History & Mission
Pennsylvania Ballet is one of the premier ballet companies in the United States and has been at the forefront of American dance since 1963.
A leading Philadelphia cultural institution, the Company has earned a national reputation for its impassioned artistry and technical virtuosity and has received widespread critical acclaim for extraordinary performances of a diverse classical and contemporary repertoire with a Balanchine base. The energy and exuberance of its versatile dancers are the Company's enduring signature.
The Company was established in 1963 by Barbara Weisberger, a protégé of George Balanchine, through a Ford Foundation initiative to develop regional professional dance companies. A leader in the regional ballet movement of the 1960s, the Company performed in the national spotlight for the first time in 1968 at City Center in New York — a highly successful debut that led to a decade of national touring, appearances on PBS' acclaimed "Dance in America" series, and a stint as the official company of the Brooklyn Academy of Music during the 1970s. From 1987 to 1989, Pennsylvania Ballet forged an alliance with Milwaukee Ballet in an unprecedented venture to create one company. The new organization, with 43 dancers and a greatly expanded repertoire, was the first in the country to offer its dancers year-round employment.
In 1994, the Trustees of Pennsylvania Ballet selected its first homegrown Artistic Director, Roy Kaiser. A former company member hired in 1979 by Barbara Weisberger, and brought to artistic proficiency by Benjamin Harkarvy and Robert Weiss (Artistic Directors from 1972-1982 and 1982-1990, respectively), Mr. Kaiser rose through the ranks from Corps de Ballet to Soloist to Principal by 1990. Following his retirement from the stage in 1992, Mr. Kaiser became Principal Ballet Master and Associate Artistic Director under Christopher d'Amboise, until being named to his current position.
Under Artistic Director Roy Kaiser, the Company has expanded its Balanchine-based repertoire to include bold, innovative new works that embody creative excellence and engage audiences in an ongoing commitment to the vitality of this unique art form. New works have included premieres of original ballets from such choreographers as Merce Cunningham, Christopher d'Amboise, Trey McIntyre, Matthew Neenan, Kevin O'Day, David Parsons, Val Caniparoli, Christopher Stowell, Dwight Rhoden, Meredith Rainey, Kirk Peterson, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett; as well as the highly acclaimed 40th Anniversary commission of Swan Lake by Christopher Wheeldon, and the March 2007 world premiere of Matthew Neenan's Carmina Burana.
Pennsylvania Ballet is currently comprised of 40 dancers and presents a season of six productions in Philadelphia, including the holiday spectacular, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, balancing classic ballets with new works that challenge the dancers and attract a diverse audience. The Company also tours throughout Pennsylvania and the East Coast, including performances at New York City Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The Company made its International Debut at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2005.
Over the past several years, Pennsylvania Ballet has enhanced its artistic integrity while continually increasing its reach and strengthening its foundation through creative programming, initiatives such as the Family Matinee Series and Prologue Lecture Series, and a collection of educational and outreach programs titled Accent on Dance. In 2002, Pennsylvania Ballet II, the Joyce and Herbert Kean Trainee Program, was formed as a pre-professional training company and as an additional component for outreach programs.
From Giselle to Rodeo, A Midsummer Night's Dream to Company B, and Serenade to the signature George Balanchine's The Nutcracker™, Pennsylvania Ballet has continued to stretch its own boundaries, reaffirming its mission to present the best in American dance to Philadelphia audiences and beyond.
The mission of Pennsylvania Ballet is to maintain and nurture a financially sound, Philadelphia-based ballet company that presents the finest in artistry and performance to the widest possible audience, expands and diversifies its classical and contemporary repertoire and provides the highest caliber of instruction for aspiring professional dancers. Pennsylvania Ballet strives to enrich and expand the cultural lives of children and adults of the Greater Philadelphia region by educating its citizens about and through the art of ballet.