The Artistry of Marianna Tcherkassky

Marianna at the Smithsonian Museum exhibit posing next to her Giselle costume.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s long-time rehearsal director, Marianna Tcherkassky, has announced her retirement at the end of the 2022-2023 season. Tcherkassky has been a rehearsal director at PBT for 26 years. Prior to PBT, Tcherkassky danced with American Ballet Theatre for 26 years, 20 of which as a principal dancer.

“I have been so fortunate to enjoy two amazing careers, that as a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre for over two decades, and a second one as a Rehearsal Director for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, with the opportunity to help curate and bring to life through our beautiful dancers a prodigious array of repertoire,” Tcherkassky said. “I am deeply honored to have learned from and collaborated with all of the incredibly talented and dedicated artists in all aspects of my profession.”

In the ballet world, few individuals leave as profound an impact as Marianna Tcherkassky, Rehearsal Director at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT). Her expansive knowledge and expertise guide dancers to new heights, making her an irreplaceable asset. With her experience from her time as a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre to becoming a Rehearsal Director in Pittsburgh, her contributions are invaluable not only to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, but the ballet community as a whole.

The Nutcracker: Marianna Tcherkassky and Mikhail Baryshnikov | Photo Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

Marianna’s passion for dance blossomed at a young age. Raised in Maryland, she was surrounded by classical music, thanks to her mother, a professional dancer and her first teacher. Dancing became an outlet for her emotions and a way to create her own world.

At 14, Marianna earned a scholarship to George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City. This opportunity paved the way for her audition and subsequent acceptance into the esteemed American Ballet Theatre (ABT) at just 17 years old. It was at ABT that her career took a pivotal turn.

Marianna Tcherkassky-Giselle Photo Shoot | Photo: Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

In 1980, shortly before a performance of Giselle, Gelsey Kirkland, the lead ballerina, was injured. With limited time to spare, Mikhail Baryshnikov turned and asked Marianna to take on the role. Leaving only five days to prepare, she rehearsed tirelessly with Baryshnikov and delivered a breathtaking performance that garnered critical acclaim.

Throughout her career, Marianna continued to refine her artistry and expand her repertoire. Her unwavering dedication and pursuit of excellence made her a true force in the dance world. Today, as Rehearsal Director, she imparts her wisdom to a new generation of company and school dancers -inspiring them with her grace and passion.

Giselle: Marianna Tcherkassky and Kevin McKenzie | Photo Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

Marianna believes that great dancers must also be great actors, emphasizing the importance of conveying emotion and storytelling through movement while dancing.

Beyond the studio, she finds inspiration in nature, observing its intricate balance and drawing parallels to the dance of life. Her dedication to the art form is steadfast and she feels fortunate to exist in a world where creativity, productivity and positivity converge.

Marianna Tcherkassky’s contributions to ballet are immeasurable. Her expertise, passion and dedication continue to shape the future of dance, leaving an enduring legacy that will inspire generations to come.

After retiring, Tcherkassky says there are many new possibilities on the horizon to which she looks forward, including spending time in nature, bird watching, visiting family and friends across the country and spending time with her husband Terry at his vintage car groups and shows.

A celebration of Marianna Tcherkassky’s career at Pittsburgh Ball Theatre is being planned to occur during the company’s December 2023 production of The Nutcracker. The event date and details will be announced soon.