Barbara Weisberger, the distinguished artistic adviser
Dance, has heard it said that Baltimore is not a dance
city. She politely disagrees. For one thing, cities don't
dance; people do, she jokes. Or they will, if you reach out
and energize their interest.
From the moment she joined Peabody in spring 2001,
Weisberger has brought nothing but energy and passion as
she has helped transform the Preparatory's community-based
dance program, both to keep it in line with contemporary
American styles and to respect the art form's classical
To honor her contributions and her 80th birthday, the
Peabody Dance Department's annual Spring Showcase will kick
off on Saturday with a special tribute to Weisberger.
In addition to performances by Peabody dancers, the
two-day Spring Showcase will feature dancers from the
Pennsylvania Ballet, which Weisberger founded; the Central
Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, with which she's had a close
longtime connection; and the Baltimore School for the Arts.
The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, one of the leading
schools of its kind in the nation, will present dance
legend George Balanchine's Harlequinade. The Pennsylvania
Ballet will showcase two of its performers in Balanchine's
pas de deux from Raymonda Variations.
Barbara Weisberger, artistic
adviser for Peabody Dance, works with a student. A leader
in the performing arts in the United States, she has been
with Peabody since 2001.
The 80th birthday celebration will take place at 7:30
p.m. on Saturday, April 8, in Peabody's Friedberg Hall. The
showcase continues on Sunday, April 9, at 3 p.m., also at
A protege and longtime colleague of Balanchine's,
Weisberger is internationally recognized for her major
contributions to the development of American classical
ballet and for her pre-eminent leadership role in the
performing arts in the United States.
Weisberger founded the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1962 and
led the nationally renowned company for 20 years. In 1984,
she spearheaded the conception of the Carlisle Project, a
distinctive program based in Carlisle, Pa., for the
professional development of choreographers and dancers.
During her time with the Carlisle Project, Weisberger met
and worked with former Peabody Director Robert Sirota. It
was Sirota who recruited Weisberger to Peabody to
restructure the ballet program and to bring the Dance
Department to even greater prominence.
Peabody Dance was founded in 1914 by two Conservatory
alumnae. During its history, the department has offered
classes in ballet, jazz, tap, modern, Spanish and even
Native American dance — first offered in the 1930s.
Today, the program has been streamlined to focus on ballet
and contemporary dance, at both the Peabody Preparatory
campus in Mt. Vernon and at the school's campus in Towson,
situated at the edge of the Goucher College campus.
Weisberger and Peabody Dance artistic director Carol
Bartlett have spent the past four and a half years guiding
a spirited transformation of a department that currently
offers a 32-week season in three main curricula: the
Pre-Professional Program, the Young Children's Program and
the Open Program.
Faculty member Melissa Stafford
sets the pace for children marching in Introduction to
Ballet 2. Most of the girls and boys are 6 years
The Pre-Professional Program is Peabody Dance's core
training curriculum for students ages 7 to young adult. The
program offers an intensive graded course of study in
ballet and contemporary dance, designed to help motivated
and career-minded students meet the dance arena's highest
The Young Children's Program, open to ages 4 to 6, is
designed to spark innate creativity and build a foundation
for more in-depth technical training. This program offers
two levels of training: creative dance for 4-year-olds and
introduction to ballet for 5- and 6-year-olds.
The Open Program offers classes in ballet,
contemporary dance and Spanish dance for students of all
ages and abilities who wish to undertake a less intensive
schedule. Technical work is presented in a sequential
graded format to meet the needs of students who seek
quality training, enrichment and physical fitness.
In addition, Peabody Dance offers a summer program,
from late June to mid-August, which provides various
multiweek options for students of all ages and all
The department, which has two full-time and six
part-time faculty, predominantly teaches those ages 4 to
18. However, Bartlett says that in recent years a greater
number of college-age individuals and older adults have
been attracted to the programs.
"They all come here for quality training," Bartlett
says. "What parents are very attracted to are the
performances. We don't do the usual recitals. Our
end-of-season production is an actual full-length-story
ballet, and we manage to create a very theatrical
production that includes kids from age 5 to professional
The 2005 production was A Midsummer Night's Dream.
This year's show, Cinderella, will be held on Saturday, May
Peabody Dance has a strong tradition of collaboration
with composers and musicians from the Peabody Conservatory,
and Bartlett says it's the department's connection with the
Conservatory that makes the performances distinctive.
In fact, Bartlett says that Peabody Dance is on course
to become a nationally known program, thanks in large part
to Weisberger's vision and guidance.
"What Barbara has brought to the Dance Department is
strong contemporary American classicism in ballet, a look
often personified by the works and influence of
Balanchine," said Bartlett, adding that prior to
Weisberger's arrival, the department used the Royal Academy
of Dancing approach to training. "She has revamped the
ballet program here and attracted new faculty. Her people
resources are just incredible."
For her part, Weisberger says that she will continue
to reach out to her many contacts and colleagues in the
dance field to lift up the level of training even
"I'm hoping that if we all pull together, we can
solidify and lift the interest in dance in our city and our
region. We already have begun to reach out locally and
nationally with guests at our major public performances and
with open master classes and guest teachers," she said.
"Baltimore can be a dance city. It just needs some
In connection with the 2006 Spring Showcase and the
tribute to Weisberger, a special exhibit of Balanchine
photographs will be on view during the month of April in
Peabody's Bank of America Lounge.
Tickets for the showcase are $14; $7 for children,
seniors and students with ID. Patron tickets, the proceeds
from which will be used for Peabody Dance scholarships and
to fund new choreography, are available for $45 and include
VIP seating, a Saturday post-performance reception and a
preview of the Balanchine photo exhibit. For information
about regular tickets, contact the Peabody Box Office at
410-659-8100, ext. 1123. For more information on patron
tickets and Peabody Dance, go to