News Column

Trust performance to show stages of a dancer's career

April 30, 2014

By Sara Bauknecht, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



April 30--As most people approach the prime of their careers, dancers have often passed the peak of theirs. Performers typically retire in their 30s or 40s, even sooner if they suffer serious injuries.

Since the early 1990s, the Dancers Trust has helped Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre artists prepare for "Act 2" of their lives by providing financial assistance for retired company members to go back to school, start their own businesses or pursue other professional development opportunities. Since its inception, the fund has awarded close to $100,000 in grant money.

To help future generations of PBT dancers, the trust will hold its annual benefit performance Saturday at the George Rowland White Performance Studio at Point Park University, Downtown.

Ernest Tolentino, a retired PBT dancer, works with the company and its artistic staff to prepare a performance that highlights the versatility of their talents, he says. Corps de ballet member Casey Taylor is the dancer coordinator who serves as a liaison between the company and Mr. Tolentino.

This year, Mr. Tolentino also wanted to compile a program that walked audiences through the progression of a dancer from student to professional. The performance will feature standout students from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and, for the first time, students from Point Park University'sConservatory Dance Company. Conservatory dancers John O'Neill and Jennifer Florentino were selected from across the country by the American College Dance Festival Association to perform their original choreography in June at the Kennedy Center. Rounding out the program will be performances by PBT artists.

"It's some of the best of the school," Mr. Tolentino says. "Then, of course, we want to show ... the best of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre that's available in both classical as well as contemporary works to show the diversity not just technically but also artistically and dramatically."

The program offers a rare opportunity to see PBT artists in a more intimate setting compared with larger venues such as the Benedum Center or Byham Theater.

"It really makes them more human," Mr. Tolentino says. "It heightens [audiences'] appreciation for them."

Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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(c)2014 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)


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