Ballet club takes center stage for dancers of all kinds


Dolcemina Clarelli for Ballet Club at Pitt

Pitt Ballet Club at their Nutcracker performance in December 2021.

By Katelyn Kruszewski, Staff Writer

Ballet performances incorporate several artistic elements to make each show memorable. Detailed costumes, hours of rehearsals and training all come together in this art form, according to Pitt’s ballet club production chair Kristina Arriaga.

“My favorite part about this club is without a doubt seeing how our performances come together. It really is magical to watch all of our members’ hard work and passion come to life on the stage,” Arriaga said.

The Ballet Club at Pitt is a student-run organization that offers masterclasses and performances for dancers of every level. The club is open to all Pitt students, including graduate students, and choreography, show coordination and costumes are all completely run by students.

Masterclasses are offered to all students on Sundays from 11 a.m. to noon in the William Pitt Union. These weekly classes vary and offer multiple styles of dance including barre, contemporary, strengthening, lyrical and pointe. If students are involved in a performance, they have a weekly rehearsal with their choreographer to learn their dances.

Arriaga, a junior nursing major, said the club is open to all dancers of various skill levels.

“One of the things that I love the most about this club is how welcoming and accepting everyone is,” Arriaga said. “Whether a student has been dancing ballet their entire life, or is looking to try something new during college, Ballet Club is for everyone.”

Evan Roncace, junior political science and Russian major, is the advertising chair of the organization. He said the club is extremely welcoming.

“I also really liked the club’s commitment to letting everyone dance, even beginners,” Roncace said. “I think it creates a very friendly and welcoming environment free from the hostility that is sometimes present in very competitive dance studios.”

Roncace said he would love to see even more gender representation in the club by encouraging more men to pursue dancing.

“I would really love to see a more even representation of gender in the club…I would encourage more men to try it out,” Roncace said. “It’s a great outlet for creativity and a fun way to exercise.”

The club puts on two performances during the year, including “The Nutcracker” during the fall and a variety show during the spring. It adjusted its variety show in 2021 to a virtual video showcasing their dancers on the club’s YouTube channel. When performances are held in person they take place in the Bellefield Hall auditorium.

Kayla Siedlecki, senior actuarial math and finance major, is the administrative vice president of the club. Siedlecki said “The Nutcracker” is a ballet tradition for many dancers, adding that performances are free to the public.

“‘Nutcracker’ is a tradition for many dancers, so we love to help them continue that tradition,” Siedlecki said. “In the spring, we like to give our dancers the opportunity to also do other styles of dance, so we do a variety show.”

Siedlecki said the variety show is an opportunity for dancers to showcase their other dance styles from jazz to hip-hop and more.

“The variety show features multiple styles of dance and is more similar to a recital,” Siedlecki said.

While there are no formal auditions to join the club, there is a “piece placement” audition for the fall and spring semester performances. Arriaga said this allows the club officers to understand each dancer’s skill level, in order to place them in specific dance numbers.

“We have a ‘piece placement’ where we gauge people’s skill level so we can place them in appropriate dances where they feel comfortable and can be able to look their best onstage,” Arriaga said.

Roncace said the performances work to showcase dancers of all levels.

“The board members use this class to assess skill level and ability in the different styles of dance,” Roncace said. “Every show contains dances for first-time dancers and for experienced dancers.”

Roncace discussed the role of the board and how they run the club. He said there are many responsibilities such as who is choreographing, who is teaching and who can choreograph for performances.

“A big responsibility of everyone on the board is to choreograph dances for our shows and teach dance masterclasses,” Roncace said. “Anyone in the club can choreograph for our shows too.”

In order to choreograph a show, students must have participated in at least one previous Ballet Club show. From there, the club sends out a choreography interest form at the beginning of each semester in which students can volunteer to choreograph.

Siedlecki said choreography is a great way to continue dancing throughout college.

“I’ve made so many friends through it and had a lot of laughs and good times,” Siedlecki said. “Performing and choreographing is so much fun, and it’s a great way to continue dancing, or try it out, in college.”

Besides organizing performances, the club also coordinates costuming and prop details. The group holds social events where the club can bond by creating costumes. Roncace said the club dedicates two days to making detailed costumes.

Costume pieces are purchased online and leotards are embellished with beads, sequins and flowers. The finer details on headpieces and leotards are handmade from these materials by club members.

“We usually have two nights where we invite all club members to come help make costumes,” Roncace said.“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve chosen to hold these in University buildings to ensure everyone is masked and safe.”

Arriaga said the dancers in the ballet club continue to inspire her everyday.

“Every day, I am beyond impressed with all of our members’ dedication, talent and passion,” Arriaga said. “They help bring our club to life and inspire me to continue doing what I love.”