February 15, 2017
Enjoying the after-preview festivities are dancers Sarah Zielinski, Sonja Gable and Chelsea Neiss. At the table are choreographer Helen Simoneau and, standing behind, Attack co-founder Michele de la Reza.
Attack-ing Helen. Attack Theatre was full of surprises for a preview of its new work by Quebec choreographer Helen Simoneau. Former board member Todd Owens was energetically bartending with some home-cooked concoctions — tequila-based — to match Moe’s deliciosa Mexican buffet. Attack members Dane Toney and Anthony Williams were taking a break, watching Helen’s all-female cast in the tantalizing snippets that they had prepared. There were the familiar, always-welcome Ashley Williams and Kaitlin Dann, plus newbie Sarah Zielinski. Also be prepared to get acquainted with project-based additions Sonja Gable and Chelsea Neiss when the piece makes its official premiere in May at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. It was a nice stretch for the company, moving with a smooth weight and seamless connections as they explored new vocabulary and phrasing.
Photo: Kenn Duncan
Marianna at the Museum. Wouldn’t we all like to be showcased in the Smithsonian along with Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Kermit the Frog? Well, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre ballet mistress Marianna Tcherkassky is now part of an ongoing exhibition at the Museum of American History. Only three ballerinas are featured — well, their costumes — in American Ballet. French ballerina Violette Verdy inspired George Balanchine at New York City Ballet (a costume from one of her performances at the White House can be seen) and Misty Copeland is defining new standards at American Ballet Theatre (her costume from On the Town, where she spun into a limited-run leading role, is on display). Marianna’s contribution is a costume from the first act of Giselle, for which she is noted and which she performed many times with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Check it out.
Budding Ballerinas. Then there are those young talents that participated in the Youth America Grand Prix Semi-Finals at Upper St. Clair High School. Veridy Treu, 15, of Pittsburgh Ballet House captured the Senior Age Division and will move on to the finals in New York City. Also placing in the Top 12 were Alexia Norris,16, and Francesca Siudela, 17, of West Point Ballet and Alexandra Topalova, 16, Pittsburgh Ballet House, who placed second in the Contemporary Dance Category. Alan Obuzor of Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company and Kwang-Suk Choi of Pittsburgh Ballet House were given Outstanding Teacher awards. For more results, click on YAGP.
May 5, 2015
Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh’s Tommie Kesten, winner at the Youth America Grand Prix Semifinals in Pittsburgh Photo: Katie Ging
Tommie in Esmeralda solo.
It’s grand to note the growth of area dance recitals year upon year. Both business-wise and artistically they contribute so much to the Pittsburgh area. If you have a chance, catch a couple of performances during the recital season. The enthusiasm is contagious! Click on Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for complete listings.
March 28, 2015
Tommie Kesten with Damien Martinez in Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh’s “Nutcracker. Photo: Katie Ging.
YAGF. Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest international student dance competition, has expanded its network of competitions to Pittsburgh for a second year of semifinals (and moved to the larger Byham Theater), which says a great deal about Pittsburgh’s emerging dance footprint. Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh’s Tommie Kesten, 14, bourreed away with the Youth Grand Prix, the top award in the Junior Age Division. Verily Treu, 13, of Pittsburgh Ballet House, landed in third place and captured first place in the Contemporary Dance Category. In the Pre-competitive Age Division, Victoria Pete, 10, of Pittsburgh Youth Ballet and Sofia Williams, 11, of Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh, placed in the Top 12. Point Park University took third place in Ensembles for Idiosyncratic Rising. Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Youth Ballet were in the Top 12 for IV and Til the End. To top it all off, Point Park University staff member Kiesha Lalama received the Outstanding Choreographer Award.
CHLOE. Former Dance Moms teenager Chloe Lukasiak has partnered with Chicago singer-songwriter Jess Godwin in the music video, Fool Me Once.
March 20, 2013
KST FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Kelly Strayhorn Theater executive director janera solomon is taking Center Stage, not literally, but a cultural diplomacy program organized by the U.S. Department of State. janera and three other arts leaders from the United States and Pakistan are on a 10-day trip to Morocco, where they will select between six and eight ensembles from three countries to tour the United States from June to December, 2014. solomon reports, “It’s exciting to be here. We are meeting with artists and independent producers. I’ve learned that as producers, we face many of the same challenges such as funding and audience development and we share a passion for connecting people with great artists. The possibility of bringing Moroccan artists to Pittsburgh or sending our local talent there is exciting.”
PIROUETTING INTO THE COMMUNITY. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre celebrated National Women’s History Month at Carnegie Library in Oakland with a trio of PBT “stars” — principal Alexandra Kochis, ballet master Marianna Tcherkassky and marketing director Aimee Waltz. They explored the role of the ballerina over the years and connected gender and relationships as they were depicted in the Victorian-inspired Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden) ballet by Antony Tudor.
GRAND RESULTS. PBT student Sophie Silnicki has achieved high honors at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) semifinals in Indianapolis, enough to earn her a place at the finals at the Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City Apr. 12-17. Her winning combination consists of Gone, a contemporary solo by Adrienne Canterna (1st place) and the classical variation from Raymonda Act II (3rd place), Congratulations, Sophie!
SNOW WHITE. Monica Ryan’s latest childrens’ ballet will use 60 children from surrounding communities this weekend for the Carnegie Performing Arts Center. They will play Russian Dolls, Carnival Dancers and Jewels in the production at Andrew Carnegie Music Hall in Carnegie. For more information, call 412-279-8887 or visit www.carnegieperformingartscenter.com.