PBT Dancers Share Favorite Moments of “Petal”

 High-octane, sensual, vivacious, lively, vibrant, a barely contained riot of wildflowers.

Helen Pickett
Helen Pickett
Photo By: Mihaela Bodlovic

These words and phrases have all been used to describe Helen Pickett’s dynamic Petal. With spring in the air, Petal is the perfect celebration of connection, exuberance, and joy. In Pickett’s own words:

“Intimacy is such an important part of a human life – without it, we wither. So how do we break that fourth wall and connect to the audience more than just visually? Let’s celebrate this burst of color, this sound, this touch.”

Read more about Helen Pickett here.

PBT had the honor of performing Petal once before in 2021 and is excited to perform it again as part of the Spring Mix program from April 5-7. Join PBT dancers as they look back on Petal, both then and now.


Tommie Lin Kesten
Photo By: Rosalie O’Connor

“My favorite part of dancing Petal is the athleticism of the piece. The strength and stamina that it takes to perform this ballet is not to be underestimated.

Another favorite is having the opportunity to work so closely with Helen Pickett on one of her most famous works. I always am left feeling inspired with wisdom from her that I take into future ballets. She really helps us as dancers expand our movement and push for “the edges” of our shapes. She has taught me so much and I am so grateful for her.

This time is particularly special because I am getting to revisit this ballet as a principal dancer! I’m so excited for everyone to see how much I have grown and matured as a dancer. I actually have not revisited a featured role, like this, yet in my career, which I think is so exciting!”


Diana Yohe
Photo By: Rosalie O’Connor

“Petal was incredibly special because it was the very first thing we performed at the theater after Covid shut the world down. I remember really feeling the magnitude of that moment, especially since the Benedum curtain came up and Petal begins with me doing a solo. That performance for us all felt like the world was coming back to life and we were finally returning home.

Petal is a true celebration of joy in movement and human connection. Helen came in and really pushed us all to dance more three-dimensionally (bigger and brighter but also not being afraid of the power we have in stillness), to trust ourselves and our choices and most importantly to remember that dancing together and celebrating each other is the center of it all. You’re really encouraged to watch each other any chance we get, and seeing my colleagues grow and dance their heart out inspires me to do the same.

I felt like I returned to the stage a different dancer after everything I learned from Helen and her piece and I’ve loved continuing to expand on it all. When you get to dance a piece again it really shows the journey that’s happened to you in between and how much you’ve grown and changed as a person, not just as a dancer. I’m really looking forward to sharing this piece and its fantastic energy with the Pittsburgh audience again. It is one that is especially close to my heart!!”


Kurtis Sprowls and PBT Dancers
Photo By: Rosalie O’Connor

“I am excited to be bringing Petal back to the Benedum Stage. One of my favorite things about the piece is its theme of connection. Not only is there a connection between our movements, but also by how we emotionally react to one another in a genuine, human way. I honestly forget the audience is watching. I have had the pleasure to work with Helen a number of times, and I am always inspired by the experience. Petal is truly a showstopper!”

Join us for Petal and three other dynamic pieces in Spring Mix from April 5-7, 2024 at the Benedum Center. Purchase tickets here!

Beauty and the Beast- Comparing the Disney Movie & the Ballet

In a black and white illustration, Beauty pulls back the Beast's fur to reveal a handsome prince.
Beauty and the Beast– Andrew Lang

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present Beauty and the Beast at the Benedum Center from February 16-25. This whimsical, imaginative work with charming characters and challenging choreography has turned a classic fairytale into an enchanting storybook ballet. Audiences of all ages will delight in this ballet as it illustrates that “there is often more than what meets the eye.

It’s a tale as old as time, but how close is PBT’s Beauty and the Beast ballet to the story of which most people are accustomed?

PBT performs a ballet adaptation of Beauty and the Beast choreographed in 1958 by Lew Christensen, an influential dancer and choreographer who worked with the famed George Balanchine and served as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet for 32 years.

While maintaining similar characteristics to the widely-known Walt Disney Pictures Beauty and the Beast, Christensen’s version was choreographed before the movie was produced and shares more of a likeness to earlier published versions of the beloved story.

A History of Beauty and the Beast

1740: There are fairytales from cultures all over the world that share elements of the Beauty and the Beast story. However, the first known publication of this specific tale (La Belle et la Bête) was written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.

A blue book cover featuring fairies and other magical characters
The Blue Fairy Book– Andrew Lang

1756: Villeneuve’s lengthy version was abridged, rewritten, and published by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

1889: Scottish poet and novelist Andrew Lang published the Fairy Book series, a collection of 12 volumes of traditional fairy tales. In the first of these volumes, The Blue Fairy Book, he published “Beauty and the Beast,” alongside classic tales like “Hansel and Gretel,” “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “The Forty Thieves,” and “Snow-White and Rose-Red.”

1958: Lew Christensen choreographed a brand new ballet in celebration of San Francisco Ballet’s 25th anniversary, set to orchestrations by famed composer Tchaikovsky. Praised as “the most delightful, imaginative, enchanting and accomplished ballet production to grace the Opera House stage,” by the San Francisco News, this ballet has been revived numerous times over the past 65 years by ballet companies like PBT.

A movie poster featuring the silhouette of Beauty and her Beast
Beauty and the Beast movie poster- Walt Disney Pictures

1991: Walt Disney Pictures released the animated film that has become famous around the world. The movie was wildly successful, winning the 1991 Golden Globe Award for “Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy” and the Academy Awards for both “Best Original Score” and “Best Original Song” for its titular song.

1994: Beauty and the Beast became Disney’s first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical.

2017: Walt Disney Pictures produced a live-action remake starring Emma Watson.

Since Villeneuve’s 1740 publication, there have been hundreds of books, movies, stage productions and TV shows adapting the story.


Comparing the Versions

Story Elements  The 1991 Disney Movie The PBT Ballet
Beauty’s Capture  After wandering into the Beast’s castle and making himself at home, Belle’s father is imprisoned. Belle offers to stay as the Beast’s captive in exchange for her father’s freedom. Beauty’s father picks a rose from the Beast’s garden for his daughter. In anger, the Beast holds Beauty captive and banishes her father.
Characters in the Castle A curse on the castle has transformed the staff into enchanted household objects like clocks, teapots and candlesticks. These characters become Belle’s friends.  Beauty is comforted and entertained by enchanted flowers, caryatids (statues), simians (monkeys), and bluebirds in the enchanted castle and gardens.
Villians Belle is pursued by the boorish Gaston, who later challenges the Beast for Belle’s affection. Beauty has multiple jealous sisters at home who envy the beautiful gifts the Beast has given her.
The Beast’s Death In a fight to the death with Gaston, the Beast is fatally stabbed. Upon his death, Belle admits her love for him and his curse breaks, bringing him back to life as a handsome prince. Terrified of the Beast and  longing for her family, Beauty flees the castle. Grief-stricken, the Beast dies of a broken heart. After returning home, Beauty realizes her affection for the Beast, and returns to the castle to find him lifeless. Heartbroken, Beauty sobs, now knowing that she loves him. The Beast stirs and tears away his clothes and fur to reveal a handsome prince.


We know you’ll be enchanted by PBT’s Beauty and the Beast! Showcasing the transformative power of love, the ballet is completed with stunning choreography, gorgeous costumes, and spectacular sets. Join us at the Benedum Center from February 16-25!