Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre collaborates with CSO for night of comedy, drama and theatrics

Excerpts from "Le Corsaire" (the new photo I uploaded) Artists: Yoshiaki Nakano, Hannah Carter, Ruslan Mukhambetkaliyev Photo by Rich Sofranko

In order to prepare for their performance at Chautauqua Institution, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre spent the past month rehearsing for six hours per day, five days a week. It’s a rigorous schedule but something that artistic director Terrence Orr said isn’t out of the ordinary.

“It’s a normal process for us,” Orr said.

The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will perform at Chautauqua for the first time since 2013, and for the first time with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater. This is also CSO Music Director Rossen Milanov’s first time working with PBT.

“It’s always wonderful to have live music,” Orr said. “Theater has to do with the fact that we’re not just dancers, we tell stories.”

The show opens with “divertissements” — a French classical ballet term that means enjoyable excerpts — from “Le Corsaire,” a ballet about pirates intertwined with comedy, adventure and romance.

The next piece in the program, “Petite Mort,” is set to the music of two piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Yoland Collin, PBT’s company pianist, is the featured soloist.

“The music is not necessarily lined up with the gestures on stage,” Milanov said. “The music generally functions as a general canvas. It’s a very interesting and visually stunning work.”

The choreography features six men and six women. Six foils embody aggression, sexuality, energy, silence, cultivated senselessness and vulnerability. “Petite Mort,” whose literal meaning is “small death,” is a euphemism for orgasm in both French and Arabic.

The finale, “Coppélia Divertissement,” features Apprentice, Festival and Workshop II students from the Chautauqua School of Dance. Orr said he traveled to the Institution about three weeks ago to meet with faculty and dancers to stage and rehearse excerpts from the ballet, which features folk dances, comedy and theatrics.

Orr just returned to Pittsburgh on Monday after coming to Chautauqua again to work on the piece.

“They’re doing a wonderful job,” Orr said. “I think it will fit together pretty easily.”

Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, artistic director for the School of Dance, choreographed the Polish folk dance — mazurka — within the piece, while Glenda Lucena, the school’s ballet mistress, staged it. The company, student dancers and orchestra rehearsed earlier Saturday in the Amp.

“There are ballets in which the music is absolutely equal to what’s happening on the stage, and there are ballets where the music naturally takes a secondary role,” Milanov said. “The classical training and technique that are certainly in ‘Coppélia’ and ‘Corsaire’ are going to be pretty much in focus.”

Orr is the featured speaker for the Chautauqua Dance Circle’s pre-performance lecture at 7 p.m. Saturday in Smith Wilkes Hall.

“I’m looking forward to being up there,” Orr said. “Chautauqua is a wonderful campus. It’s going to be very exciting for us to be in the new theater.”

Staff writer Philip de Oliveira contributed to this report.

Tags : AmphitheaterChautauqua Symphony OrchestracsoPittsburgh Ballet TheatreRossen Milanov

The author Ryan Lindsay

Ryan Lindsay is reporting on dance and the Institution administration for the Daily. She proudly hails from D.C. but is currently studying narrative writing and radio at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Before writing for The Chautauquan Daily, she worked as a community & culture reporter for Oakland North, a community news outlet. As a child, she graced the stage as a memorable mouse in “The Nutcracker.” Don’t hesitate to drop her a line at