanket.

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Don’t be afraid to dance along. Sit back, relax and let the music move you. The combination of fresh air, open sky and inspiring art never fails to bring audience members to their feet – or get them swaying in their seats!

Ballet Under the Stars - Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Plan your next ballet experience. Get a look at the main-stage lineup for PBT’s 2018-2019 Season, which features classic stories and exciting contemporary masterworks. Then, check your program for your exclusive Ballet Under the Stars promo code, and save 30% on any 2018-2019 Season ballet!


Find more Ballet Under the Stars details here!


The Story of Swan Lake

The Story of Swan Lake

Swan Lake is arguably the most famous ballet of all time. Have you heard of Swan Lake, but don’t know the story line? Here it is in a nutshell…

Prince Siegfried is celebrating his 21st birthday. His Queen Mother presents him with a new crossbow…and a wake up call. It’s nearly time to choose a bride from one of six eligible princesses. It seems like the perfect time to escape to a hunting party with his BFF, Benno, and the rest of his friends.
The Story of Swan Lake

Boy meets…swan. It’s after dark and, as Siegfried approaches a moonlit lake, he sights a majestic swan in flight. He takes aim…but the bird becomes a beautiful maiden, who implores him to lower his weapon. For Siegfried and Odette, it’s love at first sight. But this budding romance comes with some baggage.

The Story of Swan Lake

Cursed from the start.  Unfortunately, Odette has met an evil sorcerer first. The vindictive Von Rothbart has cursed Odette, trapping her in the body of a swan. Although she reassumes her human form by night, it will take a pledge of true love to break the spell once and for all.

The Story of Swan Lake
A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Siegfried has made up his mind to swear  his love for Odette, but he hasn’t envisioned the sabotage to come. Back home in the castle, guests — including the princesses — gather for his birthday ball. The Queen Mother pressures Siegfried to choose a bride, but he refuses. Who should waltz in but Von Rothbart and his daughter Odile (!), the spitting image of his beloved Odette…

The Story of Swan Lake
The Ultimate Deception.
Odile dazzles him with her vibrance (and her 32 fouettés) and deceives him into declaring his love to the wrong woman. As Prince Siegfried swears his fidelity, he sees a fleeting vision of Odette, realizing with horror that he’s mistaken his love for her evil twin.

The Story of Swan Lake
Will good or evil prevail?
No spoilers here. You’ll just have to see to find out.


Swan Lake with the PBT Orchestra runs Feb. 16-25, at the Benedum Center. Find your seats here.


4 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

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…

Valentine's Day PittsburghInspires

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.





Valentine's Day PittsburghKeeps Giving

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.





Valentine's Day PittsburghMoves

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.





Valentine's Day PittsburghGives Back

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.


#PBTNutcracker: How 1 Ballerina Balances 14 Roles

With 24 performances throughout December and unique casting combinations for each, the cast list for The Nutcracker is something of a Rubik’s Cube. How does one ballerina juggle 14 roles across 24 performances of The Nutcracker? Corps de ballet dancer Jessica McCann lets us in on her secrets to success.

First, name all 14 roles for us.

Arabian, Chinese, Columbina doll, Mrs. Kaufmann, Flowers, Aunt Gertrude, Grandmother, Marie, Snow Queen, Snow corps de ballet, Shepherdess, Spanish lead, Spanish side, Mrs. Stahlbaum.

What’s it like to learn and dance 14 roles? How do you keep it straight?!

“It’s kind of crazy isn’t it?! Each year, we slowly learn and perform more roles and are given more opportunities. So the number of roles just continues to increase as your years in the company progress. It’s exciting adding new roles and perfecting older ones. Before every show I really focus down on what I’m doing in this show and try not to worry about anything else. Getting into character really helps me with that because it’s the same music, but depending on your role that night…your timing is different or you’re in charge of something different. It’s always important to try things in a costume before your show, especially when we all do so many different roles. It’s a lot!”

Do you have a favorite role or even a top three? What makes each one special?  

“I might have to say, Marie, Snow Queen, and Arabian…Aunties from the party scene come very close though! (They are so funny…If you ever seen me perform it, you’ll probably notice how much fun I’m having!) Marie is, of course, my top pick. I really enjoy playing a character that drives the story. She is so full of life and wonder; you get to play with a lot of different acting while being Marie, including young love. Snow Queen and Arabian are my second and third picks. Being queen of the land of snow is probably my inner child’s dream coming true! The music is powerful and exciting. She is powerful but kind and understanding, and her entrance is one of my favorite things. A huge book opens up and the Snow King and Queen emerge through it. Arabian is the newest role for me…It’s challenging and rewarding, and I love the mysterious quality to the movement.”

How do you keep your energy up throughout the run?

“The whole company is constantly picking each other up – helping and encouraging each other, watching each other in the wings, constantly joking around and reminding each other to just have fun! It’s a long month, but we get through together.

I take a lot of vitamins…amino acids and omega-3 & 6. Lots of water…protein….smoothies, antioxidants and eggs and homemade protein bars with lots of different nuts and seeds as well as yogurt and homemade granola. I also tend to try and lay down and shut my eyes in between performances if time allows. I need to rest my mind and prepare and recharge for the next show filled with different roles then the shows previous. How we treat our bodies and minds when we are so busy pretty much makes or breaks you. You need to stay strong and healthy to make it through! We always have a dinner waiting for us in the crockpot on those nights when we come home at 11 p.m. as well. No matter how tired you are you need a good dinner too.”

What’s your favorite costume of the 14 you wear?

“This is hard… last season I had my Snow Queen premiere and I might have to say that one is my favorite. The Snow Scene has been my favorite scene in The Nutcracker since I started dance at 4 years old. The tutu and tiara are just gorgeous and I feel like a true ballerina when I’m in it.”

Do you prep a different pair of pointe shoes for each role?
“Definitely yes! (Dancing in the) Snow Scene corps de ballet always gets my deadest of dead shoes. It’s a lot of jumping and running, so soft is okay. I wear a brand-new pair when I do Marie, and it’s perfect. You need them harder in the beginning and it’s nice as they soften during the show, because in Act 2 there is much more jumping. If those shoes are still good I might wear them later for a Chinese show or Spanish lead show. Chinese, Shepherdess and Snow Queen need really nice turning shoes so they can’t be too dead, but not brand new. Comfortable. I might even transition my Marie shoes to my Snow Queen shoes. It totally depends on the role, the choreography, and what each individual dancer likes. I’m definitely walking around with a ton of different pointe shoes though, always trying to find the perfect pair for the roles I’m doing that day.”

What does The Nutcracker season mean to you?

“It’s all about family and tradition isn’t it? It’s something that touches young kids and they never forget it. My mother never forgot when she first saw it, and I’ll never forget when I first saw it. It’s a famous story everyone knows one way or another, and it’s a beautiful tradition that families make. I love being a part of so many families’ traditions each year.”


See all of these characters come to life in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker, on stage through Dec. 27, at the Benedum Center. Get your seats here.

Alexandra Kochis: My 5 Favorite Things


The Nutcracker is one of the grandest ballets in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s repertoire: Five lavish scene changes, 170 characters and costumes per performance, a total cast of 30 professional and nearly 150 student dancers. Falling snow, magic tricks, characters that come alive and dance after virtuoso dance. As she prepares for her 12th holiday season with PBT, principal dancer Alexandra Kochis crystallizes her five favorite moments from this supremely detailed production.

The Nutcracker - 5 Favorite Things

1. “The last few notes of the first act overture. It is a piece of music that perfectly captures the joy and the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve Day and the last few notes are both a perfectly satisfied ending as well as an open ended invitation to all the good things that are to come.”

>>> Listen to some of the Act I overture in this video:

Alexandra Kochis as Marie with former PBT dancer Stephen Hadala as Drosselmeyer

2. “The lift Marie does with Drosselmeyer in the beginning of the battle scene. It is at a moment in the ballet when everything in Marie’s world is in flux – flying apart and growing out of proportion. She sees her Uncle Drosselmeyer and it is as if he is the one familiar rock to which she can cling. They rush together and he lifts her, spiraling, high above the chaos and the mayhem and the danger. It is a beautiful metaphor as well as a striking visual. Plus it’s tons of fun to do.”

Alexandra Kochis, as Marie, dancing opposite her husband, former PBT principal dancer Christopher Budzynski, as the Nephew.

3. “After the battle scene, the stage and the story begin their shift into the Snow Scene. This is my favorite music of the ballet. Tchaikovsky’s score is lush and romantic and soaring. Terry’s libretto here perfectly mirrors the wonder and the magic of the music. The Nutcracker is transformed back to his human form of the Nephew and he announces himself to Marie. I absolutely love this moment as Marie. He is kneeling before you and you gently touch his newly exposed, no longer disfigured face. I get to gaze into my partner’s eyes with this gorgeous music building all around us. It’s a magical moment that I get to relive over and over. So romantic!”


4. “Dancing the finale of  the Waltz of the Flowers as Marie. You have a diagonal of soaring grand jetes that culminates with a reuniting with the Nephew and a final, joyous dance together. It is a celebration of happiness and movement and music and each time I do it, I am reminded why it is that I do what I do.”

The Nutcracker - 5 Favorite Things

5. “Seeing the little bees’ faces as they wait on the sides for their entrances during the second act. They are so tiny and so focused and so proud of the part they get to play amidst all these grownup, real-live ballerinas.”

Find your own favorite moments at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker, onstage Dec. 1-27, at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at just $28. Find your seats here.

Top 10 Ballet Photos of 2016-2017

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017

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!

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artists: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Corps de Ballet dancers | Photo by: Kelly Perkovich

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artists: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Principal Julia Erickson and the Corps de Ballet | Photo by: Rich Sofranko

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artist: Yoshiaki Nakano | Photo by: Rich Sofranko

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School students Grace Bond (left) and Eden Lewis (right) | Photo by: Kelly Perkovich

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artist: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Principal Julia Erickson & the PBT Corps de Ballet | Photo by: Rich Sofranko

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artists: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Principal Alexandra Kochis & former Principal Christopher Budzynski | Photo by: Aimee DiAndrea

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artist: Julia Erickson | Photo by: Aimee DiAndrea

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
 Artists: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers Diana Yohe & Corey Bourbonniere | Photo by: Rich Sofranko

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
 Artists: Alexandra Kochis & Luca Sbrizzi | Photo by: Aimee DiAndrea

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.

Top 10 ballet photos of 2016-2017
Artists: Amanda Cochrane & Yoshiako Nakano | Photo by: Rich Sofranko

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 Ballet Theatre & Dance Theatre of Harlem: 2 Companies, 1 Stage, 25+ Exciting Events

From the music of Brahms, James Brown and Billy Strayhorn to the choreography of Glen Tetley, Dwight Rhoden and Robert Garland, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem are joining forces to celebrate the diversity of dance talent and styles in American ballet. Tickets are going fast, but there are still tons of exciting ways to take part in this first-time collaboration:

Private Performance & Preview Party

6 p.m. Thursday, March 16, 2017 // August Wilson Center
Join us for pre-show festivities and a private performance, then eat, drink, and dance the night away with PBT and DTH artists. Best of all, your ticket supports PBT’s Community Youth Scholarship program, which provides need-based training scholarships to talented young dancers. Buy tickets here.

Save your Seat

Experience five works and two premier companies with one ticket! Seats are very limited; snag yours before it’s too late!

Friday, March, 17 – 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 18 – 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 19 – 2 p.m. 
Thursday, March 23 – 7 p.m.  BEST AVAILABILITY 
Friday, March 24 – 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 25 – 2 p.m. 
Saturday, March 25 – 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 26 – 2 p.m. 

Connect with the Artists

Screening of Black Ballerina
2 p.m. Saturday, March 11, 2017 // Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy School
Experience the inspirational stories of several diverse dancers who confronted the barriers of racism, exclusion and unequal opportunity in the pursuit of their ballet careers.Free and open to the public. Register here.

Panel Discussion: Diversity in Ballet 
4:45 p.m. Sunday, March 19, 2017 // August Wilson Center
Join dancers and artistic directors for a thought-provoking discussion on the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the art of ballet. Free and open to the public. Register here.

Meet the Artists: The Story of Our Collaboration 
Try out simple ballet steps, meet ballet dancers from both companies and learn the story of this exciting cross-company collaboration. Perfect for kids and families. Free and open to the public.

Session I: 10:30-11:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Homewood // Register here.

Session II: 6-7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Allegheny // Register here.

Informance: Discussion & Demonstration 
Explore the training and technique of classical ballet through engaging commentary and dancing by DTH and PBT artists. The program includes repertory excerpts, an audience engagement activity and a Q&A session. Free and open to the public.

Session I: 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Point Park University’s George Rowland White Performance Studio // Register here.

Session II: 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, 2017
University of Pittsburgh Alumni Hall // Register here.

PBT Connects @ the Theater
Join artistic directors Virginia Johnson (DTH) and Terrence S. Orr (PBT) for a series of pre-and post-performance discussions at the August Wilson Center. Free and open to performance patrons. Learn more here in the theater programs tab.


Support Studio Collaborations

Throughout the residency, PBT and DTH artists will connect with local students and dancers through a series of master classes and demos presented in partnership with the following organizations: Boys and Girls Club, CAPA, Hill Dance Academy, Hope Academy, Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy School, Orange Arrow, PearlArts Studios, Point Park University and the University of Pittsburgh. Lend your support to these important educational opportunities here.









In collaboration with Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Made possible with support from BNY Mellon; Richard King Mellon Foundation; Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust; The Benter Foundation; Richard E. Rauh; Point Park University; University of Pittsburgh; Mr. Edwin H. Beachler III; Mr. & Mrs. Tom Hotopp; Ms. Mary McKinney & Mr. Mark Flaherty; Mr. & Mrs. Chris Fleischner; Mr. & Mrs. Mark Popovich; Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Todd; Ms. Lois A. Wholey and Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P.