Joseph Parr’s Favorite PBT Moments

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Ballet: Man in Black by James Kudelka
Year: 2016

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Ballet: In the Night by Jerome Robbins
Year: 2018

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


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

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


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

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


Ballet: Step Touch by Dwight Rhoden
Year: 2009

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


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

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


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

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

 

 

Celebrate National Coming Out Day with PBT!

At Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, we are committed to increasing equity, diversity and opportunity in the art of ballet. We believe that by bringing together people with diverse perspectives, histories and life experiences, we can create more vibrant experiences for everyone. 

As part of this, PBT is proud to support National Coming Out Day on October 11th.  This is the 25th year that this important day has been celebrated in the U.S.  This annual LGBTQ awareness day celebrates people acknowledging – both publicly and privately – their authentic selves and embracing who they are.  As part of National Coming Out Day, three PBT artists/staff members are sharing their coming out stories in hopes of inspiring others.


Kurtis Sprowls
Kurtis and his partner Phillip.

Can you share your coming-out story with us?

I knew I was gay from a very young age. I struggled to really accept my authentic self, and live up to the expectations of my hometown environment. In my late teens, I moved to Pittsburgh and I was able to find community and acceptance in myself. I started to come out little by little and was met with many different reactions. Looking back at this time in my life, I am grateful for the people who have always shown me unconditional love, and for the patience I granted people who needed time to process. I believe my coming out stands as a testament to that it does get better.

Where have you discovered a supportive and inclusive community?

I have had the great fortune to discover many supportive and inclusive communities since coming out. I have found a core group of queer friends who love and support me, and make up my chosen family. I have also found support and community at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. At PBT, everyone can be themselves and showcase what is unique and special about who they are. Through the support that PBT offers, everyone can confidently grow and flourish. 

What advice do you have for individuals struggling to come out?

My advice to someone who is struggling to come out is to trust your gut, take your time, and practice patience. There is no rush to come out, so take your time and space to really get to know your authentic self. Cultivating patience with yourself and others will not only bring you peace but will help strengthen the bonds and relationships you value. Coming out looks different for everyone, but you will never regret living authentically as your whole self. Always remember that you deserve love, acceptance, and respect just as much as anyone else.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who or what inspires you?

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am inspired by the generations of queer folks who came before me. I am incredibly lucky to have the life I have today because of their bravery and visibility.


Lish Reece
Lish and her partner Christie.

Can you share your coming-out story with us?

I really don’t have some grandiose movie story to share – it sort of just happened. I do want to say that I am blessed to have a loving and supportive family because I know that is not always the case.

Where have you discovered a supportive and inclusive community?

I have definitely discovered a supportive and inclusive community in the arts. I believe so many LGBTQ+ people are drawn to the arts even before they realize that they may be wondering about how they identify. The creative nature of our arts communities tends to value self expression. We are in the business of portraying others thoughts and feelings and words which hopefully creates a brave space for exploration. This environment also lends itself to further understanding of humans as a whole and the realization that we are all so different and wonderful and also so alike!

What advice do you have for individuals struggling to come out?

The biggest advice I have is to not feel pressured to come out, it is something that is deeply personal. Everyone’s experiences and situations are unique. Was coming out freeing to me? Absolutely it was. Yet you need to do what is right and safe for you. I believe the most important step is learning to love and appreciate yourself first because you are valid!

I grew up in a very small conservative town and I absolutely understand the difficulties that presents. I had already moved away when I finally acknowledged that being a part of the queer community was my truth. Thankfully the understanding and appreciation of people who identify as LGBTQ+ in those pockets of rural America are finally starting to progress.

If/when you decide to come out – just know that it is a continual process. I still find myself coming out to people that I haven’t met or haven’t seen since high school. Has it gotten easier and easier over the years? Completely yes. This is because I have become more and more comfortable with myself and also, thankfully, the world is evolving. It also certainly helps that I can just post a picture of myself and my partner to social media and I have “come out” just by living my life. My hope is someday “coming out” won’t even be a thing. We will all just be.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who or what inspires you?

I know I have worked in the arts for the majority of my life, but I actually draw quite a bit of inspiration from LGBTQ+ athletes. Professional athletes have such a visible platform and many LGBTQ+ people have used that stage to inspire and educate the world. Even the uptick of LGBTQ+ commercials during certain sports broadcasts has increased as of late. That representation can have a profound effect on someone whose circumstances may not allow them to see LGBTQ+ people on a daily basis.


Matthew Griffin
Matthew and his partner Alex.

Can you share your coming-out story with us?

I knew I was gay for a long time; but never thought I would come out. When I graduated high school and went to college, I realized a lot of the pressure I was feeling about coming out, I was putting on myself. So in college, where I knew I had a safe group of friends, and decided to just go for it and be my authentic self. Nobody batted an eye, so I brought my authentic self home with me on my first break. My family and hometown friends were unfaltering with their love and support. 

Where have you discovered a supportive and inclusive community?

I’ve found a supportive community in my friends and my family. I’ve also found a supportive community in the arts. I am grateful to be able to work at PBT where I can bring my full self to work everyday. 

What advice do you have for individuals struggling to come out?

Everyone’s journey is different. Give yourself the time you need and give yourself grace. Just know that there are people out there who love you and accept you for who you are. 

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who or what inspires you?

Inspiration is everywhere for me. Music, books, concerts, shows, movies, television, and the culture are all things that inspire and inform me. I’m inspired by fearlessness and authenticity. I’m inspired by the generations of queer people before me who paved the way for us to live our lives so freely today. 

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

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.

Open Air at Hazelwood Green Casting Announced

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Open Air performance at Hazelwood Green will be happening on Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m. The outdoor performance is free to attend and open to the community.

Register

Casting has been announced!

View Casting

In addition to PBT performances, the family-friendly event will include performances by other musical and dance artists, as well as art vendors, demonstrations, kids activities and food trucks all weekend.  PBT will also hold barre classes for adults and creative movement classes for kids. Additionally, Saturday is August Wilson Community Day and will include free activities from numerous local museums and arts organizations.  Open Air will run on Friday, Sept. 29 from 6:00-9:30 pm, Saturday, Sept. 30 from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm and Sunday, Oct. 1 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.  See the full schedule here.

View Full Open Air Schedule

Hear From the Company and School Accompanists

Ballet and classical music are intrinsically linked.  Most beloved classical ballets from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Swan Lake to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Stravinsky’s The Firebird have sweeping musical scores that not only accentuate the dancing but help to express character’s feelings.  Most classical ballet scores, also stand on their own as music compositions even without the ballet.  

Many ballet theaters – including PBT – are fortunate enough to have pianists who play live music for classes and rehearsals.  In honor of Classical Music Month, we want to highlight PBT’s accompanists and how they feel live music impacts rehearsals. We’ll also show an inside look at their favorite pieces to play in the studio.

1. How do you believe live music impacts studio rehearsals?

Live music in the studios allows for in-the-moment artistic collaboration among dancers, teacher and musician. The musician responds immediately to the movement, the dancers react in turn to the dynamics of the music. Ideally, we are a healthy living organism, breathing and moving together; ideally, the musician is inspiring both teachers and dancers to create their best work in the moment, to improve each day as a technician and an artist.

I’m so glad Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School is committed to live music in the studios for all its students. I feel so fortunate to have been a part of this project for so many decades.

2. What is one of your most favorite pieces to play in the studio?

I’m afraid I have too many favorite pieces to mention. There is a great thrill, at any moment, in matching a piece perfectly to the dance, no matter what the music. Even so, some things I love are: the slow movement of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (see Kenneth MacMillan’s Pas de Deux). It requires very slow moving choreography, so I don’t get to play it very often. I still love Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere and a few slow and evocative piano works of Bach and Mozart. I still enjoy playing the very sweet Minuet from Gluck’s Orfeo, Faure’s Sicillienne (from Jewels), and some selections from Copland’s Rodeo, including Saturday Night Waltz.


Juliet Winovich

1. How do you believe live music impacts studio rehearsals?

In an interactive dynamic environment like a ballet studio work,
Live music is, the spatial medium that unifies the group action. The quality of rhythm alone,
Is as powerful as turning on the light in a dark room.
Not only is live music a source of motivation and inspiration, it is also a tool that responds
quickly, adjusting as needed, to facilitate emergence.

2. What is one of your most favorite pieces to play in the studio?

It depends on the work being done at that moment.


Sun Chang:

1. How do you believe live music impacts studio rehearsals?

I believe it creates a sense of community and a feeling of support between the pianist, dancers, and the instructor. It also makes it feel very much like a living art form, and it feels creative!

2. What is one of your most favorite pieces to play in the studio?

I love playing the Rose Adagio from sleeping beauty by Tchaikovsky!


 

Maja Petrovic:

1. How do you believe live music impacts studio rehearsals?

Playing for dance classes and rehearsals is such a creative process, that process changes and affects the energy, the mood, and the dynamic of one’s dancing.

From the very first note we play, we initiate this inspiring collaboration with the dancer, and together we create an artistic space where they can express all those qualities in a different way every time they hear a certain piece of music.

2. What is one of your favorite pieces to play in the studio?

Being a classically trained pianist myself, I tend to gravitate towards classical piano pieces that I can arrange in ballet format, and I also enjoy excerpts from ballets. Some good examples are the 2nd movements of Ravel’s piano concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. From ballet repertoire, I enjoy playing La Source’s Romance, from Act 3, and scenes from Prokofiev’s Cinderella, and Romeo and Juliet.


Josh Malave:

1. How do you believe live music impacts studio rehearsals?

I believe live music in the classes creates a unity between everyone involved, we share in each other’s striving to make something that is real and which is good.

2. What is one of your favorite pieces to play in the studio?

One of my most favorite pieces to play is a waltz from the opera La fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini

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!