Peabody Dance Turns 90 With a Celebration of George
Pennsylvania Ballet's Alexander
been dancing for 90 years. Since the first dance classes
were started by the Peabody Preparatory in 1914, the
influences of many legendary teachers have come and gone in
the world of dance. Currently, it is the name of the late
George Balanchine — who would have been 100 this year
— that is the new guiding star.
In a gloriously rich evolution that began more than 60
years ago, America has made ballet its own, earning global
respect for its technical prowess and even more for its
choreographic preeminence. And one American choreographer,
the Russian-born Balanchine, is believed to be, even by
those who may not be avid admirers of his work, the rarest
of geniuses who changed the face of ballet for centuries to
For the past two years the Peabody Dance Department
has been restructuring its ballet program to reflect
Balanchine's revolutionary influence in America.
The Preparatory's annual Spring Showcase this weekend
will celebrate both the founding of the program and the
birthday of Balanchine with performances reflecting the
changes of spirit and style and the driving new energy that
is infusing Peabody Dance.
Balanchine protege and close colleague Barbara
Weisberger, artistic adviser to the Peabody Dance
Department and founder and artistic director emerita of the
acclaimed Pennsylvania Ballet, will talk about her mentor
while visual images of his famous ballets are projected on
the screen. Two principal dancers from the Pennsylvania
Ballet, Alexander Iziliaev and Arantxa Ochoa, will dance
two of Balanchine's acclaimed pas de deux.
Artistic Director Carol Bartlett will present the
school's upper-level students and guest dancers in several
of her own works and in original ballet choreography or
restagings of existing repertory by Melissa Stafford and
other dance faculty members. This year's showcase also
features collaborations with the Conservatory's Composition
Department. Peabody student Hee-Seung Choi will
present a multimedia piece using video projection,
synthesized music and a solo dancer. Carol Bartlett has
choreographed a work, Red Peony Sky in Mid-June, composed
by Angel Lam. Ensembles from Peabody's Chamber Music
Department, coordinated by Michael Kannen, will provide the
live accompaniment for Red Peony Sky in Mid-June and also
for the Bartlett-choreographed Measure for Measure, which
is set to one of Philip Glass' string quartet movements.
To borrow a dance term, one might say Peabody Dance is
en grand jete. The 90th anniversary is being celebrated by
looking forward rather than looking back. Quietly over the
past two years changes have been made, in faculty and
curriculum, to bring Peabody Dance more and more in step
with the progression of American dance into the 21st
The catalyst for the change was the appointment of
Weisberger, a visionary leader and teacher, who has been in
the vanguard of every important movement in contemporary
American ballet. She was brought to Peabody in spring 2001
by Director Robert Sirota. The two had met through the
Carlisle Project, the highly respected choreographic
development program, where in the early 1990s she and
Sirota co-led a Choreographer-Composer Collaborations
The stage was set at Peabody, and Weisberger and
Artistic Director Bartlett set out on a path that they
hoped would lead to the fulfillment of their shared vision
for Peabody Dance. They began by establishing new
parameters for a Pre-Professional Program that serves
serious, highly motivated students, whether career-minded
or not. A Young Children's Program for preschoolers as well
as an Open Program is still in place for 7-year-olds to
adults who find joy in dancing but aren't interested in an
intensive schedule. The next urgent step for the two
artistic leaders was to find teachers whose training,
experience and pedagogical sympathies fit the bill. The
entirely new ballet faculty in place this season includes
Melissa Stafford, Laura Dolid, Katherine Morris, Deborah
Robinson and Holly Weary.
The programs this weekend will take place at 7:30 p.m.
on Friday, April 2, and 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, both
in Peabody's Friedberg Hall.
Tickets are $12, $6 for senior citizens, children and
students with ID. For tickets or additional information
call the Peabody box office at 410-659-8100, ext. 2.
The book Balanchine: Celebrating A Life of
Dance, recently published by Tidemark Press, will be
available for sale. The book focuses on 50 of Balanchine's
greatest ballets, each accompanied by personal stories,
essays or critiques and photographs. The book includes a
section by Barbara Weisberger on Balanchine's masterpiece,
Concerto Barocco, as a metaphor for the artist and the man.
She will be available during intermission to sign copies.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit Peabody
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