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

Celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with Abigail Huang

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, join us in celebration with

PBT Apprentice Abigail Huang!

Hometown
Born in Stanford, CA
Grew up in San Francisco, CA

Training
Ballet San Jose School
Marin Ballet School
San Francisco Ballet School

PBT
Joined PBT as an Apprentice in 2023


What was the first ballet you ever performed on stage? 

My first ballet I ever performed on stage was Ballet San Jose’s Nutcracker. I was 8 years old and was a mouse.

What is your favorite ballet?

My favorite ballet would have to be Don Quixote.  I love how powerful yet graceful Kitri is.  Whenever I hear music from that ballet, I instantly gain energy.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I haven’t met a hobby that I don’t like. Recently, I have been crocheting and painting my nails with my roommate! I also love anything that’s outdoors! 

What was the last song you had stuck in your head?

I listen to a lot of music but recently “Taking What’s Not Yours” by TVgirl, “Easy lovers” by Piero Piccioni, “Mercury” by Steve Lacy have been stuck in my head! 

What makes you laugh?

My brother, Josh, never fails to make me laugh!

What’s your perfect day?

My perfect day is sleeping in for most of the day, eating a gluten-free cinnamon roll, then surfing in Hawaii.

What’s your proudest moment?

My proudest moment might be graduating from high school a year early with honors or earning my scuba diving certification.

What are the last 3 things you do before you go to sleep?

  1. Take a shower
  2. Complete my skincare routine
  3. Read a book

If I weren’t a ballet dancer, I would be…

If I was not a dancer, I’d be a surfer or a mountain biker. I know for a fact I would do something athletic!


Photography: Anita Buzzy Prentiss, Aviana Adams

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

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.

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!

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.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Apprentice Cecilia Hernandez

National Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15!  We were excited to sit down and talk with PBT artist Cecilia Hernandez to learn about some of her family’s cultural traditions and customs.

What is Hispanic Heritage Month? Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

 

Cecilia posing at a photoshoot.

Can you share a bit about your culture with us?

I am half Colombian and half Puerto Rican. Even though I was born in the U.S., my parents instilled many traditions. Both nationalities have delicious cuisines and music. We love to dance cumbia and salsa. Family is very important in our culture and we take care of our elders. 

Do you feel like your identity is tied to your heritage?  

Cecilia’s Tita with a cake she made from the recipe that supported her family.

My great-grandmother became a widow at 40 years old in Colombia and she baked cakes to help support her family of 9 children. To this day, we still use her recipe on special occasions to celebrate her. My grandmother is one of the most meaningful people in my life and one of the ways she kept my family, specifically the ladies, tied to our culture was throwing us quinceañeras, which is very popular in Latin countries. When most of my friends were having Sweet 16 parties, I had a traditional quinceañera for my 15th birthday with 14 friends as part of my “court.”

What are some of your favorite memories growing up?

One of my favorite memories about growing up in my culture is the Christmas celebrations. Colombians, and most Hispanics, celebrate on Christmas Eve, and we gather together, pray, dance, play games and open gifts late at night (which was my favorite part).

Cecilia in the studio rehearsing The Sleeping Beauty.

What are your favorite family traditions?

My favorite cultural tradition in my family is the family gatherings we would have each Saturday. We ordered Colombian food, talked about our week, danced, and played Dominos, which is a significant game in Hispanic culture. My grandfather is the best player I know!

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Corps Member Christian García Campos

National Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15!  We were excited to sit down and talk with PBT artist Christian García Campos to learn about some of her family’s cultural traditions and customs.

What is Hispanic Heritage Month? Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Christian modeling the Theme & Variations costumes at Janet Campbell Fashion Show.

Can you share a bit about your culture with us?

I think Mexican culture is incredibly rich in every aspect, from the food to the architecture, from the music to the beautiful and varied sceneries. It’s so full of color and vibrancy, like the dresses worn for Mexican folklore, the incredibly elaborate mariachi suits, the “alebrijes” (imaginary creatures made up of a combination of animals), the “Voladores de Papantla” (Dance of the Flyers), the list is truly endless.

Christian in her Mexican folklore dress in kindergarten.

Do you feel like your identity is tied to your heritage?

It absolutely is. Latin people have this warmth about them, it’s probably one of the things I miss most from home. There is this carefree spirit that people carry. There’s never a lack of reasons to get together and celebrate, even if it’s just to be with each other. And I have to say, I’m definitely feisty.

What are some of your favorite memories growing up?

I want to say that my parents truly went above and beyond. They made everything special. In Mexico, the three wise men visit you just like Santa Claus does. Whenever they came to visit, our living room was turned upside down. Literally. There was hay all around and sometimes the horse would even leave a little present as well… a wall size letter was written outside, it was truly unbelievable. They made me believe it was all real.

Christian rehearsing in the studio.

What are your favorite family traditions?

I would have to say that our rituals during New Years Eve take the cake. As we ring in the new year, we have several tasks that need to be completed. There would be a suitcase, and someone would have to go around the block with it. This would be for future traveling. Someone would be throwing lentils outside for abundance. Someone would sweep the entrance to get rid of bad energies. All of this while someone rings a bell, eat your grapes and hug each other to receive the new year. I love my family.

Find Out What Our Artists Were Up to This Summer

During June and July, PBT Company artists have a well-deserved summer break before the new season begins.  Some of the PBT artists shared the different ways they spent their breaks outside of the PBT studios this summer!

JACK HAWN

I took a road trip up to Northern Michigan where I vacationed in cabins on a lake with my family, then all the way down to Miami and the Florida Keys and back to Pittsburgh. Stops and fun along the way included New River Gorge National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, Atlanta, and Orlando. Four weeks on the road and many memories in my Jeep! 


DANIELLE DOWNEY

I spent my summer flower farming — growing cut flowers for market bouquets, arrangements and events. I grew 50+ varieties and have farm-fresh bouquets available for purchase through the first frost this fall. I also just enjoyed the time off with my family, doing all the outdoor summer adventures, relaxing, and waiting on the arrival of baby #2 in October! 


MATTHEW GRIFFIN

This summer was an eventful one!  My partner and I started the process of getting ready to move to Pittsburgh! Amidst all of the chaos and the moving boxes, we did a getaway to Lake Michigan, saw the Taylor Swift Eras tour, and even had time for a family vacation to the Caribbean! We made our way to Pittsburgh in late July and settled in just in time to start our new jobs! Looking forward to experiencing everything the city has to offer! 


DIANA YOHE & JOE PARR

Joe and I spent most of the summer visiting our family and friends. We also added a sprung floor in our back shed, so we could dance and work out at home. (Thank you, PBT, for the Marley back from Covid times!) The biggest highlight was definitely visiting Long Boat Key, FL with family, which was incredibly relaxing and soul-filling. We spent time enjoying the sun and the sand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


JONATHAN BREIGHT

I spent the summer at PBT teaching classes at the PBT School’s Company Experience and Intensive Summer Program!


JESSICA MCCANN

I’m currently almost 4 months post op, and I’m doing very well. I started with the company this August taking classes.
I recently started a podcast and have documented every part of my process so I can hopefully bring hope to other dancers out there going through the same thing in silence.
I want to be an example, and proof that coming back after a hip replacement is possible. It’s  happened before but it’s been poorly documented and hardly spoken about. I personally struggled to find examples before I got my surgery.

I had to take myself out for the end of our 2022/2023 season but my pain is gone and I’m working on planning my return performance! So it’s been a summer of metamorphosis for me!

Meet New Apprentice Abigail Huang

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is delighted to announce that Abigail Huang will be joining PBT as a company apprentice for the 2023-24 season! 

Abigail Huang trained from the age of 13 at the San Francisco Ballet School. During her time there, she had the opportunity to dance in many roles with the company including  The Nutcracker (Clara), Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, Swan Lake and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She was privileged to attend summer programs at Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Royal Ballet, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. 

 

 

 

Hometown: I was born and raised in Fremont, CA with my Mom, Dad, brother, and my dog, Cooper. My brother is close by as he attends Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. 

Age: 18

What are you most excited about doing in Pittsburgh?

I am so excited to learn from and perform with the incredible dancers of PBT. The repertoire is going to really challenge me as a performer and artist. I am looking forward to connecting with the Pittsburgh audiences. 

I am most nervous about my first winter. I wear a puffy coat when the temperature dips below 55 degrees in California, so I hope for a mild winter. 

What is your favorite ballet? 

That is a really hard question. It may be Don Quixote, it is a fun lighthearted ballet that really energizes audiences and is fun for every dancer on stage no matter how large or small your role is in the production. The dream scene in particular stands out as it feels like a show within the show.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing?

I think my favorite hobby on weekends is sleeping in. I grew up in a very active family. I love the outdoors, especially the ocean. I just got scuba certified and love to surf. Art is a de-stressor for me. I rotate through several different mediums. I am currently doing a lot of crocheting, digital art, and playing several instruments.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasures are boba tea and trashy reality TV like “The Simple Life” and “Dance Moms”. I also love Trader Joe’s vegan pork rind chips. 

Learn How Our Artists Get Their Beauty Sleep in Preparation for The Sleeping Beauty This Weekend

The Sleeping Beauty is a classical ballet that has been beloved worldwide for more than 130 years.  It features the traditional fairy tale story of a princess cursed to eternal sleep who is awoken by true love’s kiss.   Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) will present The Sleeping Beauty May 19-21, 2023 at the Benedum Center.  

While Princess Aurora never got the opportunity to prepare for her deep sleep, we asked some of the PBT artists what their favorite bedtime ritual is before they go to sleep each night.

Tickets and show information for The Sleeping Beauty can be found at pbt.org.

Buy Tickets

Hannah Carter
Hannah Carter
Principal Dancer at PBT
Roles in The Sleeping Beauty: Princess Aurora, Lilac Fairy

“I love my bed! I love my bed so much! If it was up to me I would get into bed every night as soon as my son is down, I’ve had dinner and showered! But my husband is the complete opposite, so we meet in the middle and I’m usually in bed about 10 pm. As someone that sits at a desk all day, he is very ready to be active and busy in the evenings while I am exhausted and just want to relax. If my body is feeling achy and I’ve had a hard day I usually have an Epsom salt bath (which I love as much as my bed) before I shower and usually take that time to do some extra skin care as well like a face mask or ice rolling, eye patches etc. After I’ve picked up the toys and cleaned the kitchen from dinner we like to sit down and watch an episode or two of whatever tv series we have going at the time, I usually last about 15 minutes before I fall asleep… and then wake up to my husband telling me I should go upstairs to bed, which I’ll happily oblige!”

 

 

Tommie KestenTommie Lin O’Hanlon
Soloist at PBT
Roles in The Sleeping Beauty: Princess Aurora, Princess Florine, Energy Fairy

“My favorite routine before I go to sleep includes lots of self-care! After getting in the door and playing with my puppies, I enjoy taking an Epsom salt bath to relax and soothe my sore muscles from the long rehearsal day I just had. Next, I shower and remove my makeup, starting my skincare routine. I double cleanse to make sure I’ve got all the sweat from the day off. When I get out of the shower, I actually sit with my feet in an ice bucket as I put all my “lotions and potions” on (such a great hack if you wanna multitask!).

After all that, I have dinner and relax on the couch for a while. Usually, I’m sewing pointe shoes during this step! Finally, I crawl into bed with my adorable little Frenchies, Pork and Beans, and we get our BEAUTY SLEEP! In true Aurora fashion!!”

 

JoAnna Schmidt

JoAnna Schmidt
Soloist at PBT
Roles in The Sleeping Beauty: Princess Aurora, Abundance Fairy, Diamond Jewel

“Lately, I’ve been falling asleep on the couch for a bit with my dog, Tiger. That’s after we’ve been listening to NPR on the radio or watching a silly TV show, like Broad City or Fresh Prince. Then, one of us decides it’s time to migrate to the bed. So I’ll wash my face, brush my teeth, and I’ve been putting some magnesium spray on my ankle, as of late. After that, I’m usually asleep pretty quickly, but if not, I might do a guided meditation or some light reading.”

Get to Know Nathan Smith – Incoming Apprentice

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is thrilled to announce that Emry Amoky and Nathan Smith will be joining PBT as company apprentices for the 23/24 season! 

Emry Amoky trained at the Houston Ballet Academy and was a member of Houston Ballet ll.  Some of the ballets he has performed in include Peter Pan, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Raymonda and Paquita.  

Nathan Smith trained in the pre-professional program at the Miami City Ballet School and the American Academy of Ballet.  Some of the ballets in which he has performed include Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, Jerome Robbins’ 2&3 Part Inventions, Mozart in D Major and The Nutcracker.

We had an opportunity to ask Nathan a bit more about himself:

 

Name: Nathan Smith

Age: 19

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

What are you most excited about doing in Pittsburgh?

I am most excited to explore the city of Pittsburgh and dance with PBT. Also, to learn and grow with new repertoire and to dance in the beautiful Benedum Center. 

What is your favorite ballet?

My favorite ballet is Romeo and Juliet. I love the romance and passion of all the pas de deux and Romeo is my dream role. 

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not dancing?

When I’m not dancing I just like to relax in the comfort of my home surrounded by friends and family. I also enjoy time outdoors in nature and getting some sun. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is definitely ice cream.

 

Check back soon to get to learn more about Emry Amoky.

The Nutcracker Through the Years: Reflections with Ariana Chernyshev

At PBT School, students have the opportunity to perform onstage in PBT’s production of The Nutcracker every season, starting as young as age 8. Students who train in the School over the course of many years are therefore able to perform multiple different roles in the holiday production as they grow. 

 

Ariana Chernyshev, current company apprentice who was trained from Pre-Ballet all the way through the Graduate program at PBT School, reflects on her own journey with PBT’s The Nutcracker that began nearly 14 years ago. 

Can you remember your first Nutcracker experience? What role did you dance? Were you excited, nervous, etc.?

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. There is a good amount of acting and the rehearsal process was very exciting since the other party children were a few years older. My ballet bestie was the Little Party Girl for the other cast, and we would write notes back and forth to each other in the book we colored in onstage. I didn’t feel nervous until I was backstage – this was my first production on a big stage with a professional company and everything seemed larger than life. 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 roles have you danced in The Nutcracker? Which ones have been your favorites and why? 

In Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker, I have danced the roles of Little Party Girl, Soldier, Bumblebee, Mouse, Black Sheep, Party Girl, Clown, Young McTavish, Clara Doll, Aviary, Flower, Snowflake and Spanish. Little Girl in the party scene will definitely be a role I always treasure since it was where I truly fell in love with performing, but I also loved getting to shake my stinger at the end of the show as a Bumblebee! Mouse was another one of my all-time favorite roles, as they are quite cheeky. 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. The magic of performing as a Snowflake now is something I don’t take for granted. Also, the camaraderie of the Snowflakes really adds to the enchantment of each performance. 

What was your most recent Nutcracker role? How have you changed as a dancer since the first time you took the stage for The Nutcracker?
This past Nutcracker season, I danced as a Snowflake, Flower and understudied for Spanish. Last-minute casting adjustments allowed for me to perform in the Spanish, including an emergency during intermission! The ability to be ready to step in with just a moment’s notice is incredibly useful in the world of the performing arts and it was exciting for me to be able to challenge myself in that way. I’ve come a long way as a dancer from my first Nutcracker, and have gained a lot of crucial performance experience.

 

How has your experience dancing in The Nutcracker affected your growth as a dancer and performer? Has it prepared you for future performances?
Dancing in The Nutcracker over the past 14 years has led me to fall in love with ballet, expand my artistry and push my body physically. From my very first performance, I knew that ballet was going to be one of my greatest passions in life. The multiple children’s roles I began with were the introduction of my development as an onstage performer. As my roles became more physically strenuous, including the addition of pointe shoes, Nutcracker became a time for me to practice managing the stress on my body. This self-management has proven to be absolutely invaluable in my time as a dancer, especially during PBT’s most recent performances of Swan Lake with the PBT Orchestra. As both a dancer and a performer, The Nutcracker has become a benchmark of my growth and progress.

 

What is your favorite memory from all of the Nutcracker seasons you’ve taken part in? 

Both of my little sisters have danced at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and have performed in the company’s production of The Nutcracker, and my mother (Toma Smith) works with the children for roles in the battle scene and Act II. One of my favorite memories is a performance that we were all a part of! 

Don’t miss your chance to experience the magic of The Nutcracker this holiday season, running December 9-28 at the Benedum Center!

[Buy Tickets button: https://pbt.culturaldistrict.org/production/78322/the-nutcracker]

Interested in enrolling your child at PBT School so they can enjoy performance opportunities like this? Click the link below to learn more!

[Learn More button: https://pbt.org/pbt-school/join-our-school/]

Thank you to our sponsors, Highmark, Giant Eagle, Clearview Federal Credit Union for their support of The Nutcracker.