Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Yugoslavian choreographer Nicolas Petrov joined the dance faculty at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. By 1968, Petrov began to mount several small ballets and his version of " The Nutcracker" for 85 dance students. The Playhouse's dance school continued under the college's auspices and was moved to Lawrence Hall downtown.
April 1970 marked the debut of Pittsburgh Ballet at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. 1970-71, PBT presented its first subscription season at the Syria Mosque. 1971-1972, PBT became a constituent of the newly restored
Heinz Hall. In 1973, donors purchased a downtown building for the company that would provide space for rehearsal studios and the PBT School as well as costume and production shops. In 1974 Nicolas Petrov invited his friend, the renowned Frederic Franklin to join PBT as Co-Artistic Director. PBT continued to grow; by the 1977-1978 season ticket sales comprised 67% of PBT's $1.7 million budget. The company had continued use of the Point Park Collegestudios for classes and overflow rehearsal space, but when an agreement was reached on the balance owed the college, PBT became completely independent from Point Park College.
Artistic Director Nicolas Petrov left to concentrate on his work at Point Park College. In March 1977, Petrov and Franklin were replaced as Co-Artistic Directors by former
London Festival Balletprincipal dancer John Gilpin who left shortly after taking over because of health problems. Following a six-month search, the Board of Trustees appointed French dancer and choreographer Patrick Frantz Artistic Director in 1978. Frantz emphasized contemporary works in the company's repertoire and spearheaded the development of the PBT School. 1980, PBT's 10th anniversary, saw two major developments that would profoundly affect the future of the Company: the dancers voted to join the performing arts union, the American Guild of Musical Artists and Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swannjoined the PBT Board of Trustees. An ardent dance fan, Swann would prove to be an invaluable support for the growing PBT School.
Frantz indicated to the Board of Trustees his desire to concentrate solely on choreography and in June 1982, Patricia Wilde's appointment to the post was announced. Wilde began to focus on the clean, precise technique for which she herself was known, adding more Balanchine ballets to the repertoire. In the 1983-1984 season, plans were put in place for the company's move to a new location, its current site at 2900 Liberty Avenue. Plans for a new performing arts center in Pittsburgh were put into motion when the
Pittsburgh Cultural Trustwas formed and began raising funds to support a $42 million restoration of the Stanley Theatre, renamed the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. In 1983 Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, together with the Pittsburgh Opera, Civic Light Opera and Pittsburgh Dance Council, agreed to become constituents of the Benedum Center, opened in 1987.
Wilde led PBT from 1982-1997, until the arrival of current Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr, a celebrated
American Ballet Theatreballet master and former principal dancer. In December 2002, PBT mounted a new production of "The Nutcracker" with choreography by Orr and set and costume designs by renowned New York designer Zack Brown. Orr's "Nutcracker" is set in turn-of-the-century (1904) Pittsburgh, with scenery and names reflective of Pittsburgh neighborhoods and historical figures.
In 2000, Orr began a series of commissions for contemporary ballets inspired by American music, including such musicians as Indigo in Motion, Ray Brown,
Stanley Turrentine, Lena Horne, Billy Strayhorn, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, and Cole Porter, with choreography of Kevin O'Day, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Dwight Rhoden, Derek Deane, Matjash Mrozewski, and Twyla Tharp. In the spring of 2006, PBT had the first "Choreographers' Showcase" performance was presented at Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Artsfeaturing ballets choreographed by three of PBT's Principal Dancers, Erin Halloran, Ying Li, and Jiabin Pan.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School
PBT launched its first comprehensive Arts Education program in 1989 with a seed grant from the Henry C. Frick Educational Commission. In its first year the program reached 6000 children. Since that time, PBT has reached more than 65,000 children from over 200 school districts in a four-state region.
The PBTS has an enrollment of approximately 300 students and offers more than 12 levels of studio instruction six days per week. The PBTS/
Schenley High SchoolProgram, enables exceptionally talented students to continue high school study while pursuing intensive, professional dance training. Students in the Schenley Program earn academic credit for additional dance classes in the morning. The curriculum includes, technique, pointe or men's, partnering, jazz, character, and pilates classes. The Graduate Program provides advanced level training to high school graduates who are preparing to audition for professional positions. While the Grad students have the same technique classes as students in the Schenley Program, they concentrate more on learning and rehearsing repertoire. Graduates of the PBTS are dancing in professional ballet companies nationwide.
The school has two main performances. Schenley Showcase is in May in the PBT studios, and only features dancers from the Schenley or Graduate Programs. The Spring Performance is held at the
Byham Theaterdowntown the first Saturday in June. Students may also be used in other company productions, especially "The Nutcracker".
* [http://www.pbt.org/ Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre homepage]
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