Dyeing Pointe Shoes

From handcrafting tutus, dresses, jackets and headpieces to wig stylings, custume fittings and costume repairs, the PBT Costume Shop has a long list of duties throughout each season. One of these duties includes hand-dyeing pointe shoes. PBT Costume Assistant Kaylee Hansberry explains what goes into dyeing the artists’ pointe shoes. Pointe shoe dyeing ranges from bold, colorful shoes as part of costumes for ballet performances to the science of matching dyes to skin tones.

Grace Rookstool as Cinderella’s Step-sister in pink dyed pointe shoes.

What do you use to dye pointe shoes?

Most of the time I use a product specifically designed for dying pointe shoes from a brand called Pointe People. Depending on how dark or saturated we want the shoe to be, I will often mix the dye with an alcohol base. This allows me to layer the dye on the shoe and adjust the color if needed. If I need a color that is not in the Pointe People line, I will either mix Pointe People dyes together to make a custom color, or I will use a mix of Rite dyes to create a custom color.

Is there a different technique when dyeing vibrant colors vs for matching skin tones?

The only big difference between dyeing vibrant colors and matching skin tones is that I will always use the alcohol base mixed with dye to color the skin tone pointes. This allows me to adjust color if I need to so I can make sure it is as close to the dancer’s skin tone as possible. When it comes to dyeing the vibrant colors, we want to get the shoe as saturated with color as possible. This often means I will apply the dye directly on the shoe without mixing in an alcohol base.

How do you apply dye to a pointe shoe?

An up-close look at the process of dyeing a pointe shoe to match an artist’s skin tone.

When applying the color, I simply brush it on with a sponge as I have found this to give me a smooth and even finish. When adding a colored texture, I may use a different means to apply the dye such as a paint brush, a towel, or simply my hands.

How long does it take to mix the paints to perfectly match an artists’ skin tone?

It took me a little while to develop my dye recipes for the dancers. I probably spent a week working out different test dyes on shoes. Once we find a color that fits the dancer well, all I have to do is follow that recipe to make more. It only takes me about 5 minutes to whip up a batch of dye when I have the recipe worked out already.

How long does it take to dye a pointe shoe?

It only takes a few seconds to transform a pink pointe shoe into a beautiful dyed pointe shoe! Once I brush the color on to the shoe, I typically like the shoe to sit untouched for a minimum of 4-6 hours, 24 hours is preferred. That way the shoe fully dries before the dancer breaks it in or wears it for class/rehearsal/performances. It is very important that the dancer doesn’t wear wet shoes as it can impact the life of the shoe and cause it to die quicker.

 

Madeline Gradle as the Wicked Witch in black dyed pointe shoes.

How does painting a pointe shoe differ from the pancake method?

What is great about the dye methods I use, is that it allows for the pointe shoe to keep the shine of the satin. We can then add a translucent powder or rosin to the shoe to mattify it. Dyeing the pointe shoe this way opens us up to both options. When using the pancake method, a dancer is able to match their skin tone, however; the shoe only becomes matte and usually appears darker on stage than the actual skin tone due to how the pancake dries. I often recommend dancers to go a shade or two lighter than the foundation they usually wear due to this change.

Is the dye waterproof?

It is! Because a dancer’s foot will sweat inside the shoe, it is important for the dye to be waterproof so the color stays through multiple uses. This is also another reason I really like the Pointe People brand: their dyes are made exactly for this kind of usage.

On average, how many pointe shoes do you dye per season?

On average I dye around 350 pairs of pointe shoes a season.

Do you have any tips for dancers who are thinking about dyeing their shoes themselves?

My tips if you are looking to dye your own pointe shoes –

1. Go with the highest alcohol base you can find. I typically do 91% rubbing alcohol. This way the alcohol evaporates quickly off the shoe. We want to limit the amount of time the shoe is in contact with anything wet as much as possible.

2. Start with dying the vamp of the shoe first and make long quick strokes to cover the box. This helps the dye be applied evenly.

3. If you aren’t sure how the color is going to take and you don’t have a spare pointe shoe to practice on, apply a bit of the dye to the underside of the box. This way you can see what it will look like without ruining a perfectly good pair of shoes.

4. Get some disposable gloves.

Happy Dyeing!

Celebrating Juneteenth at PBT with Corey Bourbonniere and Reframing the Narrative

Emancipation Day is celebrated in 1905 in Richmond, Va., the onetime capital of the Confederacy. Library of Congress. Photo courtesy of NPR

Juneteenth National Independence Day, is a holiday in the United States that is celebrated annually to commemorate the end of slavery in America. It celebrates June 19, 1865, when the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation was ordered in Texas at the end of the American Civil War.

Arts organizations and professionals across the country often commemorate the holiday (and often all of June or the summer months) with performances and exhibits highlighting Black artists.

Artist: Corey Bourbonniere | Photo: Duane Rieder

Corey Bourbonniere, a Soloist with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, has been an active participant in several of these celebratory events over the past few years. In 2022, they worked with Theresa Ruth Howard and MOBBallet to debut Reframing the Narrative at The Kennedy Center. This program included the world premiere of Donald Byrd’s From Other Suns, featuring resident Black artists, including Corey, who work in predominantly white companies, and who had the opportunity with this program to be in an entirely Black creative space as they built and performed this ballet.

This summer, Corey is participating in Theresa Ruth Howard’s Pathways to Performance: Exercises in Reframing the Narrative, and it is a culmination and continuation of the aforementioned programs. It will be shown at both The Kennedy Center and Jacob’s Pillow this summer and will feature newly commissioned works by Jennifer Archibald, Portia Adams, Kiyon Ross, and Meredith Rainey, as well as excerpts of Donald Byrd’s From Other Suns. It is an opportunity to showcase the works of some established Black choreographers, as well as choreographers who were mentored in MOBBallet’s Pathways to Performance symposium.

Watch From Other Suns World Premiere

Below they share their personal experiences and insights.


In the studio rehearsing Pathways to Performance for Pillow Lab ’24

Why is Reframing the Narrative important to the dance world and in life?
Reframing the Narrative was such a monumental program, as it lifted up and celebrated the contributions of Black ballet dancers to the art form. Denise Saunders Thompson curated the portion of the program that featured predominantly Black companies, including Dance Theatre of Harlem, Collage Dance Collective, and Ballethnic, while Theresa Ruth Howard curated the residency that I was honored to be a part of, which involved the creation of Donald Byrd’s world premiere ballet From Other Suns. He created this on 11 Black dancers, myself included, who dance in companies in the US and abroad where we are one of a few, or the only Black dancer in our ranks. With the outcries for racial justice happening around the country, it was such an important moment personally to be surrounded by Black creatives and to feel like I could just be, without the sort of armor and pretense that I’ve felt in predominantly white ballet spaces. There was such an environment of support and healing in working with Theresa and the other residency artists that I feel emanated from the stage during our performances. To be able to perform on the nation’s stage in my truest form, feeling that my identity and worth were essential to the program was everything. I think it was a critical moment for the ballet community to be able to see us in that light. We are so much more than the limitations often put upon us by the ballet community at large.

What did it mean to you personally to be a part of this incredible project?
Theresa Ruth Howard is such an important figure in the ballet field right now. She’s someone who’s seen the need for Black ballet dancers to be seen and celebrated, she’s seen the need for Black choreographers in ballet to be taken seriously and to hone their choreographic and business skills, and she’s created the perfect avenue for both missions. When I worked with Theresa on

Artists: Corey Bourbonniere and Miranda Silveira Templer

Reframing the Narrative in 2022, it was the first time as a Black dancer that I’d ever been in the majority in a room of ballet dancers, and the first time I’d ever been in a room of only Black ballet dancers. I have worked with some Black choreographers and teachers in the past, however, this was the first time I’d performed to a piece of music composed by a contemporary Black composer (Carlos Simon), the first time I had worked with a Black lighting designer (Pamela Hobson), a Black stage manager (Nicole Walters), a Black conductor (Leslie Dunner). And beyond the monumental “Blackout” that was curated for this program, we had so many moments to be in community with each other as artists who work in typically white spaces. It was extremely healing to be in a space where I didn’t feel like the only one, or one of few, and where I felt that my talent and my identity were wholly appreciated. I felt that my Blackness became irrelevant and that I just was able to be more of myself. It was the first time in my professional career that I really felt celebrated for being exactly who I am. There are no words adequate enough to explain what that experience has done for me personally and professionally. I am forever grateful.

How has it inspired you and your work moving forward?
Being a part of this program taught me so much about the way I want to carry myself in the studio. Theresa often would talk about what it means to be a good citizen. How can we move more in the direction of one another in an art form that constantly pits us against one another? There is a culture in ballet of infantilization, suffering in silence, and hyper-competitiveness that didn’t permeate this space. I felt like I really had a voice in the studio and in the process. On top of that, I feel like the dancers all supported each other in a way that I’ve continued to try to emulate in my regular work. Donald Byrd would give some extremely challenging prompts in the process of building his work, and it felt overwhelming trying to retain all of the choreography, especially early on in the process. What was beautiful is that the dancers in that space wouldn’t leave anyone high and dry. If someone was struggling with the choreography, we found ways to support each other, to share information, to build each other up. It was so atypical of a usual studio environment, where if you can’t keep up, it can often feel isolating and anxiety-inducing. I’m now so much more conscious of the way that I show up for my peers in the studio because it’s so important to me to try to spread that sense of support and community.

MOBBallet members posing on Pillow Rock, a tradition for visiting artists at Jacob’s Pillow.

What do you hope people take away from Reframing the Narrative?
I hope with this program, and with the upcoming Pathways to Performance: An Exercise in Reframing the Narrative, that we do away with notions that ballet doesn’t belong to certain people. Black people are often put into a box of what is and isn’t appropriate or possible for them, and this holds true in ballet as well. Too many talented, capable Black dancers are often held to a different standard than their white peers, and I think it’s time we do away with that. The same is true for choreographers, which is why I’m so excited that Theresa has curated yet another program to highlight the works of both established and emerging Black choreographers, whose works will feature many of the dancers involved in the RTN residency, as well as some new faces. It was important to Theresa to develop the artistic voices of up-and-coming Black choreographers who have backgrounds in ballet, but are often pigeonholed into creating works for ballet companies in the “contemporary” or “modern” form, and who don’t often get the opportunity to create in the ballet vernacular. This program is in partnership with the Kennedy Center and Jacob’s Pillow and will premiere at both this July. Theresa is looking at the areas of the ballet field that are underserved or underrepresented, and she is creating opportunities for Black artists and creatives to collaborate and develop bodies of work that will be stamped into the ballet archives. I think we can all learn a lot from the work that she’s done and continues to do. We’ve created this culture of exclusivity and uniformity, a culture of white supremacy, and Theresa is showing the ballet community that we can create one of inclusion, of community, of celebrating diversity and individuality, and of radical empathy.

Watch Reframing the Narrative Documentary

Photos Courtesy of @miranza_s Instagram

Additional Links and Information for Reframing the Narrative and Pathways to Performance:


Juneteenth Resources:

The Lift Every Voice drumline marches down Fifth Avenue during Pittsburgh’s first Juneteenth-Voting Rights Parade in 2023. Photo courtesy of TribLIVE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh: 

National:

Announcing Six New Artists for PBT’s 24/25 Season

As PBT’s 2023-24 season comes to an end, we’re excited to announce six new updates to the company roster for our upcoming 55th Emerald Anniversary season. PBT is pleased to welcome six talented new artists into the company for the 2024-25 season.

Corps de Ballet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magnoly Batista
Joined Houston Ballet as an Apprentice from Houston Ballet Academy in 2020, and was promoted to a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2021


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rylan Doty
Formerly an Apprentice at Houston Ballet and trained with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Houston Ballet Academy and Houston Ballet II


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andre Gallon
Andre was a company member with Ballet Memphis, where he joined in 2021, and was also a member of Orlando Ballet company.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madison Russo
Madison joined Houston Ballet as an Apprentice and was promoted to Houston Ballet’s Corps de Ballet in 2019.


Apprentices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anya Chiu
Anya trained at The Washington School of Ballet and was accepted into the Trainee Program in 2022.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amelia McGravey
Joined Houston Ballet Academy for the 2021-2022 school year, before being promoted to Houston Ballet’s Second Company in 2022

Meet Incoming Director of Education and Community Engagement April Berry

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has named April Berry as the organization’s new Director of Education and Community Engagement, beginning July 1, 2024. She joins PBT from Kansas City Ballet, where she most recently served as their Director of Community Engagement & Education. April Berry is a dance director, master teacher, educator, choreographer and former internationally acclaimed dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. April has been actively involved in the field of dance education and community engagement arts outreach for more than 30 years. She has created award‐winning community programs as Director of Community Engagement and Education for Kansas City Ballet, as Director of Education and Community Outreach for North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and as Director of Education and Community Programs at BalletMet Columbus in Ohio. April answered a few questions for Pittsburgh audiences to get acquainted with her.

What is your favorite part of being involved with a ballet company?
My favorite part of being involved with a professional ballet company is working in a
creative, collaborative environment alongside people dedicated to providing programs
and experiences that are inspiring and transformative.

What is your proudest moment as an education director?
My proudest moments as an education director have been when programs I have
created led to greater awareness and access and open pathways that positively
impacted the community and the ballet.

What are you most excited to do in Pittsburgh?
Professionally I am looking forward to meeting new people and opening new avenues
through education programs and partnerships for more people to engage with the ballet.
Personally, I am excited to visit the many wonderful museums and parks and explore
the many neighborhoods in and around Pittsburgh.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Shoe shop, read and watch movies.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?
The Hamptons

If you could meet anyone in the world today, who would you meet?
Vice President Kamala Harris

What was the last song you had stuck in your head?
Happy by Pharrell Williams

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.