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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is a community based and internationally recognized professional ballet company that performs traditional and contemporary ballets and develops innovative new works. It seeks to perpetuate excellence in the art of ballet through performances, superior training of student dancers and community engagement initiatives.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) was founded in 1969 as an affiliate of Point Park College under the direction of Artistic Director Nicholas Petrov and Board Chair Loti Falk.
In 1970/71, PBT presented its first subscription season at the Syria Mosque with one performance of Swan Lake and four of The Nutcracker. The inaugural season was a sell-out.
Petrov invited Frederick Franklin to join PBT as Co-Artistic Director in 1974. Under their leadership, PBT continued to grow. PBT became independent from Point Park College in 1977. That same year, Petrov stepped down as Artistic Director. PBT was led briefly by former London Festival Ballet principal dancer John Gilpin who, plagued by health problems, left shortly after taking over. French dancer and choreographer Patrick Frantz was appointed as PBT's Artistic Director later that year. Frantz began to emphasize contemporary works in the Company's repertoire and spearheaded the development of the PBT School. Throughout the decade, PBT experienced tremendous growth in subscription sales and community support.
By the early 1980s, PBT was listed among the nation's largest companies. In June 1982, Patricia Wilde was appointed Artistic Director. A celebrated former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet and one of the world's foremost classical ballerinas, Wilde brought PBT to new levels of maturity. Her influence carried PBT through continued success for fifteen years. During her tenure, PBT performed many of the classic works, and became known for its brilliant execution of the works of the great George Balanchine. In the 1987/88 season, Loti Falk retired as PBT's Managing Director and was succeeded by Stephen Richard. Richard was succeeded by Steven Libman in 1991. During the early 1990s, PBT expanded its base of foundation contributors, increased individual donations and experienced high ticket sales.
In 1997, the arrival of Terrence S. Orr, formerly Ballet Master of American Ballet Theatre, and a new strategic alliance with the Heinz Endowments, led PBT to renew its commitment to the creation of new works and building audiences through innovative programming and collaboration. Orr began to introduce new work to Pittsburgh audiences through both co-production with other national ballet companies and by commissioning new contemporary ballets inspired by American music. Through a dedicated campaign, PBT premiered The New Nutcracker in 2002, a $1.2 million production choreographed by Orr and set in turn-of-the-century Pittsburgh.
While PBT enjoyed great artistic success during this period, a structural cash flow deficit plagued the organization. During this period, PBT's annual budget had grown to nearly $8 million. In June 2004, Libman resigned his position of Managing Director. PBT engaged consultant Thomas B. Harris, a specialist in the field of transition in nonprofit organizations, whose assessment uncovered a structural imbalance of approximately $800,000 per year. PBT's trustees pared the 2005/06 budget to $6.4 million. Most significant was the decision to perform in 2005/06 to prerecorded music, which stimulated an unfair practices complaint by the Orchestra and picketing at the season opening production of Carmen.
Harris N. Ferris was appointed Executive Director in February 2006. Ferris immediately began to design a turn-around process for the organization. An agreement was reached with the orchestra, allowing PBT to perform two productions for the 2006/07 season to live music. PBT launched a grassroots fundraising campaign entitled Say It With Music and was able to return the orchestra to the pit for two productions of the 2006/07 season. The turn-around strategies were a success. PBT completed two consecutive fiscal years in the black.
PBT's stabilizing strategies have resulted in a stronger organization that is facing a bright future. With the guidance of strategic planning expert Harold D. Miller, President of Future Strategies, PBT completed a three-year, comprehensive strategic business plan in the fall of 2007. The balance between the dynamic juxtaposition of artistic and financial objectives is the centerpiece of the organization's strategic outlook for the future.
- Shayne Souleret
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