Category Archives: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s ‘Cinderella’ filled with happy endings, rich history

From April 19-21, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) performed Cinderella at the Benedum Center for Performing Arts in downtown Pittsburgh. For an evening, audiences were swept away into an enchanting land far, far away, where the girl falls in love with the prince and they live happily ever after.

For an extra-special treat from The Ballet Barre, check out this slideshow of photos of the talented PBT dancers during the final dress rehearsal of Cinderella before opening night! (All photos by Kim Roberts).

Cinderella Wordle

Cinderella Synopsis (created at wordle.net)

The PBT dancers put on a stunning performance filled with smiles and glitter, plus a pair of pointe shoes positively dripping in sparkles as Cinderella’s glass slippers. The story of Cinderella has been told and re-told throughout the ages across the world. According to the playbill from PBT’s production, there are more than 1,500 different versions of the fairy tale that have been told through many formats, including ballets, plays, musical, movies, and operas. Click on the graphic above to see the most common words found in the Cinderella synopsis in the playbill!

The most popular version in modern day America is the classic Walt Disney movie Cinderella. Take a look at the video below to see a clip of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” from the classic movie!

The version of the story told in PBT’s production differed from the movie, but not enough to leave audience members confused. In PBT’s production, which was choreographed by Septime Webre, Cinderella lives with her father and two stepsisters, who are played by male dancers. The result is a needed comedic touch that lasts throughout the show and produced plenty of giggles from little girls in the audience.

When Cinderella meets her fairy godmother for the first time, the fairy godmother and her helping fairies represent all four seasons as they make Cinderella’s wishes come true. From there, the rest of the story continues as it does in the movie. The overall effect was a mesmerizing one for the little girls and adults in the audience alike.

Cinderella Ballet

Cinderella’s rag dress is magically transformed into a ball gown by her fairy godmother in PBT’s ‘Cinderella.’
Photo by Kim Roberts

The Prince and Cinderella dance the night away, or at least until the clock strikes midnight. Then she must flee as her beautiful ball gown transforms back into her work clothes, and she leaves behind just one of her sparkling pointe shoes. The prince finds it and travels the world to find the girl it belongs to, finally ending at Cinderella’s cottage and reuniting with her at last. The two are married and live happily ever after.

Webre’s choreography showcased the impeccable technique of the PBT dancers with its complex patterns and beautiful pas de deuxs between Cinderella and her prince. Webre, currently artistic director for The Washington Ballet in Washington, D.C., created ballets that have been performed throughout the world. He also performed in the works of many famous choreographers, including Alvin Ailey and George Balanchine, according to The Washington Ballet’s website.

Take a look at this map to see some of the North American ballet companies that have performed works by Webre in recent years.

The classical music performed by a live orchestra at the production of Cinderella was composed by Sergei Prokofiev, whose music has been a part of the production for more than 60 years. Prokofiev began work on Cinderella the ballet in 1940, but he was forced to stop when World War II broke out. He picked up working on the ballet again in 1943 and finished in 1944. The very first performance of his completed work was performed in Moscow, Russia, by the Kirov Ballet in the Bolshoi Theatre on November 21, 1945, according to Music Academy Online.

Check out this timeline to see Prokofiev’s life and his many accomplishments in the world of ballet.

The PBT dancers brought this ballet to life in downtown Pittsburgh elegantly. Not only were the dancers themselves beautiful, but the sets and costumes whisked the audience away into a different world. The best performances of the night were the dances between Cinderella and her prince. In the Saturday night production, the leads were performed by principal dancers Alexandra Kochis and Christopher Budzynski. What made their performances special — besides their beautiful dancing, of course — was the fact they are a married couple in real life. To see the two of them dancing together as Cinderella and Prince Charming was a special experience. The two dancers were able to gracefully complement each other and danced as if they were one person, while simultaneously showcasing their own talents as well.

Cinderella Leads

Cinderella Leads During Performance Weekend       (Percentage of shows performed in)

To see which PBT dancers performed the leading role of Cinderella in the company’s six performances last weekend, check out this chart to the left with information from PBT’s website.

PBT successfully brought Webre’s choreography and Prokofiev’s score together in a production that flawlessly told the fairy tale that so many have come to love. If you ever have the opportunity to see this version of Cinderella the ballet, I highly recommend it. This ballet is perfect for ballet and dance lovers and fans of the fairy tale itself. It is the perfect way to introduce newcomers to ballet because of its clear, familiar story and happy ending. It was honestly my favorite ballet that I have ever seen because it brought a classic fairy tale from childhood to life and took me away to a world of happily ever after, even if just for a couple of hours.

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Cinderella the ballet overview coming soon

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Hello dance lovers!

Hopefully you had a good weekend? Did you see any dance performances in the past few days? It was a big weekend for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT). The company performed the ballet Cinderella at the Benedum Center for Performing Arts six times over the weekend, and each performance was more magical than the last!

Coming soon, The Ballet Barre will have an in-depth look at Cinderella the ballet in Pittsburgh, its choreographer and composer, and a review of PBT’s performance. Plus, get excited for a special photo slideshow sure to transport you to an enchanted kingdom far, far away!

Until then, keep dancing!

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers

Pointe shoes

Photo from flickr.com

Pittsburgh is known for its talented football players, its skilled hockey players, and its love/hate relationship with its baseball team. But the Steel City hasn’t been quite as well known for its world-class ballet company — something that is changing as the company continually produces high quality shows featuring its highly skilled dancers.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT), with its rehearsal facilities located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, is made up of 27 company dancers from across the globe. The ballet dancers will finish their current season with performances of “Cinderella” with the PBT orchestra April 19-21 at the Benedum Center for Performing Arts in downtown Pittsburgh.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s time for a break. PBT recently announced the lineup for its 2013-2014 season, which will consist of “An Evening of Twyla Tharp” in October, “The Nutcracker” in December, “Swan Lake” with the orchestra in February, “3×3” in March 2014 and “Don Quixote” with the orchestra in April 2014.

The PBT dancers will be hard at work preparing for the next season. Because ballet is a continual strive for perfection, there is always room for improvement — even with the incredibly skilled dancers in a professional ballet company like Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

Check out this map mash-up to see where each of the PBT company members is from. Their hometowns range from right here in Pittsburgh to the other side of the globe. Clearly PBT is a world-class company that draws ballet dancers of all backgrounds.

Preview of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “Unspoken”

PBT's Unspoken

Photo from pbt.org

This coming weekend marks the final performances of “Unspoken, a mixed repertory performance put on by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The production will include three ballet pieces:

  • “Serenade” by George Balanchine
  • “Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden)” by Antony Tudor
  • “Drink to me Only with Thine Eyes” by Mark Morris

First, “Serenade” is a classical ballet piece choreographed by George Balanchine (1904-1983), one of the leading choreographers in the world of ballet. Balanchine served as artistic director for the New York City Ballet, and he choreographed 465 works during his career. “Serenade” debuted in 1935 in New York City, and it is danced to Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade in C Major.” The dancers go through four movements, including the fast-paced “Russian Dance” section, which is performed by four corps de ballet members. For more information about this ballet, check out this video!

Second, “Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden)” is a famous piece choreographed by Antony Tudor (1908-1987) in London in the early twentieth century. The  piece tells a dramatic tale of two young adults about to embark upon an arranged marriage. The dancers rely not only on their talent and technique, but they also need to be good actors to portray the emotions of the story. Below is a video of a segment from this ballet:

Last, “Drink to me Only with Thine Eyes” is a piece of ballet choreography by Mark Morris. Born in 1956 in Seattle, Washington, Morris founded the Mark Morris Dance Group in 1980. Since then, he has created more than 130 works for his company, including “Drink to me Only with Thine Eyes” in 1988. He is also experienced in opera as well as dance and choreography. The contemporary ballet is a different  piece for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, giving the production a more well-rounded feel. Take a look at this video clip from Mark Morris’ ballet:

“Unspoken” is Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s only mixed performance of the 2012-2013 season. Located in the smaller, more intimate August Wilson Center located at 980 Liberty Ave. in downtown Pittsburgh, the ballet allows audiences to get up close to the dancers onstage and get a taste of choreography from some of the leading choreographers in ballet.

This weekend’s performances are on…

    • Thursday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m.
    • Friday, March 15 at 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, March 16 at 8 p.m.
    • Sunday, March 17 at 2 p.m.

To read a review of the first weekend of “Unspoken” performances, check out this article from the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Past productions in this season by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre include “Giselle,” “The Nutcracker” and “Moulin Rouge — The Ballet.” The company’s final production of the season will be “Cinderella,” with performances April 19-21 at the Benedum Center.

A review of “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet” by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Benedum

Photo by Kim Roberts

On Valentine’s Day, “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet” made its Pittsburgh debut in a performance by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT). The sassy production put a spin on the classical ballets of “Giselle” and “The Nutcracker” that Pittsburgh audiences have already seen so far in PBT’s 2012-2013 season. Although rooted in classical ballet movements, the show incorporated spicy tangos and fun and flirty cancans into the choreography by Jorden Morris.

The story takes place in late 19th century Paris. Nathalie, a launderette who does laundry for the wealthy, dreams of dancing at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Her dream becomes a reality when Zidler, the cabaret’s owner, chooses her to be the newest dancer. Nathalie dances at the Moulin Rouge — despite obvious the obvious dislike from the other dancers there — and falls in love with Matthew, a visiting artist. A love triangle forms among Matthew, Nathalie and Zidler, and the ballet ultimately ends with romance, drama and tragedy. (I won’t give away the ending for those who haven’t seen it yet!)

The PBT dancers took on the challenge of this contemporary ballet with ease. The fast tempo choreography included countless kicks, showing off the dancers’ skill and stamina. The leads, performed by principal dancer Christine Schwaner (Nathalie) and soloist Luca Sbrizzi (Matthew), embraced the spotlight and danced beautifully together, particularly in their pas de deux to close the first act. In front of a background of Paris at sunset, the dancers gracefully and skillfully danced a classical ballet piece to the slow, soft piano notes of “Clair de Lune.” The performance was breathtaking and left the audience in silent awe before loud applause broke out to end the first half.

Moulin Rouge at the Benedum

Photo by Kim Roberts

Another audience favorite was corps de ballet dancer Joseph Parr‘s performance of Toulouse, the resident artist who trains Matthew at the Moulin Rouge. Parr, dressed in a suit with a pair of glasses, got laughs from the crowd and impressed with his performance in the comical paintbrush dueling dance with Matthew.

The Benedum Center’s stage transformed from the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy into Paris with grace. The set included a beautiful lighted Eiffel Tower in the background dazzled the audience, and a large, colorfully lit windmill represented the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

The costumes added plenty of flair to the ballet as well. The colorful skirts of the cabaret dancers gave life to the dances, with bright shades of red, purple, green, blue, and yellow filling the stage. In contrast, Nathalie’s costumes were simple, light shades of white and beige with plenty of sparkles to give her an elegant, classy look that set her apart from the rest of the dancers.

PBT lived up to its respected reputation with its premiere of “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet.” With a total of five shows in its one-weekend event (Feb. 14-17), Pittsburgh audiences are sure to get caught up in the love story and swept away to Paris for a few hours.

This production was covered by some other Pittsburgh media as well, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Trib Total Media, and Point Park University’s The Globe. Plus, to see some clips from the production, take a look at this WPXI story.