“Driving…Intrinsic Energy…Transcendent…Exquisite.”

Scenery in the PBT Production Shop

Packed with big names in entertainment, athletic intensity and artistic innovation, PBT’s 2013-2014 Season opener “An Evening of Twyla Tharp” is among the most anticipated productions of the season for PBT company dancers. Here, four PBT dancers describe the artistic impact in their own words. 


“I’m very excited to dance both In The Upper Room and Nine Sinatra Songs again. Nine Sinatra Songs thoughtfully celebrates the man himself and what his timeless music communicates about the sweet complexity of human relationships. Upper Room is a true physical tour de force. As dancers we leave it all out on stage and that is particularly true in this slow-building, yet incredibly dynamic piece – it takes every ounce of energy we have, both mental and physical! Twyla’s choreography in Upper Room allows you to be both personal and engaging yet at the same time you feel a force larger than you – Phillip Glass’s incredible tensile, beating music – is driving the movement. It’s truly one of those ballets where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”


“In the Upper Room will be the perfect beginning to this season. It has an intrinsic energy that just keeps growing throughout the piece. Within the cast there are two “teams” of dancers – Stompers and Ballet dancers. In some ways the two teams are very different (all the way down to their footwear), but they are married together through Twyla Tharp’s unique choreographic style and Philip Glass’ driving score. The process of getting this piece up and running for the stage is always a challenge, both mentally and physically, but one for which I believe  PBT dancers are ready.”

In the Upper Room was the first contemporary ballet I ever saw a professional ballet company do, and it blew my mind.  I was so excited to be a part of it the last time Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performed it, and am really looking forward to kicking off this season with it.  The ballet really is this transcendent experience that starts out as an almost mediation and builds to a feverish pitch of pure, animalistic energy with dancers seemingly materializing out of thin air only to be reabsorbed by the whole.  The music by Philip Glass is the beating heart of the piece.  With it’s lush, reverberating sonic pulse, it pulls you through this epic emotional journey over the course of the ballet, pushing you farther than you thought possible and charging you with an electric energy that you have no choice but to channel back out to the audience. Together, the dancers and the music form an incredibly addictive circuit of self-fueling energy. As a dancer and an audience member, you leave the theater feeling as though perhaps you have experienced some sort of higher plane of existence.”

“I am very excited the company will be performing these two Tharp pieces. I have had the pleasure of dancing in both, and look forward to the opportunity to perform them again. In Nine Sinatra Songs, I danced the pas de deux, Strangers in the Night, the style of the pas is tango-esque. It’s a mix of strong head and arm movements mixed with both soft gliding and sharp foot work. Each pas de deux in the ballet has a style and story of its own. In the Upper Room, I danced the role of a stomper. It has been one of the most aerobic roles that I have ever danced to date, as well as one of my favorites. The stompers wear reebok tennis shoes (with custom suede on the soles to prevent sticking), the movement quality is generally grounded with a “care-free” or loose port de bras. The ballet alternates between stomper and ballet sections. In the stomper sections, you will see very, very physical dancing and partnering, also with choreography that gives a wink and a nudge to yoga poses and in the men’s sections, tap dancing. In the Upper Room is set to the music of Philip glass, the stage is covered in a thin veil of fog the entire time (giving the illusion of dancers appearing and disappearing out of nowhere), and the dancing is exquisite! It’s a feast for the eyes. This piece is both a pleasure to watch, and, as a dancer, incredible to perform. Dancing this ballet again will be one of the highlights of my season and of my career.”

In Their Own Words: Four Dancers Describe “An Evening of Twyla Tharp”