Much like the ubiquitous “Back to School” ads that signal the approaching new school year, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s annual Ballet Under the Stars program at Hartwood Acres Park signals the approaching new area dance season.
The bring your own chairs and blankets free outdoor event, Sunday, August 19, at the Middle Road Concert Area will feature reprised ballets from last season by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer/choreographers along with Jerome Robbins’ 1970 masterwork “In The Night”.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents Ballet Under the Stars, 7:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 19, Hartwood Acres Park Middle Road Concert Area, 200 Hartwood, Allison Park. Free. www.pbt.org/hartwood or (412) 454-9138. For more information on and tickets for PBT’s 2018-19 season visit www.pbt.org.
Opening the program will be PBT principal dancer Yoshiaki Nakano’s sweeping neo-classical ballet “Infusion” (2018), set to a suite of music by composers Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Schubert. The 19-minute ballet for two men and three women says Nakano, will use differing movement languages for its four lively sections.
Next, newly promoted soloist JoAnna Schmidt’s first commissioned work for PBT, “Lightworks” is a mod nod to late 1960s fashion and the zaniness of TV show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. The 20-minute contemporary dance romp set to an eclectic score including Dorothy Ashby’s harp rendition of the theme from the 1967 film, Valley of the Dolls to and tunes from 1968’s “The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound of Jean-Jacques Perrey”.
Of her inspiration for the ballet, Schmidt says she was “motivated to depict ways that relationships can go terribly wrong, but with a touch of humor.” The fun and flirty ballet for seven dancers contains a more serious undercurrent driving what Schmidt calls its “weird, sometimes groovy, and sometimes intentionally unattractive” movement.
Rounding out the program will be the Jerome Robbins classic “In The Night” set to music by Frederic Chopin performed live by PBT pianist Yoland Collin. Part of PBT’s contribution to 2018’s worldwide celebration of the late Robbins’ 100th birthday, the 21-minute ballet that tells of “three contrasting sets of lovers, from innocent to impetuous, who meet beneath a midnight sky,” gets another showing in an atmosphere befitting the ballet’s setting.
Also a part of Ballet Under the Stars, will be free pre-show family activities from 5-7 p.m. that include crafts and dance activities for kids along with photo opportunities with costumed dancers. In addition, there will be food trucks on-site and for $60/person, a VIP tent with pre-show drinks and dinner by DiAnoia’s Eatery (For VIP tent reservations visit www.pbt.org/hartwood or call (412) 454-9127).
The concert will also be area dance fans’ first look at six new dancers that have joined PBT’s corps de ballet this season. All six came up through various training programs at the PBT School. They include Pittsburgh natives Tommie Kesten, Jonathan Breight and Caitlyn Mendicino; Christian Garcia Campos of Puebla, Mexico; Colin McCaslino from Vineland, New Jersey and Yu-Chieh Chao from Pingtung, Taiwan.
“It’s very satisfying to know our students are successful and our school is successful in placing dancers within our company and in other professional companies,” says PBT artistic director Terrence Orr.
Roster changes for the 2018-2019 season include Masahiro Haneji, William Moore and the aforementioned JoAnna Schmidt’s promotion to the rank of soloist.
Entering his 21st season at PBT’s helm and on the eve of the company’s 50th anniversary, Orr has put together perhaps one of his most balanced line-up of programs in years for the upcoming season. It includes several modern masterworks, a world-premiere, a rekindled joint company partnership and a cherished story ballet classic.
It opens with Mozart in Motion with the PBT Orchestra, Oct. 26-28, 2018 at Downtown’s Benedum Center. A marriage of Mozart music and masterful choreography by icons George Balanchine and Jiri Kylian,the program is a must see for any dance aficionado and anyone looking to experience choreographic genius.
Ballets include Balanchine’s elegant “Divertimento No. 15” (1956) to Mozart’s music of the same name; Kylián’s 1986 powdered wig, comedic work “Sechs Tänze” (Six Dances) set to Mozart’s Six German Dances, and Kylián’s sensual and striking “Petite Mort” complete with floating baroque dresses, fencing foils and silks.
PBT’s locally-flavored, holiday classic “The Nutcracker” returns Nov. 30-Dec. 27, 2018 at the Benedum Center. Then the company kicks off its 50th anniversary celebrations with the world-premiere of Jorden Morris’ The Great Gatsby with the PBT Orchestra, February 8-17, 2019, also at the Benedum.
Morris, whose ballets Peter Pan (2011, 2016) and Moulin Rouge – The Ballet (2013) were previously performed by the PBT, brings his considerable storytelling expertise to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic with music by Carl Davis.
PBT’s partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem renews March 15-24, 2019 at the August Wilson Center with a joint mixed repertory program that includes Balanchine’s “Rubies” (1967) and Stanton Welch’s expressive contemporary ballet “Orange” (2001).
Rounding out the season will be Orr’s staging of Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty with the PBT Orchestra, Mother’s Day Weekend, May 10-12, 2019 at the Benedum Center.