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

Choreographer Yoshiaki Nakano and “Violin Pas de Deux”

Join us as PBT’s own Yoshiaki Nakano discusses his World Premiere, Violin Pas de Deux.


About Yoshiaki Nakano

Yoshiaki Nakano | Photo: Anita Buzzy Prentiss

Yoshiaki Nakano, a native of Japan, joined PBT in 2010 and was promoted to principal artist in 2014. He received his training at the Elite Ballet Studio in Osaka, Japan, San Francisco Ballet School and the PBT School. Nakano won the gold medal at the 2013 Beijing International Ballet and Choreography Competition in China and the silver medal at the 2010 World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida. In 2014, Dance Magazine named Nakano among its top “25 Dancers to Watch.”

Yoshiaki has performed the roles of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Basilio in Don Quixote, Albrecht in Giselle, Prince Désiré in The Sleeping Beauty, Solor and The Golden Idol in La Bayadère, Conrad and Ali in Le Corsaire, Romeo and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, the Nephew and Sugar Plum Cavalier in The Nutcracker and Tony in West Side Story Suite. He also has performed featured roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Divertimento No.15, Rubies and Western Symphony, Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room and Nine Sinatra Songs, Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and Sinfonietta, William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, and Jerome Robbins’s In the Night. 

Nakano has choreographed more than 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.  


About Violin Pas de Deux

Max Bruch
Max Bruch

 

A romantic classical pas de deux, Nakano draws inspiration from the studio, the dancers, and the music when he choreographs. 

 

Violin Pas de Deux is set to music from Max Bruch, a 19th-century German composer and violinist. Creating movement from a piece of music hundreds of years old, Nakano comments that his favorite part of choreographing this piece has been “finding some old and new choreography, especially in the partnering.”

 

• Watch PBT principal artists Hannah Carter and Lucius Kirst perform Violin Pas de Deux on Saturday, April 6th at 2pm and Sunday, April 7th at 2pm.

• Watch PBT soloists Jessica McCann and William Moore perform Violin Pas de Deux on Friday, April 5th at 7:30pm and Saturday, April 6th at 7:30pm.


Fun Facts

Yoshiaki Nakano | Photo: Rich Sofranko
  • Nakano’s choreography style is Neo-classical but he loves the super-classical style as well
  • Nakano is married to PBT soloist Jessica McCann
  • Nakano loves Pittsburgh because of the historic architecture and good restaurants
  • Nakano owns an online ballet shop called “Ballet Gen”
  • Nakano’s favorite role he’s ever played was Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet
  • A defining role in Nakano’s career was debuting in Swan Lake as the Prince:

“The first time performing a full-length ballet is an experience that you will never forget. You grow as a dancer, artist and human.”

Read more about Nakano here.


Join us for Violin Pas de Deux and three other stunning pieces in Spring Mix from April 5-7, 2024 at the Benedum Center. Purchase tickets here!

Choreographer Jae Man Joo discusses “When Time Stands Still”

This year, PBT has the honor of producing the world premiere of celebrated choreographer Jae Man Joo’s When Time Stands Still. Join us as Joo discusses his work on this piece and as a choreographer.


About Jae Man Joo

Jae Man Joo is an internationally acclaimed choreographer and the recipient of the prestigious 2009 Princess Grace Choreography Award. Hailing from Korea, he brought his unique artistic vision to the U.S. in 1996, where he served as the Associate Artistic Director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. As a former principal dancer at Ballet Hispanico and Complexions, Jae Man Joo has worked and performed with a diverse range of choreographers, including William Forsythe, Dwight Rhoden, Shen Wei, Igal Perry, and Jessica Lang, enriching his artistic journey. Jae Man Joo was invited to create new works for Jacob’s Pillow in 2017 and 2019. He received the Best Individual Artist Award from the Bagnolet International Dance Festival in Paris, France.

Joo’s artistic prowess has been recognized globally with the 2021 and 2023 Korea Dance Critics Choice Award, and the 2022 prestigious Korea E-daily Cultural Grand Prize for his full-length, evening ballet, Vita. These accolades are a testament to his profound influence on the dance world. He has created more than seven ballets for Complexions, all of which premiered at New York City’s Joyce Theater.

In 2023 he premiered the full-evening ballet Divine for Gwangju City Ballet, Korea, which received the Best Dance Art Work of the Year, 2023. He is currently an Assistant Ballet Professor at Point Park University as well as a Resident Choreographer, Ballet Master and Artist- in-Residence at Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Joo started creating new work for Dallas Black Dance Theater for their spring season and for the newly-founded Korea Metropolitan Ballet company. For the latter he is creating his rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the company’s first complete evening ballet, which will premiere in the summer of 2024. In April, Joo will begin choreographing a work for American Ballet Theater’s “Unite” Series, working with ABT’s principal dancers Calvin Royal III and Herman Cornejo. It is set to be performed in August at the Joyce Theater in New York.

Read more about Jae Man Joo here!


Discussing When Time Stands Still

“Some people say being an incredible dancer is something you are born with!  For me, it was slightly different, and I started ballet late, at the age of 15. In my opinion, becoming a great dancer is through so much sacrifice and hard work every day, going through these tough experiences, having goals, and so much love and passion for it.

These days, Ballet is incredibly complex and requires years of dedication and even more practice. I don’t think Ballet is changing. I think Ballet is Expanding to a new horizon.

We continue with the traditional classical Ballet and embrace it because it is such a beautiful and inspiring sight. But these days many choreographers working on different ideas and companies are adapting new movements and new concepts. Dancers must be versatile and learn to explore the quality of their movements, in addition to traditional ballet dance. 

The ballet world in this age is a more dynamic range of styles and art forms performed by people with deep levels of passion. More than that, this devotion and dedication highlight the work’s beauty but, most importantly, what it means to be “Human.”

When you love Ballet, working in the studio, and performing in front of an audience, you aren’t aware of the time.”

It’s almost like time stops.

You are the moment—with your dance, with your partner, with your company members.

My new contemporary ballet portrays dancers—their hard work, their love, and their passion for dance. 

TOGETHERNESS—sharing experiencing moments with each dancer in the company.”


What was your favorite part of choreographing this piece?

Working in the studio, connecting with dancers and seeing their passion and energy.  In traditional classical Ballet dancers have to be Swans or Princes, etc., and be characters.

My new ballet is an opportunity for dancers to be themselves so they can share their passion and their gift with the audience.

At the same time, they can grow and continue their beautiful dance journey. I love rehearsing in the studio. It’s priceless. It’s a moment of discovery and sharing my vision, and they dance my heart out, try new things, and explore their possibilities. I loved every minute of working in the studio. I always tell dancers that performance is only the cherry on top of the cake, but rehearsal—a process of making and creating—is the cake.


Where did you draw inspiration for your piece?

“I came to the U.S. with 2 suitcases and a little bit of cash in my hands. I worked so hard to get where I am at now. I was looking back when I was a dancer and seeing these young dancers now. I felt their passion, and I wanted to celebrate their hard work and their humanity on the stage.”


What choreographers do you look up to?

“That’s a tough question. I look up to William Forsyth and Mats Ek, but I got so much inspiration from so many people, also from Current young choreographers, who are so creative and beautiful. It is so exciting to see.”


How do you begin your creative process when choreographing?

“I had my choreography assistant with me. I created substantial movement phrases before rehearsal began, and I edited a lot after I met them and found their strength, individuality, and personality.”


How many works have you choreographed?

“As a resident choreographer in Complexions Contemporary Ballet, I have created seven works, all of which premiered at the NY Joyce Theater. I have choreographed for many diverse American companies and also worked internationally. I have set many works for Korea, and I’m currently working on my rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”


Is there anything else you’d like to share with the audience?

“I hope the audience can feel and understand these dance artists’ humanity, hard work, athleticism, and pure desire to show how much they love dance. The company continues this excellent high-level ballet company’s history with a new art direction.

New history will be made again and again.”

 


Join us as our dancers “share their passion and their gift with the audience” in PBT’s Spring Mix from April 5-7, 2024 at the Benedum Center. Purchase tickets here!


Rehearsal Photography: Aviana Adams

PBT Dancers Share Favorite Moments of “Petal”

 High-octane, sensual, vivacious, lively, vibrant, a barely contained riot of wildflowers.

Helen Pickett
Helen Pickett
Photo By: Mihaela Bodlovic

These words and phrases have all been used to describe Helen Pickett’s dynamic Petal. With spring in the air, Petal is the perfect celebration of connection, exuberance, and joy. In Pickett’s own words:

“Intimacy is such an important part of a human life – without it, we wither. So how do we break that fourth wall and connect to the audience more than just visually? Let’s celebrate this burst of color, this sound, this touch.”

Read more about Helen Pickett here.

PBT had the honor of performing Petal once before in 2021 and is excited to perform it again as part of the Spring Mix program from April 5-7. Join PBT dancers as they look back on Petal, both then and now.


TOMMIE LIN O’HANLON – PBT PRINCIPAL ARTIST

Tommie Lin O’Hanlon
Photo By: Rosalie O’Connor

“My favorite part of dancing Petal is the athleticism of the piece. The strength and stamina that it takes to perform this ballet is not to be underestimated.

Another favorite is having the opportunity to work so closely with Helen Pickett on one of her most famous works. I always am left feeling inspired with wisdom from her that I take into future ballets. She really helps us as dancers expand our movement and push for “the edges” of our shapes. She has taught me so much and I am so grateful for her.

This time is particularly special because I am getting to revisit this ballet as a principal dancer! I’m so excited for everyone to see how much I have grown and matured as a dancer. I actually have not revisited a featured role, like this, yet in my career, which I think is so exciting!”


DIANA YOHE – PBT SOLOIST

Diana Yohe
Photo By: Rosalie O’Connor

“Petal was incredibly special because it was the very first thing we performed at the theater after Covid shut the world down. I remember really feeling the magnitude of that moment, especially since the Benedum curtain came up and Petal begins with me doing a solo. That performance for us all felt like the world was coming back to life and we were finally returning home.

Petal is a true celebration of joy in movement and human connection. Helen came in and really pushed us all to dance more three-dimensionally (bigger and brighter but also not being afraid of the power we have in stillness), to trust ourselves and our choices and most importantly to remember that dancing together and celebrating each other is the center of it all. You’re really encouraged to watch each other any chance we get, and seeing my colleagues grow and dance their heart out inspires me to do the same.

I felt like I returned to the stage a different dancer after everything I learned from Helen and her piece and I’ve loved continuing to expand on it all. When you get to dance a piece again it really shows the journey that’s happened to you in between and how much you’ve grown and changed as a person, not just as a dancer. I’m really looking forward to sharing this piece and its fantastic energy with the Pittsburgh audience again. It is one that is especially close to my heart!!”


KURTIS SPROWLS – PBT CORPS DE BALLET

Kurtis Sprowls and PBT Dancers
Photo By: Rosalie O’Connor

“I am excited to be bringing Petal back to the Benedum Stage. One of my favorite things about the piece is its theme of connection. Not only is there a connection between our movements, but also by how we emotionally react to one another in a genuine, human way. I honestly forget the audience is watching. I have had the pleasure to work with Helen a number of times, and I am always inspired by the experience. Petal is truly a showstopper!”


Join us for Petal and three other dynamic pieces in Spring Mix from April 5-7, 2024 at the Benedum Center. Purchase tickets here!

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.

Beauty and the Beast- Comparing the Disney Movie & the Ballet

In a black and white illustration, Beauty pulls back the Beast's fur to reveal a handsome prince.
Beauty and the Beast– Andrew Lang

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present Beauty and the Beast at the Benedum Center from February 16-25. This whimsical, imaginative work with charming characters and challenging choreography has turned a classic fairytale into an enchanting storybook ballet. Audiences of all ages will delight in this ballet as it illustrates that “there is often more than what meets the eye.

It’s a tale as old as time, but how close is PBT’s Beauty and the Beast ballet to the story of which most people are accustomed?

PBT performs a ballet adaptation of Beauty and the Beast choreographed in 1958 by Lew Christensen, an influential dancer and choreographer who worked with the famed George Balanchine and served as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet for 32 years.

While maintaining similar characteristics to the widely-known Walt Disney Pictures Beauty and the Beast, Christensen’s version was choreographed before the movie was produced and shares more of a likeness to earlier published versions of the beloved story.

A History of Beauty and the Beast

1740: There are fairytales from cultures all over the world that share elements of the Beauty and the Beast story. However, the first known publication of this specific tale (La Belle et la Bête) was written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

A blue book cover featuring fairies and other magical characters
The Blue Fairy Book– Andrew Lang

1756: Villeneuve’s lengthy version was abridged, rewritten, and published by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

1889: Scottish poet and novelist Andrew Lang published the Fairy Book series, a collection of 12 volumes of traditional fairy tales. In the first of these volumes, The Blue Fairy Book, he published “Beauty and the Beast,” alongside classic tales like “Hansel and Gretel,” “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Forty Thieves,” and “Snow-White and Rose-Red.”

1958: Lew Christensen choreographed a brand new ballet in celebration of San Francisco Ballet’s 25th anniversary, set to orchestrations by famed composer Tchaikovsky. Praised as “the most delightful, imaginative, enchanting and accomplished ballet production to grace the Opera House stage,” by the San Francisco News, this ballet has been revived numerous times over the past 65 years by ballet companies like PBT.

A movie poster featuring the silhouette of Beauty and her Beast
Beauty and the Beast movie poster- Walt Disney Pictures

1991: Walt Disney Pictures released the animated film that has become famous around the world. The movie was wildly successful, winning the 1991 Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” and the Academy Awards for both “Best Original Score” and “Best Original Song” for its titular song.

1994: Beauty and the Beast became Disney’s first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical.

2017: Walt Disney Pictures produced a live-action remake starring Emma Watson.

Since Villeneuve’s 1740 publication, there have been hundreds of books, movies, stage productions and TV shows adapting the story.

 

Comparing the Versions

Story Elements  The 1991 Disney Movie The PBT Ballet
Beauty’s Capture  After wandering into the Beast’s castle and making himself at home, Belle’s father is imprisoned. Belle offers to stay as the Beast’s captive in exchange for her father’s freedom. Beauty’s father picks a rose from the Beast’s garden for his daughter. In anger, the Beast holds Beauty captive and banishes her father.
Characters in the Castle A curse on the castle has transformed the staff into enchanted household objects like clocks, teapots and candlesticks. These characters become Belle’s friends.  Beauty is comforted and entertained by enchanted flowers, caryatids (statues), simians (monkeys), and bluebirds in the enchanted castle and gardens.
Villians Belle is pursued by the boorish Gaston, who later challenges the Beast for Belle’s affection. Beauty has multiple jealous sisters at home who envy the beautiful gifts the Beast has given her.
The Beast’s Death In a fight to the death with Gaston, the Beast is fatally stabbed. Upon his death, Belle admits her love for him and his curse breaks, bringing him back to life as a handsome prince. Terrified of the Beast and  longing for her family, Beauty flees the castle. Grief-stricken, the Beast dies of a broken heart. After returning home, Beauty realizes her affection for the Beast, and returns to the castle to find him lifeless. Heartbroken, Beauty sobs, now knowing that she loves him. The Beast stirs and tears away his clothes and fur to reveal a handsome prince.

 

We know you’ll be enchanted by PBT’s Beauty and the Beast! Showcasing the transformative power of love, the ballet is completed with stunning choreography, gorgeous costumes, and spectacular sets. Join us at the Benedum Center from February 16-25!

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

Pittsburgh Celebrities Will Join PBT’s Pittsburgh-esque Version of The Nutcracker!

Ten local Pittsburgh celebrities will be special guest stars during Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s (PBT) performances of The Nutcracker this year. Each celebrity will make a guest appearance in a walk-on role during the opening prologue and in the entirety of the “Party Scene” during Act l of the classic holiday production.

PBT’s current version of The Nutcracker, choreographed and created by former PBT artistic director, Terrence S. Orr, is the perfect fit for local celebrity appearances due to its special Pittsburgh-centered vibe. The Nutcracker includes more than 13 Pittsburgh connections – from Kennywood, the Kaufmann’s Clock and Shadyside to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins, Mount Washington, the Aviary and more. The distinctive Pittsburgh feel of this ballet makes it great fun to include Pittsburgh guest stars in walk-on roles – adding to the Pittsburgh flair!

PBT will present the holiday classic at the Benedum Center December 8-28. Tickets are available here.

The Pittsburgh celebrities participating in cameos in The Nutcracker this year include:
*please note that guest star appearances may be subject to change


Friday, December 8th @ 7:00 p.m.

Kym Gable, KDKA-TV News Anchor

You can see Kym Gable on KDKA anchoring the 4:00 and 6:00 o’clock news each day. She also hosts a popular weekly segment called “On A Positive Note,” which highlights uplifting stories, inspiring people and unsung heroes in Pittsburgh. Her work in television and commercials has won her several Emmy Awards and Telly Awards. Kym is an accomplished
freelance producer, speaker, confidence coach and voice actress. As an advocate for those less fortunate and in crisis, Kym’s mission of community outreach is her driving force. She operates the South chapter of the non-profit support organization Inspired Women Paying It Forward, which has given local and national charities more than $600,000 since its inception. Real Estate Investor, Cryptocurrency Miner, Dancer, Singer and Martial Arts Enthusiast – Kym’s motto is “You Can’t Live an Extraordinary Life If You Keep Doing Ordinary Things.”


Saturday, December 9 @ 7:00 p.m.

Frzy, Musician/Rapper

Harvey “Frzy” Daniels is a 2018 regional Emmy Award winner for his collaboration with WQED on his hip-hop version of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and on November 1, 2023, launched his second and third albums titled Popularity and Success. Frzy is a member of the Recording Academy (which bestows the annual Grammy Awards) and is a Governor of the Board for the Philadelphia Chapter of the Recording Academy. The City of Pittsburgh was inspired to officially declare January 11, 2018, as “Frzy Day.” Since then, Frzy has become a 2020 Guinness World Record holder for longest freestyle rap at 31 hours, inspired his own Smiley Face Cookie at Eat ‘N Park and has had a mural created in his likeness by famous muralist, Jeremy Raymer. Frzy also serves on the Board of Directors of The Lindsay Theater all this while being the face of Steve Madden’s “Self Made” Campaign. He has helped to raise more than $ 1 million for charities, and this year helped to increase diversity and inclusion awareness via the successful “Books to Bars” campaign with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He collaborated on a historic one-night concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at Heinz Hall on November 8, 2023, which was the world premiere of an orchestration of the nationally-known rapper’s new album, Success. Instagram @frzy, TikTok @therapperfrzy, and Facebook OfficialFrzy.


Sun., December 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Gisele Barreto Fetterman, Advocate & Former Second Lady of PA

Gisele Barreto Fetterman is an access and equity advocate, a hugger and the former Second Lady of Pennsylvania. Gisele is the founder of Freestore 15104, where surplus and donated goods are received and redistributed to neighbors in need. Freestore 15104 aims to eradicate food and clothing insecurity and has inspired 13 spin-off locations and the birth of 412 Food Rescue. Gisele is the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, a community-wide effort to end hunger and reduce food waste, and has rescued tens of millions of pounds of food. She is also the co-founder of For Good PGH, a non-profit that works to advocate inclusion and inspire kindness. Its first initiative, Hello Hijab, has received both national and international praise. She is also a firefighter with Rivers Edge 113. Gisele was born in Brazil, and emigrated as a child to the US, living as an undocumented immigrant for over a decade.


Fri., December 15 at 7:00 p.m.

Daisy Jade, Pittsburgh Today Live Reporter

Pittsburgh native Daisy Jade is a Film/TV Actress, TV Host and Producer. She is the Host and Co-Producer of Fan N’ATion, an award-winning and Emmy-nominated show on KDKA-TV/CBS Pittsburgh, highlighting Pittsburgh sports fans from all over the world. Daisy also reports for the city’s lifestyle and entertainment show, Pittsburgh Today Live. Additionally, Daisy is the on-air talent for Pittsburgh’s CW (WPCW-TV), representing the station at live events and producing content for their website and social media accounts. She hosts and produces the web show The CW Buzz. Fan N’ation won a Keystone Media Award for Best Regularly Scheduled News or Sports Talk Program in 2022, and has been nominated for a Mid-Atlantic Emmy.
She is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA, appearing in numerous national and regional shows, commercials and industrials since 1999. She is also involved with various film organizations in Pittsburgh, including Women in Film and Media Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Film Industry Association (PAFIA). Daisy graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts and a Film Studies Certificate.


Sat., December 16 at 2:00 p.m.

Lindsay Ward, KDKA-TV News Anchor

Lindsay Ward is the Morning Anchor at KDKA-TV. She joined the station in 2019. Lindsay also does feature reporting for which she has won a first-place Keystone Media Award and has been Emmy-nominated for both her anchoring and reporting.
Lindsay is from Indiana County and an IUP graduate where she studied Communications Media and Political Science. She lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Tony, and their two children, Sebastian and Aurora.


Sat., December 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Boaz Frankel, KDKA-TV & Yinzer Backstage Series

Boaz Frankel is a writer, filmmaker and gardener based in Pittsburgh, PA. He’s the host and producer of NEXTpittsburgh’s “Yinzer Backstage Pass” series and a correspondent on KDKA’s Pittsburgh Today Live. He lives in Squirrel Hill with his wife Brooke and their very cute terrier mutt, Kip.


Sun., December 17 at Noon p.m.

Kristine Sorensen, KDKA-TV News Anchor

Kristine Sorensen just celebrated 20 years with KDKA-TV and currently anchors KDKA-TV News at 4 and 5 pm. She also produces special reports in partnership with Kidsburgh.org on positive things in the community for kids and families, and she also hosted Pittsburgh Today Live for 11 years.
Kristine has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government with a minor in dance from the College of William and Mary. She has won numerous awards including a Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award for Features Reporting, an Edward R. Murrow journalism award and the Paramount Impact Award for her volunteer work.
Kristine studied dance since she was a child and performed with dance companies for 10 years. She served on Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Board of Directors for ten years and was the dance critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She also volunteers her time with the March of Dimes, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Variety the Children’s Charity.
Kristine is married to KDKA Radio host Marty Griffin. They have two daughters, Sophia and Chloe, and a son, Vincent.


Thurs., December 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Scott Blasey, the Clarks

Scott Blasey is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Pittsburgh-based rock band the Clarks. Over their 34-year career the Clarks have performed all over the country, sold more than a million albums and toured with Steely Dan and John Mayer. They performed live on the Late Show with David Letterman, the 2009 NHL Winter Classic and the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Their music has been featured in movies and television shows, including the 2015 season premiere of The Simpsons.
In addition to his success with the band, Scott has found an audience as a solo artist. He’s released three albums and has opened shows for rock icons Neil Young and the Beach Boys. In 2004 Scott received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Service from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and in 2020 he was inducted into the Connellsville Area High School Hall of Fame. Scott continues to perform with the Clarks, and his “Songs and Stories” shows draw rave reviews and keep him busy as a solo performer.


Fri., December 22 at 7:00 p.m.

Ron Smiley, KDKA-TV Meteorologist

Ron is the meteorologist and contributor on Pittsburgh Today Live on weekday mornings. Since June 2015, Ron has been giving a local and hopefully bright outlook on the day in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
Born a Texan, Ron grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, after his dad retired from the Air Force. After graduating from Little Rock Catholic High, Ron pursued his degree at Arkansas Tech University. He has two daughters.
Before arriving in Pittsburgh, Ron worked in Mississippi and Arkansas, along with most recently, New Orleans and Indianapolis. He says that his love for the weather developed at a young age as he loved to hang out in the garden and talk clouds with his neighbor, Mr. Mike, an employee at the National Weather Service. Ron is a member of the American Meteorological Society and has been rewarded his AMS seal.
In Ron’s free time, he loves to cook and explore with his family. You may catch him out and about on a Saturday morning running for a good cause or hanging with his family at a local park or museum.


Sat., December 23 at 7:00 p.m.

Kyra Laubacher, Dance Media, Digital Editor

A proud Pittsburgh native, Kyra is the digital editor for Dance Magazine, Pointe and The Dance Edit with Dance Media Publications. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude from Butler University in 2020 with a BFA in Dance Performance and a BA in English Literature. Following graduation, she danced with Eugene Ballet in Eugene, Oregon, and served as a contributing writer for Pointe prior to joining the magazine’s editorial staff in May 2022.

PBT Artists Childhood Nutcracker Memories

Drosselmeyer surrounded my jumping party children

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds, 

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”

For some children, those sugar-plums danced not only in their heads but also alongside them onstage. The Nutcracker is the first ballet in which most ballet dancers perform and many dancers hold treasured childhood memories of their first Nutcracker. We asked our company artists to share some of those memories:


Ariana Chernyshev – PBT Apprentice

Young Ariana in a blue dress
Young Ariana Chernyshev

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“My first experience with The Nutcracker was in 2008, and it was absolutely unforgettable! I was the Little Party Girl, which was an honor since only two girls from the youngest age division are selected for this role.” 

What school did you dance with at the time?

Currently a company apprentice, Ariana was trained from Pre-Ballet all the way through the Graduate program at PBT School.

What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I was fully enraptured by the sets, costumes, lights and the older dancers having their final moments to practice before the show. After my first entrance, my nerves transformed into pure elation and that first show of The Nutcracker became the memory that I hold in my heart as the moment I knew I would do anything to become a ballerina.

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

“As a young dancer performing child’s roles in The Nutcracker, I always wanted to be a Snowflake. I thought that the older dancers were so beautiful, graceful and powerful, especially with their gorgeous crowns and fluttery tutus.”


Caitlyn Mendicino – PBT Corps de Ballet

Young Caitlyn in a blue soldier uniform
Young Caitlyn Mendicino

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“My first performance of The Nutcracker was actually Terrence S Orr’s version (PBT’s current version); I was a little soldier. I wore the blue and white soldier costumes that we still use in PBT’s Nutcracker. Back then however we also had white masks we wore as well.”

What school did you dance with at the time?

 PBT School

What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I remember running through the castle on stage and thinking how intense the whole battle scene was and how proud I was to salute Marie.”

What was your favorite part of being in the performance?

“Definitely being on stage with my dance idol at the time, Ying Li.”

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

“I loved being on stage and being immersed in the story. When you’re so small you feel like you’re actually transported to a toy battlefield.”


Cecilia Hernandez – PBT Apprentice

Young Cecilia in a white angel costume
Young Cecilia Hernandez

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“In my first Nutcracker, I was 4 years old and I played a mouse in Act 1 and an angel in Act 2. As a mouse I wore a grey loose onesie with a hood that had the cutest mouse ears attached. And pictured is my Angel costume.”

What school did you dance with at the time?

“I danced with my home school, Nunnbetter Dance Theatre.”

 What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I can only remember kneeling on the side of the stage as an angel, watching the Sugar Plum Fairy dance, and being in awe.”

What was your favorite part of being in the performance?

“My favorite part of the performance was looking up at the older girls doing so many different roles. I don’t have many vivid memories from that very first Nutcracker performance but I can absolutely picture being backstage and watching the Sugar Plum Fairy that year preparing, talking to stagehands, and smiling. I think I was too young to know that’s exactly what I wanted to do with my life, but it makes sense that’s the only vivid memory I have.”


David O’Matz – PBT Corps de Ballet

Young David in a Nutcracker costume
Young David O’Matz

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“I played Fritz in Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh‘s production.”

What memories do you have of being onstage?

I wanted to keep the fact that I was in the production a surprise, so my whole family attended the performance in the audience and saw me onstage once the curtain rose.” 

What was your favorite part of being in the performance?

“It was fun to run around onstage, act, dance, and befriend other dancers backstage and throughout the rehearsal process. This is when I met Tommie O’Hanlon (PBT principal artist) for the first time!” 

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

“I found joy within both rehearsing and performing The Nutcracker. Every year I have experienced a new familiarity of performing the same ballet year after year, and joy to experience new roles and learn new parts. This all started with my first Nutcracker.” 


Diana Yohe – PBT Soloist

Young Diana in a green party dress
Young Diana Yohe

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?

“My very first Nutcracker was in 2004 with Pennsylvania Ballet (now known as Philadelphia Ballet) when they toured to Cleveland. It was George Balanchine’s version and I was a child in the party scene.”

What memories do you have of being onstage?

“I remember telling my parents every time about being lifted across the stage to reach for the Christmas tree by one of the company men.” 

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?

That Nutcracker definitely inspired my passion for ballet and my career. I always try to remember how those kind company dancers changed the direction of my life when I do The Nutcracker each year with the kids! It really is all about them, and I think for the kid in all of us as well.”


JoAnna Schmidt – PBT Soloist

Young JoAnna Schmidt

What role (s) did you play in your first Nutcracker performance?
“My first performance in The Nutcracker was with Central Florida Ballet, when I was seven years old. I got to be a party girl and one of Mother Ginger’s bon bons! I hadn’t learned how to do a cartwheel yet, and that was part of the choreography for the bon bons. I remember my mom demonstrating one for me in our living room!”

What school did you dance at at the time?

Central Florida Ballet

What memories do you have of being onstage?
“This photo is from a couple years later. One of my favorite dancers and greatest mentors, Heather Fryxell, let me wear one of her tutus to promote the performances at a hotel, across the street from the theater.”

What about it made you want to be a professional dancer?
“Even though I was simply walking around, taking photos, just getting to Look like the Sugar Plum Fairy was so magical to me. Now, with PBT, I get to fully step into that role, dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy in our production! It is my inner child’s dream come true!!!”


Join us this year to make your own memories of The Nutcracker and watch these little dancers – now all grown up -in PBT’s The Nutcracker this December! Performances will run December 8-28 at the Benedum Center. Find tickets here!

The Nutcracker Casting is Here!

Artists: Tommie Lin O’Hanlon, Colin McCaslin, Jack Hawn | Rosalie O’Connor

The most magical time of the year is coming soon with PBT’s The Nutcracker! Performances will take place Dec. 8-28 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh. Join Marie, her Nutcracker prince and hundreds of colorful characters for an unforgettable adventure through the Land of Enchantment. Create a new tradition with your family and friends while enjoying the stunning scenes, spectacular costumes, sparkling snowflakes and instantly recognizable Tchaikovsky score. All of the roles are performed by the talented artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School.

View Casting by Week

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

 

*Please note: Casting is subject to change 

 

Banner Image: Jessica McCann & Lucius Kirst | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

Putting Pittsburgh in The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker has enchanted audiences for over 130 years, telling the story of young Marie (renamed to match the original story) and her journey to a mystical land with her heroic nutcracker. There are hundreds of different versions of The Nutcracker performed all around the world. How does Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre set its Nutcracker apart?

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre makes its current version of the beloved classic uniquely Pittsburgh-connected by including more than 13 different “easter eggs” that only a true “yinzer” might catch. In 2002, former artistic director Terrence S. Orr conceived and choreographed this Pittsburgh-themed version of The Nutcracker and the company has performed this version each year since. Have you noticed any of these “easter eggs” before while watching PBT’s The Nutcracker?


Photographer: Rosalie O’Connor

1. Kaufmann’s Clock

Founded in the 1870s in downtown Pittsburgh, Kaufmann’s department store eventually expanded to nearly 60 locations across multiple states until it was bought by Macy’s. Today the original flagship building is left standing along with the iconic Kaufmann’s Clock, both deemed Historical Landmarks. Installed in 1913, the giant ornate timepiece has been known to be a meeting place for Pittsburghers for over 100 years. Spot PBT’s homage clock hanging above the proscenium arch.


Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

2. F.W. McKee Mansion

Marie Stahlbaum’s family home, where the opening party scene takes place, is a mansion modeled after the old F.W. McKee Mansion. On Fifth Avenue in Shadyside, this stately home was owned by the prominent McKee family, known for glass-manufacturing. The manor has since been torn down, but its memory lives on in PBT’s The Nutcracker.


Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

3. The Kaufmann, Grandview, and Heinz party guests

Aside from the hosting Stahlbaum family, PBT has invited three other families of note to the party, The Kaufmanns (owners of Kaufmann’s Department Store), The Grandviews (named for the avenue on Mt. Washington), and the Heinzes (founders of the H. J. Heinz Company). All three names hold a special place in Pittsburgh’s history.


Artists: Yoshiaki Nakano | Photographer: Rosalie O’Connor

4. Mr. McTavish and the Carnegie family plaid

Another important guest is Mr. McTavish, representing the famous Scottish Pittsburgher, Andrew Carnegie. In his appearance in the party scene, Mr. McTavish wears a kilt of the official Carnegie family plaid, a pattern PBT received express permission from the Carnegie family to use.


5. H. J. Heinz Company Logo

Not only is the Heinz family represented by party guests, but the H. J. Heinz Company Logo can be spotted on Drosselmeyer’s wagon in the opening scene


Students of PBT School | Rich Sofranko Photography, Rich Sofranko

6. Kaufmann’s Christmas Stories for Boys and Girls

Published in 1904, Kaufmann’s storybook served as part of Orr’s inspiration for the Pittsburgh Nutcracker, offering a window into a turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh Christmas. The storybook grows to giant proportions during the battle scene and produces a number of story-book characters to help Marie and the Nutcracker on their journey.


Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

7. Pirate and Penguin Dolls

Two of the dolls that come to life include a penguin carrying a hockey stick and a pirate. These dolls pay homage to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the city’s baseball and hockey teams.


8. Terrible Towels

In addition to the pirate and penguin, the PBT rats pull out Terrible Towels (a popular local symbol of support for the Steelers) on days that both the show is performing and the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing.


Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

9. Mount Washington Snow Scene

The famous snow scene is set atop Mt. Washington, looking down upon the Point and Pittsburgh’s three rivers. The image is set circa 1906, at about the time PBTs The Nutcracker takes place, offering a beautiful, vintage take on the scene.


Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

10. Birds and Butterflies

One of Pittsburgh’s treasures is the National Aviary. Once Marie and the Nutcracker arrive in the Land of Enchantment, some of the characters that greet them include birds and butterflies to represent the National Aviary.


Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre & PBT School | Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

11. Land of Enchantment Amusement Park

The Land of Enchantment is a feast for the eyes, full of bright colors and exciting characters. The set design includes a carousel canopy and figures along with a roller coaster design on the backdrop. These elements pay homage to Pittsburgh amusement parks including Kennywood and turn-of-the-century amusement park, Luna Park.


Not only can you spot these fun references, but this year keep your eyes peeled for some local celebrities on-stage:

Kym Gable (KDKA-TV Anchor) Friday, Dec. 8 @ 7:00pm
FRYZ (Rap artist) Friday, Dec. 9 @ 7:00pm
Giselle Fetterman (Former second Lady of PA) Sunday, Dec. 10 @ 4:30pm
Daisy Jade (KDKA-TV/Pittsburgh Today Livereporter) Friday, December 15 @ 7:00 p.m.
Lindsay Wade (KDKA-TV Anchor) Saturday, Dec. 16 @ 2:00pm
Boaz Frankel (KDKA and NEXTPittsburgh reporter) Saturday, Dec. 16 @ 7:00pm
Kristine Sorensen (Anchor on KDKA-TV) Sunday, Dec. 17 @ 12:00pm
Scott Blasey (Lead Singer of The Clarks) Thursday, Dec. 21 @ 7:00pm
Kyra Laubacher (Journalist at Pointe Magazine) Saturday, Dec. 23 @ 7:00pm

PBT is extremely proud to be part of the Pittsburgh community and to showcase its rich history. With performances throughout the entire month of December, there’s no better way to celebrate the holiday season than with family at PBT’s uniquely Pittsburgh rendition of The Nutcracker! Purchase tickets here!

Violins of Hope

October 27-29, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) will present Sounds of the Sun as part of its seasoner opener in conjunction with Violins of Hope Greater Pittsburgh. Sounds of the Sun is a world-premiere ballet choreographed by Jennifer Archibald. It is inspired by the true life story of Florence Waren, a Jewish dancer and French Resistance fighter during World War ll. During the performance, a violin from the Pittsburgh Violins of Hope exhibit will be played onstage.

The Violins of Hope is a collection of 102 violins, violas and cellos that were owned and played by Jewish musicians both before and during World War ll. Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein began the project to collect and restore these instruments and tell their stories. Each instrument conveys the inspiring story of its owner, the pain they endured, the atrocities they faced, the scars of the survivors and the memories of those who did not survive the Holocaust.

The collection strives to educate about the Holocaust and memorialize the original owners through concerts, exhibits and community education events. This unique, free exhibit can be viewed at the Posner Center on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus from October 7-November 21, 2023.

Some of the examples of violins in the poignant collection include:

Joyce Vanderveen Violin
This violin will be played onstage during Jennifer Archibald’s Sounds of the Sun premiere.

The violin belonged to Joyce Vanderveen, a talented and well-known young dancer and musician from Amsterdam, who was just 13 years old when World War II broke out across Europe. Joyce survived with her family and her cherished violin. After the war she became a renowned ballerina and later, a Hollywood actress. It was then that she placed her beloved violin beneath her bed, never to touch it for the ensuing 25 years leading to her death. She also never spoke about the violin of the Holocaust with her son. Her violin found its way back into the spotlight when her son discovered the Violins of Hope project. A symbol of resilience and survival, the violin continues to inspire as it is played once again. Joyce’s legacy lives on through this instrument, a testament to the enduring power of art and music.

An interesting side note is that Joyce’s picture, probably a publicity photo clipped from a magazine, was discovered hanging on a wall in Anne Frank’s bedroom. Anne died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. The photo remains on the wall at the Anne Frank House, now a museum.

Hecht Violin
This violin belonged to the Jewish family Alex and Fanny Hecht and their sons Fritz and Ernest. The Hechts lived in Germany but emigrated to Amsterdam soon after the war began. After the Nazis invaded Amsterdam, Fanny gave the violin to her neighbor Helena Visser for safekeeping, as she did not want the Nazis to have her prized possession. The entire Hecht family was arrested and sent to different concentration and labor camps. None of them survived. The Visser family kept the violin safe for 74 years until they turned it over to Violins of Hope so that it could be played in the Hecht’s memory.

Lyon Violin
In 1942, thousands of Jews were arrested in Paris and sent to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. On one of the trains was a man holding a violin. When the train stopped in rural France, he cried out, “In the place where I now go – I don’t need a violin. Here, take my violin so it may live!” He then threw the violin out of a train window and a French worker picked it up and saved it. Years later, his children found the violin in his attic and took it to a French violin maker, with whom they shared the story of it. The violin maker knew of Violins of Hope and donated the instrument to the collection.

Henry Brender Violin
Henry Brender was a prodigal violin player who grew up in Romania and studied music in world-famous academies in Vienna and Budapest before World War ll. He was sent to a hard labor camp during the war but escaped along with his violin. He survived the war and became a soloist with the Bucharest Philharmonic. He was later detained and imprisoned for six months by the communist Romanian government. In 1960, he immigrated to Israel and joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, where he played until his retirement in 1985.

Dachau Violin
This violin belonged to Abram Merczynski. In August 1944, 21-year-old Abram and his two brothers, Isak and Zysman were deported from Poland, to Auschwitz and then to Dachau concentration camp. Abram played his violin wherever he was, even in the labor camps. Abram and his brothers survived, as did his violin. Before they emigrated to the United States in 1955, the three brothers rented a room with a German family in Munich. Abram bought himself a new violin and gave his old instrument to the family’s young son. Abram lived to be 88 and his daughter, Eleanor, said he never stopped playing the violin. Abram’s original violin now continues to tell the story of survival, music and friendship.

A Forever Dance Partner

Two real-life Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre couples will be performing Pas des deux at the Light in the Dark program that will open the 2023-24 Season on October 27-29.
Principal artist Yoshiaki (Yoshi) Nakano and Soloist Jessica McCann will perform Lacrimosa on Saturday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m. Lacrimosa, by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Yoshi and Jessica have been married for four years, after meeting at PBT. Inspired by Baroque religious iconography, Lacrimosa is a moving work filled with daring lifts and expressive dancing. Lacrimosa also marks Jessica’s return to the stage for the first time in 10 months after she had hip replacement surgery in April.

Diana Yohe, a PBT Soloist and her husband Joseph (Joe) Parr, a member of the Corps de Ballet, will be performing Loss on Sunday, October 29 at 2:00 p.m. Diana and Joe also met while dancing at PBT and have been married since 2018. Loss, by Sasha Janes, tells the story of a couple’s loss of their child. The choreography, set to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, is a heart-wrenching and emotional duet through which the couple expresses their grief.

Both couples provide insight into what it is like to dance in these emotional works, as well as the pros and cons of dancing with their spouses.

Lacrimosa – Jessica McCann and Yoshi Nakano

 

Yoshi & Jess at a photoshoot.

What is it like performing Lacrimosa together as a real-life couple?
Yoshi: It’s really fun and exciting! Having the same stage experience together, I will always remember the feeling of togetherness dancing with Jess. We have performed this duet during the pandemic, so I didn’t feel like my body was in shape, but this time I feel fully back and ready to perform!

 

Jess: Having performed this beautiful duet before in 2021 together, I’ll never forget how easy it was to trust him. It’s an incredibly hard duet in the sense that my role is almost blind the entire time, and we are falling into our partner’s arms and jumping trusting they are ready! Dark lighting, our hair is down, and we are giving it everything. It could be very scary but with him, I feel safe and can trust him with my life.

What are the benefits and challenges of dancing with your spouse?
Yoshi:
Benefit: I can always expect what she needs from me because we know each other so well.

Challenges: Trying not to be personal about how to fix some issues in this piece.

Jess:
Benefit: That connection is real, and it’s an absolute joy of mine to perform with my love and share our passion for art together.

Challenges: Sometimes when you are too comfortable with each other you can be more critical. As a married couple, we both try to actively listen to each other’s thoughts and feedback while working in the studio together. We’ve been lucky enough to dance together for several years now so each time we get better and better at it.

What is your favorite part of Lacrimosa?
Yoshi: The very beginning as soon as I touch her, she starts breathing. It’s like she comes back to life. The moment of the stage is incredibly beautiful with the lighting and music.

Yoshi & Jess rehearsing Lacrimosa.

Jess: The ending! When I get more and more limp in the choreography, to the point of death, he has me in his arms in a tight embrace as he slowly lowers me to the floor. At that point, I’m sweating, breathing heavily and my hair is in my eyes as my face finds the floor. It’s a sad moment but a satisfying ending to this beautiful duet.

What is the most challenging part?
Yoshi: To make everything look smooth and effortless.

Jess: Not falling, and making everything look effortless while conveying the story.

Jessica – how does it feel to be back onstage only 6 months after your hip replacement surgery?

I didn’t think I would feel ready at this point I’ll be honest. But I’ve been working tirelessly, and patiently for my return to the stage. It’s an incredible gift that I will hold close and never forget. I don’t feel nervous, I feel like I’m returning home from a long journey where I saw and learned so much, and grew exponentially as a human. And to return with my husband who has supported me through all of my hardest moments is like the cherry on top of this whole experience.

Returning with such a dramatic duet like Lacrimosa will be my love letter to the stage, to the audience, and to my recovery journey thus far.

Loss – Diana Yohe and Joe Parr

 

Joe & Diana in Loss.

What is it like performing Loss together as a real couple?
We both feel it helps us be more honest in our performance. We’ve experienced loss and have
grieved together, so it is not hard to put ourselves in that frame of mind.

 

How do you prepare for the performance?
Each time before we run the piece we usually give each other a hug to center and ground ourselves. Sasha Janes (the choreographer) also encouraged us to always take a moment alone to get into the mindset that we just experienced a devastating loss in our lives. We both thought of the opening running that we do in the pas de deux as preparation as well.

Joe: I imagine that I’ve been running for a long time to find Diana. Once I do catch her I feel the desperate need to talk to her but I have no oxygen or words to speak. Almost the feeling of gasping for air after you’ve swallowed water down the wrong pipe.

Diana: I think of the moments in my life when I’ve learned something horrible and all I want to do is run away and pretend it doesn’t exist. It kind of feels like an out-of-body experience until I run into Joe and I come rushing back to reality.

Diana & Joe performing at Open Air.

Do the emotions from the piece ever carry over into our lives?

Joe: I feel I can generally separate the work from carrying over into life.

Diana: Sometimes I think because I’ve opened the door for those emotions to carry through, that it doesn’t quite shut all the way. I think more often of the people in my life that I’ve lost for sure and I feel this piece both helps me to process that grief but also keeps it more alive at the same time.

What are the benefits and challenges of dancing with your spouse?
We find it’s possible to ask more of each other, which is both a benefit and a challenge! There is also no shying away from the emotions of the piece and the love we have for each other.

What is your favorite part of the piece?
We love just being lost in the movement together. Even though it is an intense and technically challenging piece, there is a special connection and closeness we feel each time we run it.

What is the most challenging part?
The most challenging was to remain as human as possible in our acting and not add the ballet dancer in us to the steps. Also, physically it definitely took time to have the stamina to run the pas de deux in its entirety. The choreography requires that you are constantly resolving the movement. It’s important to trust the difficulty in the steps and in a way, use that difficulty to get the message of the piece across.

Light in the Dark Casting

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has announced casting for the 2023-24 season opener, Light in the Dark. The mixed repertoire program features four poignant contemporary works that showcase powerful stories and passionate dance. The program includes Jennifer Archibald’s world premiere Sounds of the Sun, Barak Marshall’s company premiere Monger, Loss by Sasha Janes and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Lacromosa. These emotional ballets tell compelling stories of tragedy, hope and human connection.  The program runs October 27 – 29 at the Byham Theater.

View Casting


Images from Jennifer Archibald’s Sounds of the Sun studio rehearsal.

Matthew Griffin and Madeline Gradle
Tommie Lin O’Hanlon and Colin McCaslin
Artists of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Lucius Kirst, Josiah Kauffman and Kurtis Sprowls

 

 

Learn About Florence Waren

Frederic Apcar, Florence Waren and Edith Piaf

The central work in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 2023-24 season opener Light in the Dark is renowned choreographer Jennifer Archibald’s world premiere Sounds of the Sun. This documentary-based contemporary ballet celebrates the life and bravery of Florence Waren, a Jewish dancer who lived in Paris during World War II and worked with the French Resistance. 

Florence Waren was a famous dancer in both France and Germany during World War II.  Together with Frederic Apcar, she became part of one of the most popular ballroom dance teams in Europe  –  “Florence et Frederic.” After the occupation of Paris, Florence decided not to reveal her Jewish ancestry and to instead risk hiding in plain sight.

“She led a rather adventurous life,”  her husband Stanley Waren told The New York Times after her death. “Wherever she went, she somehow became part of the scene, and people helped her and she helped them. She didn’t want anything from anybody except to work. She was really one of those natural-born performers who loved what she was doing.”

20 Facts About Florence Waren’s Heroic Life

  1. She was born Sadie Rigal in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1917, one of seven children. 
  2. After seeing Ballet Russes as a child, Florence fell in love with dance and began taking lessons
  3. One of her lasting ballet memories was when a teacher hit her in the calf with a cane.  Florence grabbed the cane and broke it and was then forced to buy the teacher a new one before being allowed back in class.
  4. She moved to France in 1938 and was hired as a dancer by the famous Bal Tabarin Music Hall in Paris, changing her name to Florence soon after. 
  5. In 1939, she was offered a place in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but World War II began before she could join.
  6. She was arrested held in an internment camp for several months in 1940 because she was South African, and therefore a British citizen (and as such a Nazi enemy alien).
  7. She and her dance partner Frederic Apcar often performed at the same clubs with world-renowned Édith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier.
  8. During the occupation of Paris, Florence frequently performed for German officers at the Bal Tabarin, while hiding her Jewish identity in the spotlight the entire time.
  9. She aided the French Resistance by hiding fellow Jews in her apartment, helping Jews find safe houses and smuggling supplies and guns.
    Florence Warren with her dance partner Frederic Apcar.
  10. After a performance at a French POW camp in Germany, Florence illegally collected letters prisoners had written to their relatives and took them back to France to distribute. 
  11. During the war, a French police officer covertly warned her that her house was going to be raided by the Nazis and that she needed to move the Jews that were hiding there.
  12. In 1944, Frederic rented a house in the suburbs to hide her and several other Jewish performers after learning Florence was to be arrested.
  13. Florence and Frederic saw American soldiers in tanks asking for directions to Paris in 1944 and followed them, witnessing the city’s liberation. 
  14. In 1948, she met Stanley Waren, an actor, director and teacher, while performing at the Copacabana in New York.
  15. On their first date, Florence and Stanley went to a delicatessen and got into such a loud argument that they were thrown out.
  16. They were married in 1949 and Florence decided to leave “Florence et Frederic.” 
  17. In New York, she began a new career, appearing in Broadway plays and on television, including The Ed Sullivan Show
  18. From 1973 until 1983, she was a professor of theater and dance at New York City College, heading the department for part of that time
  19. She was a dance panelist on the New York State Council on the Arts.
  20. She died in New York City in 2012 at the age of 95

 

Banner Photo: Florence Warren with her dance partner Frederic Apcar | All photos courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum