Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, dance company member, Pittsburgh, PA

Beginning with close educational ties at Point Park College in 1969, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) in 1973 has become an independent company and relocated to what they are today under the direction of Executive Director Harris Ferris and Artistic Director Terrence Orr. The company continues seeking excellence in the art of ballet through performances, training, and community engagement.

1.    Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives.

Exhilarating, transformative, versatile.

Exhilarating: When our audiences experience PBT on stage, they are inspired and energized to respond and react.  There is a palpable sense of physical energy in the dancers’ performances and their very presence heightens the senses of our audiences.

Transformative: Dance is our instrument. It’s a powerful form of poetic commutation that can express what words may not, penetrating the subconscious mind in a way that is spiritually and emotionally moving. With each performance, our dancers constantly reinvent themselves, bringing a new dynamic to the stage, evoking emotions, and inspiring our audiences.

Versatile: Grounded in our tradition as a classical ballet company, PBT strives each season to commission new and contemporary works from the rising choreographers of our time and to invest in new ballets that reimagine the classics through the lens of a modern society. The depth and diversity of our dancers place them among the most versatile artists found in a classical ballet company, and their breadth allows for the exploration of ballet’s full spectrum of classical and contemporary choreography.   

2.    What inspires the work of your organization and why?

Beginning with the vision of PBT founders Loti Falk and Nicholas Petrov, PBT has worked to create a top-ranking ballet tradition that is firmly rooted in our hometown.  Each season, we strive to stay true to that mission by bringing leading figures in the world of dance to Pittsburgh to inspire our dancers and our audiences. Pittsburgh is a city of immense community pride, whether it’s our sports teams, our diverse neighborhoods, or our cultural institutions.  We find this to inspire pride, and we’ve drawn from it to create our own identity as a company. We also carry that sense of community into the studio where we’ve worked hard to create a family atmosphere. Every day, our dancers draw inspiration from one another to grow as artists. Pittsburgh is a city of champions that prides itself on its powers of innovation, reinvention, and hard work as well as its rich history. We are inspired by and seek to reflect those values in our work.

3.    What accomplishment from the past year is your organization most proud of and eager to share with Dance/USA’s membership and the field at large?

This year, PBT brought John Neumeier’s ballet A Streetcar Named Desire to Pittsburgh audiences, and we became the first U.S. company, and one of only four ballet companies in the world, to perform this powerful production. We are extremely proud to achieve a work of immense choreographic and emotional complexity from one of the leading international choreographers. This is truly a work of dramatic dance theatre, which enabled our dancers to brandish their skills as actors.

4.    Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision?

We think the future of dance lies in the versatility of both repertoire and artists as they adapt to the continuing convergence of dance styles, forms, and performance settings. There is an ever-growing obligation to engage and challenge audiences.  As a company, we think planning for the future requires constant vigilance to sustain and grow audiences through active engagement with the dance experience.  In order to do this, we strive to make our work relevant to modern audiences by commissioning new works, presenting non-traditional versions of classical ballets, like Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette, daring new works like John Neumeier’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and innovative mixed-repertoire productions featuring modern masters like Mark Morris. We try to craft a season that runs the range of contemporary and classical styles and also mixes performance settings from large-scale to more intimate venues.

5.    As an organization, what do you hope your dance legacy to be?

Each day, through our company members and the students of PBT’s School, we pass down the traditions of our company and our repertoire to a new generation of dancers. Artistically, we hope our legacy will speak to the importance of staying true to traditions without being afraid of the necessary risks that come with furthering an art form. We work to preserve our classical and neo-classical traditions while advocating daring new works that expand the artistic horizons of both our company and our audience. Our mission is focused on making sure that our creativity, hard work, and passion will allow dance – and those who perpetuate it – to flourish in our city’s future.