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Pennsylvania Ballet

In the forefront of dance in America for 40 years, Pennsylvania Ballet has firmly established itself as a cornerstone of Philadelphia’s cultural life. Its annual audience has grown to over 100,000 and includes visitors from all over the country. Its outreach and educational programs are introducing new generations to the world of dance. Its repertoire is expanding, with innovative contemporary works and major new productions of classical like Swan Lake and The Firebird.

Since its inception in 1963, Pennsylvania Ballet has been at the forefront of dance in America and is widely regarded as one of the premier ballet companies in the nation. The School and Company were established by Barbara Weisberger, a Balanchine protégé, through a Ford Foundation initiative to develop regional professional dance companies.

During its first decade, the Company forged the unique identity for which it is still known today: a diverse classical repertoire with a Balanchine backbone performed by versatile dancers whose energy and exuberance are the Company’s enduring signature. A leader in the regional ballet movement of the 60s, the Company performed in the national spotlight for the first time in 1968 at City Center in New York – a highly successful debut that led to a decade of national touring, appearances on PBS’ acclaimed Dance in America series, and a stint as the official company of the Brooklyn Academy of Music during the 1970s. From 1987 to 1989, Pennsylvania Ballet forged an alliance with Milwaukee Ballet in an unprecedented venture to create one company. The new organization, with 43 dancers and a greatly expanded repertoire, was the first in the country to offer its dancers year-round employment.

In 1994, the trustees of Pennsylvania Ballet selected its first homegrown Artistic Director, Roy Kaiser. A former company member hired in 1979 by Barbara Weisberger, and brought to artistic proficiency by Benjamin Harkarvy and Robert Weiss (Artistic Directors of the Company from 1972-1982 and 1982-1990, respectively); Mr. Kaiser rose through the ranks from Corps de Ballet to Soloist to Principal by 1990. Following his retirement from the stage in 1992, Mr. Kaiser became Principal Ballet Master and Associate Artistic Director under Christopher d’Amboise until being named to his current position.

The premier classical ballet company in the Philadelphia region, Pennsylvania Ballet is currently comprised of 42 dancers. The Company is headquartered on Broad Street and Washington Avenue, at the beginning of Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts. This state-of-the-art facility houses several dance studios, artistic and administrative staff offices, wardrobe and costume department, the Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Performing Arts Physical Therapy Center.

Drawing its audiences from throughout the tri-state region, Pennsylvania Ballet presents a season of six productions in Philadelphia, including the holiday spectacular, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, balancing classic ballets with new works that challenge the dancers and attract a diverse audience. The Company also tours throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as in other locations in the Northeastern U.S. Under the artistic leadership of Roy Kaiser, the Company is committed to presenting new works. During the Company’s 40-year history, it has commissioned original ballets from such choreographers as Merce Cunningham, Christopher d’Amboise, Trey McIntyre, Matthew Neenan, Kevin O’Day, David Parsons, Val Caniparoli, Christopher Stowell, Dwight Rhoden, Meredith Rainey, Kirk Peterson, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett, as well as the 40th Anniversary commission of Swan Lake by Christopher Wheeldon.

Over the past several years, Pennsylvania Ballet has enhanced its artistic integrity while continually increasing its reach and strengthening its foundation through creative programming; initiatives such as the Family Matinee Series and Prologue Lecture Series; and educational outreach programs such as Accent on Dance. In 2002, Pennsylvania Ballet II, the Joyce and Herbert Kean Trainee Program was formed as a pre-professional training company and as an additional component for outreach programs. From Giselle to Rodeo, A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Company B, and Serenade to the signature Carmina Burana, Pennsylvania Ballet has continued to stretch its own boundaries, reinforcing its reputation for artistic excellence and technical virtuosity, and fulfilling its mission to present the best in American dance to Philadelphia audiences.

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