Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Annual Free Show at Hartwood Acres includes a Premiere

Soloist Gabrielle Thurlow in a scene from La Bayadère. Photo by Rich Sofranko.
Soloist Gabrielle Thurlow in a scene from La Bayadère. Photo by Rich Sofranko.

By Steve Sucato

For Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 27th annual Ballet Under the Stars program at Hartwood Acres, the company will revisit works from its milestone 45th-anniversary season, as well as premiere a new ballet by PBT principal dancer Yoshiaki Nakano.

The free outdoor performance on Sun., Aug. 16, part of Allegheny County’s Summer Concert series, will feature the “Pas d’Action” and “Bronze Idol” sections from La Bayadère, and second-act pas de deux from both Swan Lake and Giselle.

Nakano’s debut ballet for PBT, “A Fellow Feeling,” is a 15-minute neoclassical ballet for five couples set to music by Mozart. The title, says Nakano, refers to his desire to share a feeling of togetherness in dance with other company members. Nakano says he was driven by the music in creating the movement for and feel of the ballet, which keys off accents in Mozart’s music.

The program will conclude with a reprise of Mark Morris’ clever masterwork “Sandpaper Ballet” (1999), set to the music of American composer Leroy Anderson. On Aug. 29, PBT will perform “Sandpaper Ballet” when it makes its debut at the prestigious Chicago Dancing Festival, in Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park.

The company in Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet. Photo by Rich Sofranko.
The company in Mark Morris’ Sandpaper Ballet. Photo by Rich Sofranko.

The company’s inclusion in this year’s Chicago Dancing Festival is one of the byproducts of artistic director Terrence Orr’s push to take PBT to the next level as one of the country’s leading ballet companies. Building on a foundation of the world-class repertory the company has performed the past few seasons, Ballet Under the Stars will herald another ambitious season of ballets befitting an elite company. They include: Mixed Repertory #1 (Oct. 23-25) featuring Balanchine’s “Western Symphony,” William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” and Jiří Kylián’s “Sinfonietta”; The Nutcracker (Dec. 4-27); Peter Pan (Feb. 12-21); Mixed Repertory #2 (March 10-13) featuring James Kudelka’s “Man in Black,” Antony Tudor’s “Jardin Aux Lilas (Lilac Garden)” and Michael Smuin’s “Eternal Idol”; and the swashbuckling pirate ballet Le Corsaire (April 15-17).

In roster changes, PBT said goodbye to principal dancer Nurlan Abougaliev, who will continue to dance as a freelance artist, and soloist Elysa Hotchkiss, who joined Kansas City Ballet. Dancer Hannah Carter was promoted to soloist and PBT added three new apprentice dancers: Jessica McCann, Emily Simpson and Kurtis Sprowls.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents Ballet Under the Stars, 7:30 p.m. Sun., Aug. 16. Hartwood Acres Park Middle Road Concert Area, 200 Hartwood Acres, Allison Park. Free. pbt.org

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on August 12, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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