PBT School Students Compose and Choreograph for First Night Performance

When PBT School takes the stage for Pittsburgh’s First Night festivities next weekend, the program will feature a Pittsburgh premiere by two student dancers with a remarkable musical synergy.

Sharing the program with one of ballet’s most time-honored pas deux and a work by a nationally-renowned choreographer, PBT School Pre-Professional students Caroline MacDonald, 20, and Jack Hawn, 16, will introduce an inventive contemporary ballet featuring original choreography created by MacDonald and an original piano score composed by Hawn.  

Aptly titled Dovetail, the duo collaborated to create the work on a group of their peers in the PBT School Graduate Program. Hawn, a full-time High School student, has studied piano formally for about five years, accompanying PBT School ballet classes and occasionally composing for fun. But, after composing Dovetail’s initial four-minute piece, he decided to approach the idea of setting his music in motion.

“This is the most refined (piece) that I’ve done…It was something I was proud of,” Hawn said. “I’ve always wanted to contribute this other side of my artistic life (to dance).”

When it came to choosing a choreographer, Hawn thought immediately of MacDonald, a PBT School graduate student, who has choreographed several pieces for past PBT School performances. For MacDonald, Dovetail will mark her first collaboration with a musician and her largest choreographic endeavor to date. 

“I immediately saw movement with this (music), which makes sense since Jack is a dancer,” MacDonald said. “There’s just so much to the music…I like to choreograph very musically.” 

Set to Hawn’s richly-textured piano composition, the four-part piece features six couples in contemporary ballet choreography, which opens dramatically with a section in silence before phasing in the three-piece piano score. 

“It’s very sharp and quirky visually,” MacDonald said of the 15-minute work. “It’s the most kind of pure contemporary ballet that I’ve done so far.”


In addition to Dovetail, PBT School’s First Night performance will feature the grand Sugar Plum Pas de Deux of The Nutcracker as well as The Medium is the Message by choreographer Julia Adam, one of the featured choreographers in PBT’s upcoming March mixed repertory program “3×3.” Originally choreographed in 1993 for a San Francisco Ballet Choreographic Workshop, this humorous ballet – choreographed around three dancers and a couch – was Adam’s first. The piece is set to a selection of blues music. 

PBT School’s First Night performance takes place Tuesday, Dec. 31, from 6:45 to 7:15 p.m. at the August Wilson Center. The performance requires a free seating voucher with the purchase of an all-access First Night button. For information about purchasing a button or reserving seating vouchers, visit http://www.firstnightpgh.org/fest_event/pittsburgh-ballet-theatre-school-2/.

Original New Work on the Program for PBT School Performance