About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 29, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 28
Peabody Dance Turns 90 With a Celebration of George Balanchine

Pennsylvania Ballet's Alexander Iziliaev

Peabody has been dancing for 90 years. Since the first dance classes were started by the Peabody Preparatory in 1914, the influences of many legendary teachers have come and gone in the world of dance. Currently, it is the name of the late George Balanchine — who would have been 100 this year — that is the new guiding star.

In a gloriously rich evolution that began more than 60 years ago, America has made ballet its own, earning global respect for its technical prowess and even more for its choreographic preeminence. And one American choreographer, the Russian-born Balanchine, is believed to be, even by those who may not be avid admirers of his work, the rarest of geniuses who changed the face of ballet for centuries to come.

For the past two years the Peabody Dance Department has been restructuring its ballet program to reflect Balanchine's revolutionary influence in America.

The Preparatory's annual Spring Showcase this weekend will celebrate both the founding of the program and the birthday of Balanchine with performances reflecting the changes of spirit and style and the driving new energy that is infusing Peabody Dance.

Balanchine protege and close colleague Barbara Weisberger, artistic adviser to the Peabody Dance Department and founder and artistic director emerita of the acclaimed Pennsylvania Ballet, will talk about her mentor while visual images of his famous ballets are projected on the screen. Two principal dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet, Alexander Iziliaev and Arantxa Ochoa, will dance two of Balanchine's acclaimed pas de deux.

Artistic Director Carol Bartlett will present the school's upper-level students and guest dancers in several of her own works and in original ballet choreography or restagings of existing repertory by Melissa Stafford and other dance faculty members. This year's showcase also features collaborations with the Conservatory's Composition Department. Peabody student Hee-Seung Choi will present a multimedia piece using video projection, synthesized music and a solo dancer. Carol Bartlett has choreographed a work, Red Peony Sky in Mid-June, composed by Angel Lam. Ensembles from Peabody's Chamber Music Department, coordinated by Michael Kannen, will provide the live accompaniment for Red Peony Sky in Mid-June and also for the Bartlett-choreographed Measure for Measure, which is set to one of Philip Glass' string quartet movements.

To borrow a dance term, one might say Peabody Dance is en grand jete. The 90th anniversary is being celebrated by looking forward rather than looking back. Quietly over the past two years changes have been made, in faculty and curriculum, to bring Peabody Dance more and more in step with the progression of American dance into the 21st century.

The catalyst for the change was the appointment of Weisberger, a visionary leader and teacher, who has been in the vanguard of every important movement in contemporary American ballet. She was brought to Peabody in spring 2001 by Director Robert Sirota. The two had met through the Carlisle Project, the highly respected choreographic development program, where in the early 1990s she and Sirota co-led a Choreographer-Composer Collaborations Program.

The stage was set at Peabody, and Weisberger and Artistic Director Bartlett set out on a path that they hoped would lead to the fulfillment of their shared vision for Peabody Dance. They began by establishing new parameters for a Pre-Professional Program that serves serious, highly motivated students, whether career-minded or not. A Young Children's Program for preschoolers as well as an Open Program is still in place for 7-year-olds to adults who find joy in dancing but aren't interested in an intensive schedule. The next urgent step for the two artistic leaders was to find teachers whose training, experience and pedagogical sympathies fit the bill. The entirely new ballet faculty in place this season includes Melissa Stafford, Laura Dolid, Katherine Morris, Deborah Robinson and Holly Weary.

The programs this weekend will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 2, and 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, both in Peabody's Friedberg Hall.

Tickets are $12, $6 for senior citizens, children and students with ID. For tickets or additional information call the Peabody box office at 410-659-8100, ext. 2.

The book Balanchine: Celebrating A Life of Dance, recently published by Tidemark Press, will be available for sale. The book focuses on 50 of Balanchine's greatest ballets, each accompanied by personal stories, essays or critiques and photographs. The book includes a section by Barbara Weisberger on Balanchine's masterpiece, Concerto Barocco, as a metaphor for the artist and the man. She will be available during intermission to sign copies. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit Peabody Dance.


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |