All Things Prince with Colin McCaslin

Everyone loves a prince – and PBT Soloist Colin McCaslin has played his fair share of them onstage. We asked him what it is like to portray the Prince in Jayne Smeulders’ U. S. Premiere of Cinderella.

You can see Colin as the Prince at The Benedum Center during the evening performances of Cinderella with the PBT Orchestra on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m.


If you weren’t the prince, what other character would you like to be in Cinderella?
“If I weren’t portraying Prince Charming, I think I’d really like to be one of the birds. I like the story behind them and how they relate to the values Cinderella was taught as a child.”

What makes the Cinderella prince role stand out?
“I think something that stands out about Jayne Smeulders’ interpretation of Cinderella and Prince Charming to me is the way that their relationship and chemistry really builds from the first moment they meet all the way up until the curtain comes down on the final pas de duex.”

Have you performed as any other princes/prince-like characters?
“I’ve now performed as a number of princes including Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Prince Desiré in The Sleeping Beauty, and Sugar Plum Cavalier in The Nutcracker. I cannot wait to add Jayne Smeulders’ Prince Charming, It’s definitely one of my favorites so far!”

If you had to choose a fairy tale Prince, who would be your favorite? Do you have a favorite princess as well?
“I think if I were to choose a favorite fairy tale couple I would have to choose Cinderella and Prince Charming. I find that despite being drawn to each other from seemingly opposite lifestyles their love and compatibility is very wholesome.”

Would you like to be a real-life prince or do you think their burdens are too much to bear?
“I’m sure there would be various ups and downs to being a real-life prince, as there are in all walks of life. I think given the burdens and responsibilities I would prefer just portraying on stage”


Colin McCaslin, of Vineland, New Jersey, joined Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 2018
from the PBT School Pre-Professional Division. 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, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Beauty and the Beast and West Side Story Suite and with Atlantic City Ballet in Carmen and Swan Lake. His repertoire also includes Giselle, La Sylphide and Don Quixote, among others.


Artists: Colin McCaslin and Tommie Lin O’Hanlon | Photography: Anita Buzzy Prentiss, Michael Henninger, Aviana Adams

Talking Shoes with Cinderella

Cinderella’s glass slippers are among the most famous fictional shoes in the world. Here at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, pointe shoes are just as important to our artists as Cinderella’s slippers were to her. We asked principal artist Hannah Carter, who will be portraying Cinderella in PBT’s upcoming production, to talk shoes!

You can see Hannah as Cinderella at The Benedum Center during the matinee performances of Cinderella with the PBT Orchestra on Saturday, May 18 and Sunday, May 19 at 2:00 p.m.


Photo: Michael Henninger

Can you share the process involved in “breaking in” pointe shoes?
“I am quite ‘low maintenance’ when it comes to breaking in my shoes. I never choose a left and right shoe, I prefer to rotate them so they break in evenly. All I do before putting on a new pair is soften the back of the shoe a little so it’s more supple, and also the box area so I’m able to go through demi-pointe.”

How do you take care of your feet to minimize injury?
“Strengthening exercises are the best way to minimize injury, as well as icing after rehearsals at the end of the day. I also like to make sure I’m wearing supportive shoes outside of work.”

Photo: Aviana Adams

How long does a pair of pointe shoes last?
“It depends on the ballet we’re rehearsing at the time, I usually wear a new pair of shoes for 3-4 ballet classes until they become part of the rehearsal rotation and then they can last anywhere from 1-2 weeks. I typically go through 50/60 pairs of pointe shoes a season and I know that because I number them so that I can keep track of which shoes go together.”

Do you have a favorite brand of pointe shoes?
“Every dancer not only has a favorite brand of pointe shoe but a favorite maker within that brand. I wear Freeds and I use the maker ‘Heart.’ The shoes are custom-measured to my feet, even down to the amount of glue that is used based on how hard I need them.”

How old were you when you started on pointe?
“I was about 11/12 years of age. Before I put pointe shoes on, we did ‘pointe class’ in our bare feet… very basic at the barre, but that was to start strengthening before relying on the shoes to help us.”

What makes the Cinderella pointe shoes special?
“They are just my normal pointe shoes that I wear except the costume department will make them glittery and sparkly!! First I have to break them in like I normally would, then I’ll hand them in to Kaylee who is our

costume assistant and shoe manager and she’ll decorate them! We sell our used pointe shoes at the PBT boutique so I suppose these ones will be limited edition!! I’ll probably only have about 3 made up, so look out for them at the boutique next season!”

What are your favorite non-dance shoe styles?
“I don’t really have a favorite non-dance shoe style! I like to match my shoes to what I’m wearing, whether trainers, sandals, boots, etc. In the summer, I pretty much live in Birkenstocks, and in the winter, I stick to trainers and boots.”

What was your latest shoe purchase?
“ A pair of New Balance trainers.”


Hannah Carter of England joined PBT in 2013 after dancing as a corps de ballet member with Estonian National Ballet. She graduated from the Royal Ballet School with honors and has been a principal artist with PBT since 2016. Her repertoire with PBT includes performances of Swan Lake, Don Quixote and The Nutcracker. Hannah has also performed leading roles in Le Corsaire, La Bayadère, Giselle and Romeo and Juliet, among others.

Cinderella Shoes at the Benedum

William Moore’s Favorite PBT Moments

PBT Soloist William Moore will be retiring from the company on May 18 during Cinderella. Moore danced with PBT for more than 11 years, as well as choreographed for them. Moore will remain in his PBT Choreographer-in-Residence role through 2024 and will create an updated version of Rite of Spring for PBT’s Spring Mix: 5 for 55 performance in April 2025. Below, he remembers some of his career highlights and favorite roles throughout the years.


Ballet: Diamonds by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Roles: Principal
Year: 2021
“Walking across the Benedum stage at the beginning of the principal pas de deux was so calming. The pas de deux is very indulgent, and it was a moment when I truly felt present on stage.”


Ballet: Petite Mort by Jiří Kylián
Year: 2015

“This was always a dream ballet for me to perform. Kylián’s movement has such a seamless, beautiful quality. Paired with Mozart’s music, it is a true masterpiece and an experience I will always remember.”


Ballet: Sinfonietta by Jiří Kylián
Year: 2015

“Another one of Kylián’s works. I love how much energy Sinfonietta has, with fast-traveling movement that transitions seamlessly from step to step. It’s a joy to perform!”


Ballet: In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe
Year: 2015

“William Forsythe’s staple work, In the Middle, was another dream piece to perform. It was a real challenge to dance so sharply and with such expansiveness.”


Ballet: Fancy Free by Jerome Robbins
Year: 2018

“I loved this ballet. It’s so cheeky and fun to dance. I really felt like the audience was engaged and enjoying it as much as we were.”


Ballet: Swan Lake by Susan Jaffe (2022)
Role: Prince Siegfried
Year: 2022

“I think this makes the list because it was such a challenge. Siegfried’s involvement physically and emotionally throughout the whole ballet was draining, but very rewarding.”


Ballet: Westside Story Suite by Jerome Robbins
Role: Riff
Year: 2018

“Singing and talking onstage was so unfamiliar but I really got into the role. It’s such an iconic piece and I’m really proud to have been a part of it. It’s always fun to die onstage too!”


Ballet: Lascia la Spina by Sasha Janes
Year: 2021

Lascia is a pas de deux my wife and I performed during the pandemic. It was very challenging partnering-wise but equally beautiful. We really relished dancing it together!”


Ballet: Giselle By Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Role: Hilarion
Year: 2019

“Hilarion is a great role because he is a complicated character who is neither good nor bad. He’s just mostly misunderstood, which is what makes him so fun to portray!”


Ballet: Le Corsaire by Marius Petipa
Role: Birbanto
Year: 2016

“I’ve been lucky in my career to play lots of great villains (in my opinion the much better role), and none more so than Birbanto. A great solo with lots of drama and deceit, ending in yet another stage death.”


Photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Yoshiaki Nakano’s Favorite PBT Memories

After serving as an artist at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for more than 14 years, Principal artist Yoshiaki Nakano will retire on May 19, 2024. Nakano has won numerous dance awards and was named one of Dance Magazine’s top “25 Dancers to Watch.” in 2014.
In addition to dancing, Nakano has choreographed over 50 works, including pieces for PBT, Point Park University and multiple schools and companies in Japan. He was named a PBT Choreographer-in-Residence in 2023. Below, he reminisces about some of his career highlights and favorite roles throughout the years.


Ballet: Romeo & Juliet by Derek Deane
Roles: Romeo and Mercutio
Year: 2017
“Performing Romeo and Mercutio back-to-back was challenging, but I learned so much about being a human on stage instead of acting.”


Ballet: Giselle By Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
Roles: Albrecht
Year: 2016, 2019

“This is one of my favorite ballets! The music, the story – sad, yet beautiful. The Pas de Deux was a treat to dance!”


Ballet: Swan Lake by Marius Petipa (2014, 2018) and by Susan Jaffe (2022)

Roles: Prince Siegfried
Year: 2014, 2018, 2022

“This was my first full-length principal role back in 2014. I had the opportunity to recreate this role with Susan Jaffe for her Swan Lake in 2022, I loved every moment working with her for this production.”


Ballet: Don Quixote
Roles: Basilio
Year: 2014

“This role was technical, but it was so much fun! I love the music and the fun story! I loved being goofy and cool at some time! I wish I could dance it again!”


Ballet: Le Corsaire By Marius Petipa
Roles: Conrad and Ali
Year: 2016
“Ann-Marie-Homes taught the choreography for Le Corsaire and working with her was so amazing! These roles had such powerful movement and acting that it gave me chills!”


Ballet: Le Bayadère By Marius Petipa
Roles: Solor and Bronze Idol
Year: 2015

“This was my first full-length ballet after my injury. I remembered working so hard to get back in shape, but it was such a fulfilling moment!”


Ballet: Fireside Nutcracker by Terrence S. Orr
Roles: Sugar Plum Cavalier
Year: 2020

“During the COVID-19 Pandemic we filmed Fireside Nutcracker and was able to work with my dear wife as my partner. It was an amazing experience!”


Ballet: In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated By William Forsythe
Year: 2015

“A masterpiece from William Forsythe. This is one of my dream roles. The striking movement and learning irregular partnering was so memorable and I definitely changed my perspective and how to dance.”


Ballet: In the Upper Room by Twyla Tharp
Year: 2013

“This is such a legendary piece from Twyla Tharp. It incorporates Philip Glass’s music with such physical movement. I will never forget how it was!”


Ballet: All of George Balanchine’s Works
Performance/Year: Agon, 2011
Prodigal Son, 2011
Western Symphony, 2015
Divertimento No 15, 2018
Rubies, 2019
Theme and Variation, 2023
Allegro Brilliante, 2024

“All of George Balanchine’s works taught me to be a better dancer. Agon, Prodigal Son, Rubies, Western Symphony, Allegro Brilliante, Divertmento No 15, Theme and Variation – everything I learned from his work definitely influenced who I am today!”


Photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Danielle Downey’s Favorite PBT Moments

After serving as an artist at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for more than 17 years, Danielle Downey, a Corps de Ballet member, will retire on May 18, 2024. During her tenure with PBT, she has showcased her talent in more than 50 productions. After her retirement, Danielle and her husband will be running Ridgemeade Farm, a regenerative farm in Farview, PA . The farm will have vegetables, pasture-raised animals, a distillery and Downey’s specialty of growing cut flowers for flower subscriptions, florists and weddings/events. Here, she reflects on some of her career highlights and favorite roles throughout the years.


Ballet: The Nutcracker by Terrence S. Orr
Roles: Multiple, including Sugar Plum Fairy, Snow Queen and Arabian (Elegance)
Year: Annually
“This ballet holds a special place in my heart because I’ve performed it every single year since I was a little girl. From a baby mouse, toy soldier, and party girl, to every female dancing corps de ballet role, and even principal roles like “Sugar Plum” and “Snow Queen.” My favorite of which is commonly known as “The Arabian,” now known as “Elegance” at PBT.
It’s the ballet I think I’ll miss performing the most, especially at Christmastime. I very much look forward to continuing the annual tradition, this time as an audience member with my two young daughters by my side.”


Ballet: Swan Lake by Terrence S. Orr (2010, 2014, 2018) and Susan Jaffe (2022)
Role: Big Swan
Year: 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022
Swan Lake is my favorite full-length classical ballet. I’ve had the opportunity to revisit this work five different times throughout my career and to perform it on tour in St. Louis in 2006 while I was still a Grad Student.
It is a long, difficult, and demanding ballet, and certainly puts a toll on the dancer’s body, but I find it incredibly fulfilling. I find myself getting lost in the music and all of the aches and pains melt away. ‘Big Swans’ is a favorite role of mine and the very end of the ballet in Terrence S. Orr’s version with the orchestra led by Charles Barker is my absolute favorite moment on stage.”


Ballet: La Bayadère by Marius Petipa
Role: Third Shade Variation
Year: 2015
“I danced the “Kingdom of the Shades” scene as part of the PBT School Grad Program performance, and then had the opportunity to do the full ballet on the vast Benedum stage.
I’m not at all afraid of heights, but there’s nothing quite like doing all of those arabesques winding down a tall, rickety ramp in a tutu where you can’t see your feet beneath you. After that, performing the adagio was an empowering and favorite moment with my fellow corps de ballet ladies – all of in perfect unison.
During the COVID lockdown, we had the opportunity to recreate that scene virtually, and that had its own set of unique challenges — including dancing in the grass of my backyard on a very blustery day, trying to dance in sync with the rest of the girls (and PBT Music Director) Yoland Colin who played the piece of music) when we weren’t together, and not seeing the final product until it was edited to look like the Zoom grid. I’ll always look back on that video and feel proud of what we were able to accomplish under trying circumstances.”


Ballet: Rubies by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Role: Tall Girl
Year: 2019

“Being the tallest girl in the corps has had its challenges, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to perform the ‘tall girl’ role in George Balanchine’s wonderful work Rubies.”


Ballet: Le Corsaire by Marius Petipa
Role: Odalisques
Year: 2016
“Performing a production as big as Le Corsaire felt like a dream for a company the size of PBT, but we pulled it off and it will always be a highly memorable performance. Working with Anna Marie Holmes, who set this production, for several weeks was challenging yet rewarding. She is an inspiring coach who pushed us all to a higher level. She worked with me personally on a fast, jumping variation, which is not among my strengths nor a part I would typically be cast in. By the time the shows came, however, I felt prepared, stronger than ever, and ready to do it!”


Ballet: Petite Mort by Jiří Kylián
Year: 2015, 2018
“Kylian’s Petite Mort is my favorite contemporary ballet. I love the music, the themes, and the partnering. I also enjoyed revisiting it a few years later for a donor performance in Palm Beach.”


Ballet: Western Symphony by George Balanchine ©The George Balanchine Trust
Role: Principal
Year: 2015

“This is a Balanchine ballet that I had so much fun performing onstage. I love the traditional American theme and music and was honored to dance the lead girl in the second movement. I enjoyed working with Bart Cook who set the ballet, and even got some coaching by former PBT Artistic Director, the late Patricia Wilde.”


Ballet: Step Touch by Dwight Rhoden
Year: 2009

Step Touch is the first Dwight Rhoden piece I ever danced. His choreographic process is a challenge for the way I think, but once you get it into your body, it feels natural and fun. We went on to perform that ballet many times over the years throughout Pittsburgh, in Hilton Head, and even on tour in Israel.”


Ballet: Maelstrom by Mark Morris
Year: 2012

Maelstrom is a beautiful contemporary ballet with elegant, slow partnering work (thanks to my longtime partner Cooper Verona) in the second movement, followed by the joyful and playful ensemble dancing in the third movement. This is another piece that made it all the way to Israel.”


Ballet: Theme and Variations by George Balanchine ⓒ The George Balanchine Trust
Year: 2007, 2023

“This ballet holds a special place in my heart because it always seemed to mark major milestones in my career.
As a student, it was during this show that I learned I would be hired into the company. A few months later it was the very first ballet I danced as a professional dancer when we toured to Wolf Trap in 2007. Finally, it was the very last ballet I danced in — I was 4 months pregnant in that performance and then went onto maternity leave with my second baby.”


Photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Cinderella Casting Announced

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) will present the U.S. premiere of Jayne Smeulders’ Cinderella with the PBT Orchestra for its 2023-24 season finale on May 17-19 at the Benedum Center. This version of Cinderella stays true to the beloved fairy tale and the classic 1944 score by Sergei Prokofiev. The full-length ballet includes updated classical choreography, glittering sets, gorgeous costumes and a fairy tale ending that’s just the perfect fit.

 

Evening Cast

 

Matinee Cast

 

Artists: Hannah Carter, Lucius Kirst, Colin McCaslin, Tommie Lin O’Hanlon | Photos: Aviana Adams

Spring Mix with the PBT Orchestra Casting Announced

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has announced casting for its upcoming performances of Spring Mix with the PBT Orchestra. Four incredible works – including two world premieres – will take center stage at the Benedum Center April 5-7 in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Spring Mix with the PBT Orchestra. The mixed repertory program features classical and contemporary pieces – including fresh new works and dazzling classics – accompanied by live music from the PBT Orchestra. The program includes two world premieres, When Time Stands Still by award-winning Pittsburgh-based choreographer Jae Man Joo, and Violin Pas de Deux by PBT Principal Artist and Choreographer-in-Residence Yoshiaki Nakano, the return of the dynamic Petal by Helen Pickett and the elegant, extraordinary Allegro Brillante from George Balanchine, known by many as the “father of 20th-century American ballet.”


View Casting by act below

Act 1

Act 2

Act 3


*Please note that casting is subject to change.

Celebrate Black History Month with Emry Amoky

In honor of Black History Month, we are excited to present deeper insight into a few of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s artists. Today we’re focusing on PBT Apprentice Emry Amoky. We hope you enjoy learning more about him as both a person and a dancer.

Hometown
Houston, TX

Training
Houston Ballet School
Houston Ballet Company ll

PBT
Joined PBT as an Apprentice in 2023


What was the first ballet you ever performed onstage?
The Nutcracker. I was a Party Boy and was super excited. I remember thinking that it was easier to dance on a big stage than a small one.

What is your favorite ballet?
Romeo and Juliet

What has your favorite role been?
I loved performing in Stanton Welch’s Clear because of the physicality and intensity. The costumes were amazing too.

Has there been a defining moment in your career?
Joining PBT as an Apprentice. I’ve never experienced anything outside of Houston. PBT is the best place for growth for me.

I love Pittsburgh because…
The people are welcoming and it’s very active. There is always something fun to do in the city.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to workout, have in-depth conversations with my friends and eat! Primanti Bros. is my favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh. I love their sandwiches!

What was the last song you had stuck in your head?
“Headlines” by Drake

What makes you laugh?
Epic fails, Tik Tok

What are the last 3 things you do before you go to sleep?
– Look through my Instagram and Tik Tok
– Watch self-reflection videos
– Eat a bowl of cereal


Photography: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Celebrate Black History Month with Corey Bourbonniere

In honor of Black History Month, we are excited to present deeper insight into a few of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s artists. Today we’re focusing on PBT Soloist Corey Bourbonniere. We hope you enjoy learning more about them as both a person and a dancer.

Hometown
Born in North Providence, RI
Grew up in Woonsocket, RI

Training
Krylo Dance Studio
Brae Crest School of Ballet
Heritage Ballet School
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Graduate Program

PBT
Joined PBT as an Apprentice in 2012
Promoted to Corps de Ballet in 2013
Promoted to Soloist in 2019


What is your favorite ballet?
Giselle because it has a lot of firsts for me. It was my first ballet. It was also the first ballet I performed with the PBT company, and I also debuted as “Hilarion” as my first Soloist role. In the Upper Room is my favorite contemporary ballet that I have performed.

Has there been a defining moment in your career?
Dancing in Divertimento No. 15. It was my first time dancing a principal role, and it was in a Balanchine ballet.

I love Pittsburgh because…
It feels very homey. I love the neighborhood feel, the small businesses and the local bars. It feels like home.

What makes you laugh?
My cats, a really stupid comedy like Nacho Libre, dad humor.

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…
I’d probably still dance but in the theater. That or I’d do some sort of advocacy work in the arts or social justice.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I make kombucha, play with my cats, love to play board games and listen to records. My most recent favorite record is Donna Summer’ “I Remember Yesterday.”

What’s your proudest moment?
Playing Bernardo in West Side Story at The Glimmerglass Festival. It was my first professional acting job and it was outside of my comfort zone, but so fun!


Photography: Anita Buzzy Prentiss and Rosalie O’Connor

Beauty and the Beast Casting Announced

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has announced casting for its upcoming performances of Beauty and the Beast. The production will include 10 performances at the Benedum Center during February 16-18 and February 23-25. PBT’s Beauty and the Beast will also include a student matinee on February 23 at 11:00 a.m. and a sensory-friendly performance on February 25 at 4:30 p.m. More information and tickets can be found here.

Buy Tickets

Please note that the casting is subject to change.


Feb. 16, 7:30 p.m. | Feb. 18, 2:00 p.m. | Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.

View Casting


Feb. 17, 2:00 p.m. | Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m. | Feb. 25, 4:30 p.m. (sensory-friendly performance)

View Casting


Feb. 17, 7:30 p.m. | Feb. 24, 2:00 p.m.

View Casting


Feb. 23, 11:00 a.m. (Student Matinee), Feb. 25, 12:00 p.m.

View Casting


Artists: Corey Bourbonniere, Yoshiaki Nakano, Diana Yohe, Tommie Lin O’Hanlon | Photos: Aviana Adams

Celebrating Black History Month with Matthew Griffin

In honor of Black History Month, we are excited to present some deeper insight into a few of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s artists. Today we’re focusing on Corps de Ballet artist Matthew Griffin. We hope you enjoy learning more about him as both a person and a dancer.

Photo: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Matthew Griffin
Hometown
Born in Minneapolis, MN
Grew up in Ellenton, FL

Training
International Ballet of Florida
Butler University

PBT
Joined PBT’s Corps de Ballet in 2023

Other Professional Companies
Cincinnati Ballet


Photo: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Q&A
What has your favorite role been? Why?

My favorite roles have been the Pas de Deux in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Extremely Close and William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

What was a defining moment in your career?
I was very fortunate to have Helen Pickett create the solo Balance for me for a virtual performance during the pandemic.

Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I enjoy visiting where I grew up, Manatee County, FL (especially during winter months)

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you meet?
I would want to meet fourteen-time Emmy winner, RuPaul!

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…
It has always been my post-ballet dream to take my dance knowledge and apply it to a career in physical therapy. If I wasn’t dancing, I would definitely still be a dance fan!

What was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue a professional career in ballet?
I was always a big fan of the arts. I grew up seeing shows, listening to live music, and going to museums. My sister and

I had started taking dance classes for enrichment and for fun when my family went to see the Joffrey Ballet perform a contemporary program. That was the moment I knew that I wanted to be on stage dancing and wanted to work hard to become a professional dancer.

Who is your inspiration – in dance and in life?
I find inspiration everywhere! I’m very inspired by the work of my peers in the studio and onstage. I am constantly blown away by the triumphs and artistry of my fellow dancers. I also am very inspired by culture. Movies, songs, books, musicals, exhibits, political debates and conversation all inspire me and inform my artistry and humanity.

Celebrate World Tutu Day with PBT

When you picture a Ballerina in your head, is she wearing a tutu?

The tutu has become a classic staple in Ballet costuming. Each ballet has its own style, resulting in an array of tutu looks. Join us as we look back on some of the stunning tutus our resident costumers have designed.
You may be familiar with the tutu look, but did you know there are multiple types of tutu?

Tutus can be grouped into two categories: Romantic and Classical.


Giselle | Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Romantic Tutu
The romantic was the original tutu, making its first appearance in 1832 at the Paris Opera. Worn by Marie Taglioni in La Sylphide, the length of the skirt showcased her on-pointe footwork and the delicate fabric accentuated her elegant movement.

These tutus have 3-5 long gathered layers of tulle, coming down to anywhere between the knee and the ribbon line (ankle). Sometimes shorter romantic tutus are called Degas tutus, referring to Degas’ many paintings of ballerinas and “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” sculpture in the late 1800s.

 


Classical Tutu
The classical tutu is likely what first comes to mind when picturing a ballerina. Becoming popular in the late 1800s, classical tutus are shorter and stiffer than romantic tutus. With layers of pleated tulle and some net for rigidity, the shape of the classical tutu is ideal to show off the elegant leg movements of a ballet dancer.

There are four styles of the Classical Tutu: the Pancake, the Platter, the Bell, and the Powder Puff/American/Balanchine.


Theme & Variations Tutu

Pancake Tutu– The pancake style is quite stiff and sits at hip level, often with a steel hoop woven through the tulle to help maintain shape.

 

 


Beauty and the Beast | Artists: Hannah Carter and Lucius Kirst

Platter Tutu– The platter is similar to a pancake but often has a decorative overskirt. The platter sits closer to waist level and also often has a hoop.

 


The Sleeping Beauty | Grace Rookstool and Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Bell Tutu– The bell style is short and curved down like a bell. To achieve that shape, costumers use pleated tulle tacked in a more relaxed form with no hoop.

 


Western Symphony | Artists: Luca Sbrizzi and Diana Yohe

Powder Puff/American/Balanchine Tutu– With many names, this style has softer layers of pleated tulle loosely tacked together for more fullness. With a soft, full, relaxed form, this style doesn’t use a hoop.

 


Artist of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rehearsing Theme & Variations

Rehearsal Tutu– Made of layered, pleated tulle, these tutus are made without adornment just for rehearsals. Studios often use pancake rehearsal tutus.


Photography: Rosalie O’Connor, Rich Sofranko, Aviana Adams, Michael Henninger, Duane Rieder

Celebrating Black History Month with Adam W. McKinney

Photo: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

In honor of Black History Month, we are excited to present some deeper insight into our artistic director, Adam W. McKinney. We hope you enjoy learning more about him, his accomplishments and a bit more about him as a person, an artist and a leader.

About Adam W. McKinney

Adam W. McKinney began his role as Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s artistic director in March 2023. He brought with him a diverse and accomplished background in arts leadership across the globe, having served as an arts organization director, tenured professor, choreographer, dancer, educator and activist.
Adam loves his new home city of Pittsburgh and is excited to build on PBT’s long history of excellence here by making ballet accessible to all people, bringing in new works and choreographers, presenting family-friendly productions and working in and with local communities to ensure that they know that they belong in ballet and at PBT.
He is eager to continue to build a culture that focuses on inclusivity and opportunity and reflects the diversity of the Pittsburgh region. Adam is working to create more opportunities for the Pittsburgh community to engage with PBT, including education programs in schools, furnishing accessibility programming and providing health & wellness classes for members of the Pittsburgh area.


What is your favorite ballet?
Oh, my. There are so many! Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante is top of mind. I danced Allegro at Milwaukee Ballet. Mr. Balanchine said about the work that it is “everything I know about classical ballet in thirteen minutes.” I look forward to Zippora Karz’s arrival in March when she will stage it for PBT. Also, William Forsythe’s Blake Works, a work that I hope to bring to PBT in future years, is electric, riveting, wondrous and profound — a tour de force!

Photo: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

What do you like to do in your spare time?
With what spare time I have, I spend my early mornings on my Peloton. I also enjoy cooking, traveling, writing, being outdoors and spending time with family. Also, I am an avid bath taker.

What is your favorite part of being an Artistic Director?

Every day is different, and I get to utilize my brain to solve and collaborate on small and large problems. I feel as though all areas of expertise are represented in my responsibilities as artistic director. It’s an absolute joy!

What makes you laugh?
People make me laugh. We are amazingly infinite in our possibilities. People bring me joy, and make me excited.

Photo: Andrew Eccles

What is your proudest moment?
About 20 years ago, I had the honor and pleasure of being present during the birth of my nephew. I was with my sister and her husband, my parents and my brother-in-law’s mother. It was a proud, extraordinary experience that I will never forget.

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…
Either a doctor or data analyst

When did you know you wanted to pursue a professional career in ballet?
It had to be my first ballet class when I already knew how to tours enchaînement and saut de chat. I was hooked!

Who is your inspiration – in dance and in life?
My family, my husband, nature, people, words and poetry, ideas, food, places, exercise, practice, language, visual art and sculpture…

PBT Soloist Gabrielle Thurlow Shares Her Ballet Memories on the Eve of Her Retirement

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Soloist, Gabrielle Thurlow, will retire on December 23, 2023 after being with PBT for more than 17 years. She has performed in numerous ballets over the years and took a few minutes to share her recollections about some of her favorite and most memorable ones. Her final performance will be on December 23 at the 2:00 show of The Nutcracker.

Ballet: Don Quixote by Marius Petipa
Role: Kitri
Year: 2014
“My most memorable performance was probably Kitri in Don Quixote. It was my first really big role, and one I had always wanted to perform. I had a blast on stage, and will always remember that thrill!”


Ballet: In the Upper Room by Twyla Tharp
Role: Bomb Squad
Year: 2013
“I was a “Bomb Squad” dancer, and had to move incredibly fast and in sync with my other “bomber”. It was super challenging to make this happen, but was exhilarating! ”


Ballet: La Bayadere by Marius Petipa
Role: Gamzatti
Year: 2015
“This one was very dramatic, and I got to experience a really intense and powerful scene that gave me chills. It was fun to have an acting challenge with this role, which was something new to work on for me.”


Ballet: Petite Mort by Jiri Kylian
Year: 2018
“The musicality is genius! It is such a beautiful ballet, and always makes me cry. I loved performing this one.”


Ballet: In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe
Year: 2015
“This one tested my boundaries, and I felt very accomplished by the end. I also got to perform with my husband, William Moore (who wasn’t yet my husband at the time), which was such an amazing experience.”


Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty by Marius Petipa
Role: Aurora
Year: 2014
“So much technique and control is required for this role, and I think I was the most nervous I have ever been for it! But it was an honor to perform, and quite rewarding.”


Ballet: Western Symphony by George Balanchine
Year: 2015
“I love the music for this one, and enjoyed the challenge of “the ballerina”. It was so much fun on stage!”


Ballet: Lascia La Spina by Sasha Janes
Year: 2021
“Another one I was lucky enough to perform with my husband. This one leaves me with special memories because it was something we shared together during Covid. We got to record it as well, which is definitely different than a live performance!”


Ballet: Petal by Helen Pickett
Year: 2021
“This one was another that took me out of my comfort zone. I had to face my fears and improv on stage. It took some growing into, but by the end, I truly enjoyed it and learned a lot through it.”


Photos Courtesy of: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Rich Sofranko, Aimee DiAndrea and Rosalie O’Connor

Joseph Parr’s Favorite PBT Moments

After more than 15 years in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Corps de Ballet, Joseph Parr will retire on December 28, 2023.  He has performed in more than 50 works with PBT.  After his retirement, he plans to finish his degree to become a physical therapy assistant. Below, he has reflected on some of his career highlights and favorite roles over the years.


Ballet: Moulin Rouge: The Ballet by Jorden Morris
Role: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Year: 2013
“This ballet was very fulfilling as there were several sections where I could explore the character in a variety of different ways. In one scene I was painting on stage, another I was consoling a friend, another I was hallucinating. I really enjoyed being lost in this character!”


Ballet: Coppelia by Terrence S. Orr
Role: Dr. Coppelius
Year: 2012

“In this role, I worked closely with the late Stephen Hadala. He was so generous, supportive, encouraging and patient with helping me learn Dr. Coppelius. Since I shared the part with him, each day was like a master class in character acting. I looked up to him as the best actor I’ve ever worked with, as well as being one of the most special people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.”


Ballet: Romeo and Juliette by Jean-Christophe Maillot and Romeo and Juliet by Derek Deane
Role: Benvolio
Years: 2009, 2017

“Benvolio was the first big role I got to do with PBT. Both versions were challenging physically and allowed me different ways to explore the acting side of ballet. I was honored to portray this character in both versions which were very different from each other and about ten years apart.”


Ballet: Dracula by Ben Stevenson (twice) and Michael Pink
Role: Renfield
Years: 2011, 2017, 2023

“I have always enjoyed character roles and Stevenson’s version provided me with the opportunity to really go crazy with tricks and be a wild and crazy bug-eating man. Pink’s version was very different and required much more thought and sensitivity in preparing for the role. It was one of the few roles where I really put myself in a dark place in order to do the role justice.”


Ballet: Man in Black by James Kudelka
Year: 2016

”Every single rehearsal, run-through and performance were such a joy to be a part of. The four dancers in this piece needed to be extremely connected and we never left the stage from start to finish, a truly unique experience.”


Ballet: In the Upper Room by Twyla Tharp
Years: 2010, 2013

“This was one of the most physically demanding works I’ve done, but also one of the most rewarding. One of my favorite things about this piece is it really brought everyone closer together. Because it took so much out of you, everyone was rooting for each other while we were all giving it everything we had!”


Ballet: A Streetcar Named Desire by John Neumeier
Role: The Singing Soldier
Year: 2012

“Streetcar was a unique experience. I began the ballet under a bed onstage, did a small bit of dancing and wheeled the bed over to the side of the stage where I stayed for the rest of the act. I periodically sang, whistled and talked for the rest of Act 1 – not a typical day at the office!”


Ballet: Swan Lake by Terrence S. Orr
Role: Jester
Year: 2014

“The first Swan Lake I performed at PBT. I was in the school and I thought the Jester looked like so much fun to do. It had opportunities for great dancing as well as the freedom to be goofy. I was lucky enough to get to do this a few times and you better believe I took every opportunity to be a goof in this role. It was a blast!”


Ballet: Cinderella by Septime Webre
Role: Stepsister
Years: 2009, 2013

“This was a comedic role I got to perform first with Alejandro Diaz and the second time around with Stephen Hadala. Each rehearsal and show was filled with plenty of laughs and it was a privilege to embrace this role with those two people.”


Ballet: In the Night by Jerome Robbins
Year: 2018

“When we were learning this I was 4th or 5th cast and not scheduled to do it, but my partner and I rehearsed it and knew it really well. An injury happened to Alexa Kochis’s partner and she requested me to step in for the show. It was a really beautiful pas de deux and she’s such a wonderful partner to dance with.”


Ballet: West Side Story Suite by Jerome Robbins
Role: Riff
Year: 2018

“This was the second time I got to sing on stage and it required all dancers with singing roles to have voice lessons! I also have always wanted to die on stage and I was able to cross that off my bucket list with this one (although dying on stage is not as fun as I thought it would be, haha).”


Ballet: Light: The Holocaust/Humanity Project by Stephen Mills
Year: 2009

“This was a very emotional, dramatic and beautiful piece. I was honored to be a part of this process and will always remember this tribute to that terrible time in our history.”


Ballet: Step Touch by Dwight Rhoden
Year: 2009

“I’ve done multiple parts of this ballet in many places, including Israel! One silly memory I have about this ballet is that I got pretty good at mimicking the opening song by singing a drawn-out “Well” that fooled a couple of my coworkers on multiple occasions that we were starting the ballet before the repetiteurs pressed play on the music.”


Ballet: The Nutcracker by Terrence S. Orr
Role: Nephew/The Nutcracker
Years: Multiple!

“This role was my dream ever since I first saw it as a grad student. I’m very proud that I’ve done nearly every role in Nutcracker and that I am able to retire as the Nephew with my wife Diana (Yohe). It was also an incredible experience to play this role when we filmed Fireside Nutcracker during Covid times.”


All photos courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Rich Sofranko, Rosalie O’Connor, Aviana Adams, Anita Buzzy Prentiss and Aimee DiAndrea