a mixed repertoire program of three ballets
Grace & Grandeur

PAQUITA

Choreographer: Marius Petipa
Composer: Ludwig Minkus

This series of dances from the second act of the full-length ballet displays our female dancers’ dazzling footwork.

FOR FOUR

Choreographer: Christopher Wheeldon
Composer: Franz Schubert

This piece, originally created for four of the best male dancers in the world (including Artistic Director Angel Corella), highlights men’s place in the ballet world through a range of styles.

THEME AND VARIATIONS

Choreographer: George Balanchine
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Balanchine’s tribute to the grandeur of ballet in Imperial Russia pays homage to the elegance of pure, classical ballet.

Header Image: Mayara Pineiro and Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet. Photo: © Nic D’Amico.

Choreographers & Composers

MARIUS PETIPA

Choreographer, Paquita

Marius Petipa, the “father of classical ballet,” was born in Marseilles, France in 1818. He began his dance training at age seven, studying with his father Jean Petipa, the French dancer and teacher. Petipa was educated at Grand College in Brussels and also attended the conservatoire, where he studied music. Though he disliked dancing early on, his progress was so great that he debuted in his father’s 1831 production of La Dansomanie. In 1834, his father became maitre de ballet at the theatre in Bordeaux, and it was here Petipa completed his education. At age 16, he became premier danseur at the theatre in Nantes, where he also produced several short ballets.

Petipa left Nantes in 1839 to tour North America with his father and upon their return went to Paris. The following year Petipa made his debut at the Comedie Francaise, where he partnered Carlotte Grisi in a benefit performance. He continued his studies with Auguste Vestris and became a principal dancer in Bordeaux. In 1845, Petipa left for Spain to work at the King’s Theatre. While in Madrid, he studied Spanish dance and choreographed Carmen et son TereroLa Perle de SevilleL’Aventure d’une fille de Madrid, La Fleur de Grenade, and Depart Dour la Course des Toureaux. Petipa returned to Paris as a principal dancer but in 1847 left for Russia. Though he had signed a one-year contract with St. Petersburg Imperial Theatre, he remained there for the rest of his life.
As a principal dancer, Petipa often appeared with Fanny Elssler and was highly acclaimed for his performances in such ballets as Paquita (which he restaged and made his St. Petersburg debut), Giselle, La Peri, Armida, Catarina, Le Delire d’un Peintre, Esmeralda, Le Corsaire, and Faust. Considered an exceptional dancer and partner, Petipa’s acting, stage manners, and pantomime were held up as examples for generations of dancers. When Giselle was revived in 1850, Petipa made some changes in the “Wilis” scenes, which became the Grand Pas des Wilis of 1884.

In 1854, Petipa married Maria Sourovshchikova, a student in the graduating class of the Imperial School, who later danced in many of her husband’s ballets (Petipa’s second marriage was in 1882 to Lubova Leonidovna, a member of the Moscow Ballet). In 1854, he also became an instructor at the school, while continuing to dance and to restage ballets from the French repertoire. Sources differ on the first original work he staged for the Imperial Theatre: some say it was The Star of Granada, while others claim it was A Marriage During Regency. All sources concur, however, that his first great success was The Pharaoh’s Daughter (staged in six weeks), which resulted in his appointment as choreographer in chief in 1862, a position he held for nearly fifty years. In 1869, he was appointed premier ballet master of the Imperial Theatre.

The value of Petipa’s accomplishments on ballet is immeasurable. He produced more than 60 full-evening ballets, countless shorter works, and he is considered to have laid the foundation for the entire school of Russian ballet. Toward the end of his career, however, those who believed the dramatic content of ballet should be strengthened began to oppose Petipa. They considered his noble classicism and consciousness of form as old fashioned, and, in 1903, at the age of 84, he was forced to retire from the Imperial Theatre as a direct result of the failure of his ballet, The Magic Mirror. Owing to the fact his beloved theatre had been taken away from him, Petipa’s final years were filled with bitterness and disillusionment.
Marius Petipa is considered to be one of the greatest choreographers of all time. He elevated the Russian ballet to international fame, laying the cornerstone for 20th century ballet, and his classicism integrated the purity of the French school with Italian virtuosity. He died in St. Petersburg in 1910.

Source.  With edits made.

CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON

Choreographer, For Four

Christopher Wheeldon trained at The Royal Ballet School, joining the company in 1991. He joined New York City Ballet (NYCB) in 1993 and was promoted to soloist in 1998. He served as NYCB’s first-ever artist in residence in 2000 and was named their first resident choreographer in July 2001.

Mr. Wheeldon has created productions for all of the world’s major ballet companies, including New York City Ballet, The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and National Ballet of Canada. He created his first work for Pennsylvania Ballet in 2004: the full length Swan Lake.

In 2007, Mr. Wheeldon founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and was appointed an associate artist for Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. He choreographed Dance of the Hours for La Gioconda (2006) and Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen (2012) for the Metropolitan Opera, as well as ballet sequences for the feature film Center Stage (2000) and Sweet Smell of Success on Broadway (2002).

Mr. Wheeldon also directed and choreographed the musical version of An American in Paris, which premiered in Paris in 2014 at the Théâtre du Châtelet. The Broadway production premiered at the Palace Theatre on April 12, 2015, earning Mr. Wheeldon the 2015 Tony Award for best choreography as well as an Outer Critics Award for best choreography and direction.

Additional awards for Mr. Wheeldon include the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, the American Choreography Award, a Dance Magazine Award, and the London Critic’s Circle Award for best new ballet for Polyphonia. In 2013 and 2015, his productions of Cinderella and The Winter’s Tale won the Prix Benois de la Danse. He is also an Olivier Award winner for Aeternum and The Winter’s Tale and won the 2014 Leonard Massine Prize for Choreography. Mr. Wheeldon currently serves as artistic associate of The Royal Ballet and was made an OBE in 2016.

Source. With edits made.

GEORGE BALANCHINE

Choreographer, Theme and Variations

Born January 22, 1904, in St. Petersburg, Russia, George Balanchine is widely regarded as ballet’s foremost contemporary choreographer. He came to the United States in late 1933, at the age of 29, after accepting the invitation of young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-96), of whose many great passions included the dream of creating a ballet company in America. At Balanchine’s behest, Kirstein was also prepared to support the formation of an American ballet academy, one to eventually rival the long-established schools of Europe.

This institution, and first product of the Balanchine/Kirstein collaboration, was the School of American Ballet, founded in 1934. In the years that followed, the two visionaries created several ballet companies, all of which eventually dissolved, though Balanchine continued to find other outlets for his choreography. Efforts to create a company temporarily ceased during World War II, but the two men’s unflagging devotion continued, and eventually, with a performance on October 11, 1948, the New York City Ballet was born. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer from 1948 until his death in 1983.

Of Balanchine’s more than 400 dance works, some noted creations include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), Orpheus (1948), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), and Mozartiana (1981). Balanchine’s final ballet, a new version of Stravinsky’s Variations for Orchestra, was created in 1982. He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best-known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway’s On Your Toes (1936). The musical was later made into a movie.

A major artistic figure of the 20th century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance, having an inestimable influence upon the growth of dance in America. Although, at first, his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his works are now performed by classical ballet companies throughout the world.

Founded by Balanchine student, Barbara Weisberger, Pennsylvania Ballet is a company steeped in the Balanchine style and repertoire.

Source. With edits made.

LUDWIG MINKUS

Composer, Paquita

Ludwig Minkus, born in Vienna in 1826, was a Czech composer and violinist who wrote several hugely popular ballet scores, many of which are still widely performed today, including Don Quixote and La Bayadère. His first work in ballet was assisting Édouard Deldevez on Paquita in Paris, 1846. In the early 1850s, Minkus travelled to Russia, where he would spend the rest of his life. His first position was in St Petersburg, directing Prince N.B. Yusupov’s serf orchestra. He performed as a soloist with the Bolshoi Orchestra in Moscow from 1861 to 1872, becoming its leader and conductor in 1862. In 1866, he joined the newly created Moscow Conservatory as a violin professor and taught there until 1872.

Minkus’ first great success as a composer came with his score for Marius Petipa’s Don Quixote (1869) at the Bolshoi, and, in 1870, he was appointed official composer of ballet music to the Imperial Theatres in St Petersburg. He shared a rich creative relationship with Petipa, working on ballets that included La Bayadère (1877) and Roxana (1878).

Ludwig Minkus retired in 1886 but was to have a final triumph with Mlada, composed in 1879 but first performed during the 1896/1897 season. He was in many ways the archetypal composer of mid-19th-century ballet, and his music, with its strong rhythmic pulse and regular harmonic structures, was ideally suited to the ballet of his era. Ludwig Minkus died on December 7, 1917.

Source. With edits made.

FRANZ SCHUBERT

Composer, For Four

Franz Peter Schubert was born in Austria on January 31, 1797. During his brief but prolific career, including more than a 100 songs and numerous symphonic, operatic, and chamber music scores before the age of 20, he produced masterpieces in nearly every genre, all characterized by rich harmonies, an expansive treatment of classical forms, and a seemingly endless gift for melody. As a child, Schubert’s talents included piano, violin, and organ. He was also an excellent singer and began his early training with his father and brothers. Eventually, he enrolled at the Stadtkonvikt School, which trained young vocalists to one day sing at the chapel of the Imperial Court.

Schubert’s voice, however, broke in 1812, forcing him to leave school. Though he continued instruction with Antonio Salieri, his family pressured him to become a schoolteacher. Schubert begrudgingly complied, working as a schoolmaster by day and composing prolifically by night. In fact, by 1814, the young composer had written a number of piano pieces and produced string quartets, a symphony, and a three-act opera. Over the next year, his output included two additional symphonies and two of his first German lieds—something Schubert is largely credited with creating.

Eventually, Schubert dedicated himself completely to his musical pursuits, taking on a somewhat Bohemian lifestyle, composing and spending time with a circle of friends who acted as his personal support system. In 1820, he was commissioned by two opera houses, the Karthnerthor Theatre and Theatre an der Wein, to compose a pair of operas, neither of which faired very well. As well, music publishers were unwilling to bet on a relatively unknown composer who wrote untraditional music. So Schubert, with the support of his artistic circle, published his own work for a collection of subscribers. These efforts, however, were not financially fruitful, and the composer struggled to sustain himself. His work garnered little attention, and contemporary composers dismissed his music as presumptuous and immature.

In 1826, Schubert applied for the job of deputy musical director at the Stadtkonvikt but failed to land the job. Still, his fortunes during this period began to improve. His impressive musical output continued, and his popularity in Vienna increased. His work during this period included the String Quartet in G Major and the Piano Sonata in G Major. In 1827, no doubt influenced by the passing of Ludwig van Beethoven, Schubert created a string of works, which included the first 12 songs of the “Winterreise,” as well as the Piano Sonata in C Minor and two piano solos, Impromptus and Moments Musicaux.

In 1828, the last year of his life, Schubert, though ill, remained committed to his craft. It was during this time he produced what is quite possibly his greatest piano duet, Fantasy in F Minor. In addition to this and other works, he also finished String Quintet in C Major, considered by musical historians to be the classical era’s final piece. Sadly enough, Schubert’s first and final public concert took place on March 26, 1828, proving successful enough to finally allow the composer to buy himself a piano. Exhausted, and with his health declining, Schubert moved in with his brother, Ferdinand. He died on November 19, 1828, in Vienna, Austria at the age of 31.

It was only after Schubert’s passing that his musical genius received the kind of recognition it deserved. His vocal contributions, more than 500 in all, were written for male and female as well as mixed voices, and his influence proved considerable with later composers like Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. And, for some musical historians, Schubert’s much-praised Ninth Symphony opened the way for other greats like Anton Bruckner and Gustav Mahler. In 1872, a memorial to Schubert was constructed in the Stadtpark in Vienna, and, in 1888, his grave, along with Beethoven’s, was relocated to Zentralfriedhof, the Viennese cemetery—among the largest in the world. There, Schubert was laid alongside fellow musical giants Johann Strauss II and Johannes Brahms.

Source. With edits made.

PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY

Composer, Theme and Variations

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born May 7, 1840, in Votkinsk, Russia. He began taking piano lessons at age five, and, though he displayed an early passion for music, his parents had hoped he would grow up to work in the civil service. In 1859, five years after his mother’s death from cholera, Tchaikovsky honored his parents’ wishes by taking up a bureau clerk post with the Ministry of Justice—a post he would hold for four years, during which time he grew increasingly fascinated with music. At age 21, he decided to take lessons at the Russian Musical Society and soon after enrolled at the newly founded St. Petersburg Conservatory, becoming one of the school’s first composition students. In 1863, Tchaikovsky moved to Moscow, where he became a professor of harmony at the Moscow Conservatory.

Tchaikovsky’s work was first publicly performed in 1865 at a Pavlovsk concert with Johann Strauss the Younger conducting the composer’s Characteristic Dances, and, in 1868, his First Symphony was well received when it was performed in Moscow. The following year, his first opera, The Voyevoda, was staged—though with little fanfare. His next operatic effort, Oprichnik, achieved some acclaim when it was performed at the Maryinsky in St. Petersburg in 1874, by which time Tchaikovsky had also earned praise for his Second Symphony and managed to establish himself as a talented composer of instrumental pieces with his Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat Minor.

Acclaim came more readily for Tchaikovsky in 1875 with his composition Symphony No. 3 in D Major. At the end of that year, the composer embarked upon a tour of Europe, and, in 1876, he completed the ballet Swan Lake as well as the symphonic fantasy “Francesca da Rimini.” In 1878, Tchaikovsky resigned from the Moscow Conservatory in order to focus his efforts entirely on composing. His collective body of work comprises 169 pieces, including symphonies, operas, ballets, concertos, cantatas, and songs. Among his most noted late works are the ballets The Sleeping Beauty (1890) and The Nutcracker (1892).

Source. With edits made.

Grace & Grandeur News & Events

Grace & Grandeur News & Events

Chestnut Hill Local: Viva Tchaikovsky!

Published on: Friday, September 29, 2017

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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.