When Barbara Weisberger founded Pennsylvania Ballet in 1963, it was her dream, fostered and encouraged by the great George Balanchine, to not only bring the best in dance to Pennsylvania but to find local talent and develop those artists into world-class performers.

 

Her dream was not only realized, but fulfilled time and again over many decades as the company thrived, first under her astute direction and later with a number of esteemed directors, including Benjamin Harkarvy, who had worked extensively throughout Europe, Robert Weiss and Christopher d’Amboise, both of whom danced under Mr. Balanchine at New York City Ballet, and Roy Kaiser, who had been a successful dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet before taking the reins as artistic director for nearly 20 years.

With Angel Corella’s appointment as the new artistic director in 2014, the company moved into its next, exciting stage of development. Mr. Corella’s experience and accomplishments, both as a dancer and director of his own company in Spain, have helped Pennsylvania Ballet embody the increasingly diverse and broadening landscape of dance. This evolution is best reflected in the extraordinary breadth of works being performed by the company as well as the increased interest from dancers around the world seeking to join our ranks.

Under Mr. Corella’s direction, the company has danced with a renewed vigor and excitement embraced by critics and audiences alike. Looking to keep his eye on a bold new future, without losing sight of a rich and celebrated past, Mr. Corella aims to program ballets that honor the company’s Balanchine roots—full-length classics in which he once excelled as a performer—along with internationally recognized contemporary works and electrifying new commissions by choreographers both established and emerging.

As Pennsylvania Ballet continues to fulfill its Founder’s dreams on stage, it also strives to share the joy of dance throughout its community. PBII, Pennsylvania Ballet’s talented second company, performs across the region, introducing dance to new audiences, while the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet helps shape our next generation of performers by offering the finest in dance education. And, not to be overlooked, the company’s community engagement programs work to connect people from all walks of life to their own dreams of dance, whether carried out in theaters, our studios, or schools, community centers, and health facilities throughout the area.

Pennsylvania Ballet has been making dance dreams come true for over 50 years, and it intends to continue that most privileged tradition well into a future that has never looked brighter.

Our Mission

Pennsylvania Ballet’s mission is to nurture and maintain a fiscally sound, Philadelphia-based ballet company—one that presents the finest in artistry and performance to the widest possible audience, expands and diversifies its classical and contemporary repertoire, and delivers the highest caliber dance instruction for aspiring professional dancers. Pennsylvania Ballet strives to broaden and enrich the cultural lives of children and adults throughout the Greater Philadelphia region by educating its citizens about (and through) the art of ballet.

Our History

The company, founded in 1963 by George Balanchine protégée, Barbara Weisberger, was established through a Ford Foundation initiative to develop regional professional dance companies. Pennsylvania Ballet performed in the national spotlight for the first time in 1968 at New York City Center. This highly successful debut led to the company’s first performance of The Nutcracker (with a second act by George Balanchine) in 1968, as well as appearances on PBS’s acclaimed “Dance in America” series in 1977, and a decade of touring dates, including the company’s Kennedy Center debut in 1979.

In 1982, Nederland Dans Theatre Co-Founder Benjamin Harkarvy was appointed artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet. With strong European roots, Mr. Harkarvy expanded Pennsylvania Ballet’s repertoire by introducing European contemporary choreography. Constantly pushing the boundaries and redefining standards, he knew how to draw people’s attention, taking risks on young new choreographers.

After a year of European influence, Pennsylvania Ballet returned to its Balanchine roots by appointing Robert Weiss, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, as artistic director. During his eight-year tenure with the company, Mr. Weiss kept “Mr.B” alive by incorporating numerous Balanchine works into the company’s repertoire. In 1987, the million-dollar holiday production of The Nutcracker was unveiled, including Balanchine’s first act. From 1987 to 1989, Pennsylvania Ballet forged an alliance with Milwaukee Ballet in an unprecedented venture to create one company. The new organization, with 42 dancers and a greatly expanded repertoire, was the first in the country to offer its dancers year-round employment.

Despite Robert Weiss’s brilliant artistic direction, Pennsylvania Ballet faced severe financial hardships, and, in 1990, the board hired Christopher d’Amboise as artistic director with the hope he would be able to walk the company back from the brink. In March 1991, the community responded, and a volunteer group composed of dancers, musicians, theater staff, and others started a grassroots campaign called “Save The Ballet”. By the end of the month, the campaign had raised over a million dollars in donations.

With the appointment Roy Kaiser as artistic director, it marked the beginning of a new era for Pennsylvania Ballet. A former company member, hired by Barbara Weisberger in 1979, Mr. Kaiser rose through the ranks from corps de ballet to soloist to principal. Following his retirement from the stage in 1992, he first served as principal ballet master and associate artistic director under Christopher d’Amboise, before being appointed artistic director in 1995. Under Mr. Kaiser’s leadership, the company expanded its Balanchine-based repertoire to include bold, new works from established and emerging choreographers. Those works included premieres of original ballets from choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Christopher d’Amboise, Trey McIntyre, Matthew Neenan, David Parsons, Val Caniparoli, Benjamin Millepied, and Christopher Wheeldon.

In August 2005, Pennsylvania Ballet made its international debut at the Edinburgh International Festival with its highly acclaimed 40th anniversary commission of Swan Lake by Christopher Wheeldon. In April 2014, after 19 years as artistic director, Mr. Kaiser announced his plans to step down (serving now as artistic director emeritus). In July of 2014, the Board of Trustees appointed Angel Corella, widely regarded as one of the finest dancers of his generation, as the company’s next artistic director. Mr. Corella began his tenure with Pennsylvania Ballet in August of that year and has brought to Philadelphia a new level of passion and energy. He has continued to honor the Balanchine tradition, while introducing a host of progressive works and diversifying the range of repertoire performed.

Over the years, Pennsylvania Ballet has continued to broaden its reach through creative programming initiatives such as the Delphi Project, Dance Chance, and a host of other community engagement programs, which serve over 11,000 young students each year. In 2002, Pennsylvania Ballet II (PBII), the Joyce and Herbert Kean Trainee Program, was created as a pre-professional training company that also serves as the organization’s community ambassadors, performing outreach and educational activities in area schools.

In 2010, Pennsylvania Ballet dancers performed in Darren Aronofsky’s Academy Award-nominated film, Black Swan. And, in 2012, the School of Pennsylvania Ballet was re-established.

Pennsylvania Ballet annually presents a season of six programs, including George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, at the Academy of Music and Merriam Theater. The company balances classic ballets with bold new works that challenge the dancers and attract a diverse audience. The company also tours throughout Pennsylvania and the east coast to venues such as New York City Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

You may also like:

Season & Tickets

Whether you enjoy the grandeur and pageantry of full-length ballets or the breathtaking innovation of more contemporary works, our 54th season consists of a mixed repertoire designed to thrill and delight.

Meet the Ballet

Pennsylvania Ballet comprises a team of dedicated professionals—each one devoted to bringing you the most thrilling and inspired works ballet has to offer.

The School

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet offers the highest caliber dance education of any program in the Greater Philadelphia area, providing our students with exceptional technical training and unparalleled performance opportunities.