Pennsylvania Ballet Founder Barbara Weisberger.

50th Anniversary

2013-2014 Season

One of the premier ballet companies in the United States, Pennsylvania Ballet has been at the forefront of American dance since 1963. A protégé of legendary choreographer George Balanchine, founder Barbara Weisberger dreamed of a ballet company in Philadelphia. “Well, Barbara, my smart ballerina,” Mr. Balanchine said, “you must do it.” A leading Philadelphia cultural institution, Pennsylvania Ballet has earned a national reputation for its impassioned artistry and technical virtuosity, and has received widespread critical acclaim for extraordinary performances of a diverse classical and contemporary repertoire. Under current Artistic Director Roy Kaiser, Pennsylvania Ballet has expanded its Balanchine-based repertoire to include bold, innovative new works that embody creative excellence and engage audiences in an ongoing commitment to the vitality of this unique art form. Now celebrating 50 years, the energy and exuberance of its versatile dancers are Pennsylvania Ballet’s enduring signature. 

Click here for more information about our 50th Anniversary Season programming!


About our Founder, Barbara Weisberger

Photo by Chris Gabello.Barbara Weisberger is the visionary leader, inspiring teacher, and founding artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet, which she led from 1962-1982. Her remarkable career in dance has been inextricably linked with the history of contemporary ballet in America.

In 1929, at the age of three, she began taking dancing classes in Providence, RI, where her family had moved for a short time. By the time she was five and back in her birthplace of Brooklyn, NY, Barbara started ballet training with Marion Harwick, a remarkably enterprising neighborhood teacher, who recognized her pupil’s prodigious gift for dance. Ms. Harwick brought Barbara to the attention of George Balanchine, the 30-year-old Russian-born choreographer and ballet master who had just arrived in the United States several months earlier.

In April 1934, three months after the opening of the George Balanchine/Lincoln Kirstein School of American Ballet, and following an audition with the two founders, eight-year-old Barbara was invited to join the class of dancers who Balanchine was honing into his first American Company, the American Ballet. She recalls being the only child in that class and perhaps the only child at the School of American Ballet until the next Fall, when children’s classes began. Barbara remained in the Company class until transferring to the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School, her first teachers’ alma mater, to study with Margaret Curtis. There again she connected with Balanchine, who had become the Metropolitan Opera’s choreographer. Whenever a child dancer was needed, Barbara was cast. During this period she also studied with Salvatore, the protégé of Albertieri, who in turn was the protégé of Cecchetti.

Barbara’s family moved again in 1940, this time to Wilmington, DE, and for her two remaining high school years, heeding Balanchine’s advice, she commuted daily to Philadelphia, PA to study with the Littlefield sisters, Catherine and Dorothie. By that time, the Littlefields had already begun to exert enormous positive influences on the development of ballet in America, not only on Balanchine, (whose first American Ballet was half-filled with Littlefield dancers), but on the generations that followed.

Barbara’s relationship with Balanchine virtually ended when she left New York, but their early, tangible links would figure prominently in the forming of Pennsylvania Ballet. The World War II years, college, and an early first marriage interrupted the flow of her professional career as a dancer, but her eventual return to dance was inevitable. She rejoined her family, now in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and with the establishment of the Wilkes-Barre Ballet Theatre, a ballet school and regional company, Barbara began her important role in writing a crucial chapter of American ballet history. Also during this period, 14 years after she last saw Balanchine, a chance meeting in a New York elevator rekindled their association. By the early 1960s, he had sufficient confidence in Barbara to lend his support and encourage the financial involvement of the Ford Foundation soon after she founded Pennsylvania Ballet.

Barbara Weisberger’s leadership and impact on the field continued when in 1962, with the advice and encouragement of her friend and mentor, Balanchine, she founded the School of Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, the initial step in the formation of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company.  Within two years, Balanchine still at her side, and with a Ford Foundation grant, the Company gave its first Philadelphia performances.

In its first decade, the Company led the vanguard during the dynamic proliferation and decentralization of professional ballet companies across the United States. It also forged the unique identity for which it is known today: a diverse classical repertoire with a Balanchine backbone. The Company performed at City Center in New York; on PBS’ acclaimed “Dance in America” series; and in a stint as the official company of the Brooklyn Academy of Music during the 1970s.

In 1982, because of deep differences with the Board of Trustees and the directions they were taking, Barbara resigned from the Company she had led for 20 years. Two years later, she created the Carlisle Project, a center for the professional development of burgeoning choreographers and dancers, which lasted until 1996 and became a beacon to similar projects in the years that followed. For the past eleven years she has been Artistic Advisor of Peabody Dance, an adjunct of the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, MD. Most important, her relationship with Pennsylvania Ballet is now strong. Officially, she serves as an Honorary Trustee on the Board of Trustees, but as she says, “I’m still Mommy.”

Barbara Weisberger’s inestimable contributions to the field have earned noteworthy recognition: honorary doctorates from Swarthmore, Temple, Villanova, King’s College, and the University of New England; and prestigious awards which include Pennsylvania State University’s Distinguished Alumni, the Hazlett Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania Award, and the Gimbel Philadelphia Award, among others. She has served on the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel, on the executive committee of the American Arts Alliance, on the Board of Directors of Dance/USA, and until the Summer of 2011, she was an advisory board member of the Research Center for Arts and Culture, Columbia University in New York.

From child ballet prodigy to dance company founder, Barbara Weisberger has lived the history of American ballet. She turned an incredibly 87 years old in 2013 – the year Pennsylvania Ballet begins its 50th anniversary celebration – and she still plays a pre-eminent role among those who share her concern for the training of young dancers, the enrichment of dance artists, and the future of dance companies in the United States. The force of her efforts and the spirit of her commitment continue unabated.

Opening June 11, 2013
Kimmel Center Poster Exhibit
Pennsylvania Ballet – Celebrating 50 Years
Extraordinary oversized vintage posters adorn the Kimmel Center’s Broad Street entrance wall, capturing the style and grace of five decades of the Ballet’s performances.

Oct 2013 - April 2014
Philadelphia International Airport Vintage Photo Exhibit
Pennsylvania Ballet Celebrates 50 Years
In Terminal F, ticketed passengers will enjoy selected photos from Pennsylvania Ballet’s archives that celebrate the art of movement and the beauty of ballet captured over the last 50 years.

Oct 1 2013 at 6 p.m.
Moore College of Art & Design
As a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Ballet, students are dedicating this year’s Jumpstart Fashion Show to the fabric called tulle. It has been used for ballet costumes over the years as it has the ability to flow with the music and movement of the dancer’s bodies. The assignment is to use tulle in a contemporary design with a reference to its past use in ballet. Students will share the results at the annual fashion show and exhibit in Moore’s own gallery at the College, 20th Street and The Parkway. 
Visit Moore College of Art & Design’s website for event information. >>


Oct 19, 2013
50th Anniversary Gala

Presenting Sponsor 
Pennsylvania Ballet kicks off this festive season with a spectacular black-tie dinner dance at the Crystal Tea Room honoring founder Barbara Weisberger. Here is your chance to dance WITH our dancers!

Oct 20, 2013 at 3 p.m.
Free Performance for the City of Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Ballet’s gift to the city – a sampler of performance highlights from the past 50 years in a free matinee at the Academy of Music, not to be missed. The performance will be filmed by WHYY in preparation for a national broadcast about Pennsylvania Ballet on PBS. Stay tuned for details.


Nov 17, 2013 at 10 a.m.
Brunch for the Ballet at Saks Fifth Avenue in Bala Cynwyd
Saks Fifth Avenue is hosting a fashion show featuring Pennsylvania Ballet dancers as models! Enjoy a private shopping and a light brunch at Saks Fifth Avenue in Bala Cynwyd. 

BUY TICKETS

Nov 2013 - Feb 2014
The Philadelphia History Museum
Behind the Scenes of The Nutcracker
Visitors will experience the magic of creating a live performance, listening to those Philadelphians who actually bring the show to the stage.

Dec 6 - 8, 2013
Nutcracker Market
Pennsylvania Ballet will open its first Nutcracker Market this December at the Kimmel Center of Performing Arts in downtown Philadelphia. The Kimmel Center’s Commonwealth Plaza will be transformed for the Market and will feature 50 carefully selected artists and craftsmen selling hand-made American crafts and speciality gift items. The event is free and open to the public.
More Info >>

March 5- March 28, 2014
Philadelphia Free Library Exhibit
Join us for a historcial look at the Ballet and its place in Philadelphia's history. We are teaming up with Drexel's Graphic Design freshman from the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design and Program Director Jody Graf to tell the story of PA Ballet's 50 years in 21 cases located at Street Level in the Central Library. The cases will feature photos, posters, costumes, programs and historical artifacts. The exhibit will move from the ballet's beginnings to present day; many of the items are being exhibited for the first time. This event begins March 5 and will end on March 28th. 

Who I Am, Why I Dance: A Conversation with Jermel Johnson and Meredith Rainey
Wednesday, April 16 2014
The African American Museum in Philadelphia
7th & Arch Streets

To be young, black, male, and…a ballet dancer? In a world where it seems these identities aren’t likely to overlap, professional dancers Jermel Johnson and Meredith Rainey have broken barriers to become key members of Pennsylvania Ballet, earning praise and attention across the United States and abroad. Prior to his retirement from Pennsylvania Ballet in 2006, Meredith Rainey danced as one of the first African American male soloists with company, performing works by George Balanchine, Alvin Ailey, and more. He is now an award-winning choreographer, with works performed throughout North and South America and Europe. Jermel Johnson is the first African American male principal dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet. Known for his impressive jumps and powerful presence, he has performed several leading roles, including Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the principal role in Balanchine’s Square Dance, and was recently named by Pointe Magazine for their listing of “Our Top 10 Favorite Performances of 2013.”
Join us as Jermel and Meredith engage in what is sure to be a thought-provoking, funny, and uncensored conversation facilitated by WURD 900AM’s on-air personality Stephanie Renee.
Presented as a part of Pennsylvania Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Season. Guests will receive a special Anniversary Keepsake, and be entered to win 2 tickets to an upcoming performance.

$8 General Admission, $5 AAMP Members and Pennsylvania Ballet Subscribers.
Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.aampmuseum.org/calendar.html or at the door.

 

Friday, May 2, 2014 at 9pm 
WHYY Broadcast Pennsylvania Ballet at 50. This is a one-hour celebration featuring the Company’s 50th Anniversary free performance at the Academy of Music. PLUS exclusive interviews with Founder Barbara Weisberger and Artistic Director Roy Kaiser. You don't wanna miss it! Click here to see the video

Click here to view our 50th Anniversary Season programming. >>

 

 

Pennsylvania Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Advisory Council is a dynamic group of leaders from Philadelphia’s civic, cultural, hospitality, and higher education organizations who have gathered together to help promote the Ballet’s achievements throughout its 50th Anniversary Season. Throughout the next season, the Ballet will partner with each organization to create special programs and exhibits that will highlight the strengths of both partners.  Please visit the "Events" tab on this page to view the list of exciting partnerships that will be on display during the 50th Anniversary Season! 

HONORARY CHAIRS

Honorable Tom Corbett
Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Honorable Michael A. Nutter
Mayor, City of Philadelphia

Barbara Weisberger
Founder, Pennsylvania Ballet


MEMBERS

Kathy Z. Anderson
Chair Emerita, Pennsylvania Ballet

Matt Azoulay
Partner, Dilworth Paxson LLP

David Bianco
General Manager, ARAMARK

Bart Blatstein
President & CEO, Tower Investments, Inc.

Ilana Blumenthal, Communications Associate
National Museum of American Jewish History

David Brigham
President & CEO, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Honorable Blondell Reynolds Brown
Councilwoman, City of Philadelphia

Sean T. Buffington
President, The University of the Arts

Danielle Cohn
Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

Karin Copeland
Executive Director, Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia

Christine Cox
Co-Artistic Director, Ballet X

Charles Croce
Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer, The Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent

Jim Cuorato
President & Chief Executive Officer, Independence Visitor Center Corporation

David Devan
General Director & President, Opera Philadelphia

Diana Duncan
Senior Vice President, External Affairs, The Barnes Foundation

Honorable Dwight Evans
State Representative, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Anne Ewers
President & CEO, Kimmel Center, Inc.

Yael Nathalie Eytan
Director of Marketing and Communications, National Museum of American Jewish History

Honorable Lawrence Farnese
State Senator, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Cecelia Fitzgibbon
President, Moore College of Art & Design

Peg Fitzpatrick
Vice President, Pennsylvania Ballet

Jennifer Faure Francis
Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Dave Franke
Principal, Studio Agoos Lovera

Jane Golden
Executive Director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

Bonnie Grant
Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Congress

Ed Grose
Executive Director, Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association

Mary Bert Gutman
Emeritus Trustee, Pennsylvania Ballet

James Haskins
Managing Director, The Wilma Theater

Robin Herndon
Counsel, Siemens Medical Solutions USA, Inc.

Tom Kaiden
President, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

Joe Kluger
Principal, Wolf Brown

Patricia Kraft Hilpl
Executive Director, Citywide Sales, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau

Kelly Lee
Associate Principal, Community & Project Finance, Seslia and Company

Meryl Levitz
President & Chief Executive Officer, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.

Jane Likens
Assistant Professor, Philadelphia University

Victoria Lupica
Departmental Public Relations Supervisor, Philadelphia International Airport

William J. Marrazzo
President & CEO, WHYY

Bill Mifflin
Executive Director, Philadelphia Hospitality

Jane Pepper

Siobhan Reardon
President & Director, Free Library of Philadelphia

Louise Reed
Chair Emerita, Pennsylvania Ballet

Molly Rouse Terlevich

Dianne Semingson
Founder & President, DLS International Inc.

Michelle Shannon
Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Center City District

Susan Sherman
President & CEO, Independence Foundation

Paul Steinke
General Manager, Reading Terminal Market

Gary Steuer
Chief Cultural Officer, City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy

Jane Stojak
Managing Director, Leah Stein Dance Company

Kathleen Sullivan
Vice President, Government & Regulatory Affairs, Comcast

Patricia Wellenbach
Chief Executive Officer, Green Tree School

Joseph Zuritsky
Chairman & CEO, Parkway Coporation