Triple play: Pittsburgh Ballet Theater debuts with decorated bill

Taken by Duane Rieder; courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet Theater

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will begin its season this weekend with an energized bill of three classic ballets spanning time and place.

“Mixed Repertory #1,” which plays from Friday, Oct. 23 through Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Benedum Center, evades themes and categorization with masterworks from Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine, New York’s William Forsythe and Czech-visionary Jiřί Kylián. PBT Artistic Director called the collection “an important step forward for our repertory,” as all three choreographers are well known for “chang[ing] the face of modern-day ballet.”

“This show is specifically interesting because it’s three small, shorter ballets instead of just one story,” said Caitlin Peabody, who has danced for PBT for seven years and will be part of a movement in all three ballets.

PBT puts on more than 50 performances each year in the Benedum and on the road. The season-opener’s ballets includes a mixed repertoire of styles — from classical to folk to contemporary — and is accompanied by contrasting music genres, ranging from classical orchestra to electronic.

There is no specific storyline, however, instead relying on the intrigue of varying stylistic elements — like music and dance — to tie the three ballets together.

“The ballet has a really long contemporary feel instead of classical and the vibe of the whole show in general is rather exciting,” Peabody said.

Balanchine’s Wyoming-inspired “Western Symphony” ventures into the territory of classical ballet and American folk dance with its dashing cowboys and lively dance hall girls.

The choreography of this particular piece hints at the formation and gestures of American folk dance.

Hershy Kay, an American composer, arranger and orchestrator who composed the music for this piece, said “Balanchine was inspired after visiting Wyoming in the ’40s and was fascinated by American themes and western apparel.”

The work, which first premiered in New York in 1954, is non-narrative, flowing through a series of energetic sketches featuring raucous cowboys and pin-up-clad women.

William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,” has peered into the future since it debuted in the Paris Opera Ballet in 1987.

Forsythe said the ballet, which is set to electronic music, is “a theme and [variation] in the strictest sense. Making use of academic virtuosity, it extends and accelerates these traditional figures of classical ballet.”

Jiřί Kylián’s “Sinfonietta” will ground the audience in the contemporary as a five-movement piece representative of “modern, free Czech,” according to a press release. With a poetic vocabulary, the glory of orchestral fanfare will create an euphoric environment.

“In general you can see a lot of variety in this show,” said Gabrielle Thurlow, who has been a classical dancer for PBT for more than 10 years, and will also be a part of a movement in all three ballets. “All three pieces are very different and there is also a fair amount of humor involved which the audience will love.”

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