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