Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School directors kick off nation-wide audition tour

The Shaker

PITTSBURGH, PA (January 2013) – Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School  – the official training institution of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre – kicks off a nation-wide audition tour this weekend for its 2014 Intensive Summer Program, an immersive five-week training program held at PBT Studios in the Strip District for professional-track student dancers.

As part of the 2014 audition tour, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall and School Principal Janet Popeleski will hold auditions in 26 cities and 15 states to bring young dance talent to Pittsburgh. The team selects students from each audition to attend the school’s five-week Intensive Summer Program, which will be held June 23, through July 26, 2014 at PBT Studios in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The U.S. audition tour concludes in Pittsburgh on February 16, with registration beginning at 1 p.m. and the audition at 1:30 p.m. at PBT Studios, 2900 Liberty Ave.

The PBT School ISP is a five-week program of diverse dance curriculum, including ballet technique, partnering, pointe and repertoire as well as jazz, modern and character dance. Under the direction of PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall, ISP includes instruction by PBT School faculty, PBT company artists and prominent guest instructors. ISP students attend classes six days a week, including seminars and workshops focused on nutrition, choreography, injury prevention and the psychology of dance. PBT School’s ISP is designed to instill long-term value for the art form through the study of diverse techniques that adapt well to the demands of professional ballet companies.

The nation-wide audition tour draws more than 700 candidates from around the country who are interested in studying dance in Pittsburgh. Each year, the audition tour also sees a number of international students, who are invited to audition by video. Past ISP students have represented countries including, Australia, Brazil, China, Canada, France, Italy, Guam, Japan and Mexico.  Recent years have also seen a surge in participation from Japanese students as a result of Mr. Marshall’s involvement with the annual Japan Grand Prix ballet competition, where he serves on an international panel of judges.

PBT School brings an average of 175 students to Pittsburgh each summer to participate in the five-week Intensive Summer Program, which culminates in a performance of repertoire classics and student-choreographed works at PBT Studios. Following the summer program, many ISP students return to PBT School to continue their training during the regular school year. PBT School’s current 2013-2014 enrollment includes 61 out-of-state students and 14 international students, who have relocated to Pittsburgh to enroll in the full-time High School and Graduate programs of PBT School’s Pre-Professional Division.

About the 2014 Intensive Summer Program

The 2014 Intensive Summer Program takes place June 23, to July 26, at PBT Studios, 2900 Liberty Ave., in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.  Find the complete list of audition tour sites and dates at http://www.pbt.org/pittsburgh-ballet-theatre-school/audition-tour. Directed by PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall, ISP includes instruction by prominent PBT faculty members and accomplished guest instructors.  Faculty members at the Intensive Summer Program include: PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr, PBT School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall, PBT School Principal Janet Popeleski and Pollyanna Ribeiro among others. The Intensive Summer Program also features guest instructors, including: PBT Ballet Master Steven Annegarn; PBT Ballet Mistress Marianna Tcherkassky; former PBT Artistic Director Patricia Wilde; current PBT Company Dancers Nurlan Abougaliev, Christopher Budzynski, Alexandra Kochis, Robert Moore, Christine Schwaner; and other notable guests from around the world, including:  Carrie and Li Chou Cheng, Reina Gen, Mireille Leterrier, Gyula Pandi, Viktor Plotnikov, and Larissa Ponomarenko.

As part of the ISP curriculum, various enrichment seminars will be offered on topics, including stress management, dance psychology, nutrition and injury prevention. The roster of ISP 2014 seminar presenters will include: Leslie Bonci (M.P.H., R.D., LDN, CSSD, Director of Sports Nutrition at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine), Antoine Douaihy (M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine Services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and WPIC Inpatient Dual Diagnosis Unit), and Kathleen Nachazel (ATC, Assistant Director, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine).

Supervised room and board accommodations for students are available at Fickes and Woodland Halls on the beautiful campus of Chatham University as well as PBT’s own student residence, Byham House. The Byham House, which can accommodate up to 21 students, occupies three floors in a historic 7,000-square-foot property located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, less than one mile away from PBT Studios.

Audition Guidelines

The auditions and program are open to male and female ballet dancers 12 and older. For additional details about audition requirements and dates, please visit www.pbt.org.

PBT School to Offer New “Company Experience” Workshop
New to the summer curriculum this year, PBT School also will offer a new, two-week “Company Experience” workshop from June 9-20, at PBT Studios, 2900 Liberty Ave. The workshop will offer aspiring professional dancers, ages 16 and up, the opportunity to work with company dancers in a professional setting. Students will learn choreography and repertoire from PBT company dancers, artistic staff and choreographers, and learn more about the dynamics of dancing with a professional ballet company. Workshop faculty members will include PBT principal dancers Julia Erickson, Christopher Budzynski and Alexandra Kochis as well as a number of other company dancers and artistic staff. For more information, or to submit a pre-application form, visit http://www.pbt.org/company-experience.

About Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School

As the official training institution of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School is recognized as one of the nation’s finest schools for dance education and training. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall, PBT School offers classical ballet training and a diverse dance curriculum to approximately 1,000 students of all ages, levels and degrees of interest taught by faculty and guest teachers of international acclaim. Strengthened by daily exposure to PBT’s professional company of dancers, PBT School provides dance training through Children’s, Student, Pre-Professional and Adult Open divisions.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Presents “Swan Lake” Valentine’s Day Weekend at the Benedum Center

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PITTSBURGH, PA – Ranked among the most iconic classical ballets of all time, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents the mesmerizing love story of “Swan Lake” with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra over Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 13-16, at the Benedum Center.

“Swan Lake” symbolizes more than 100 years of tradition and some of the most revered roles in classical ballet. In a performance of emotional intensity and technical mastery, the ballerina portrays both eternal love and deception in the coveted dual role of the Swan Queen, Odette, and her dark twin, Odile. Since its 1877 premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, ballet companies all over the world have developed their own interpretations of the traditionally four-act ballet and its dramatic ending. PBT’s version of “Swan Lake” is staged by Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr after original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. The ballet is set to one of Tchaikovsky’s most memorable masterworks – and his first original ballet composition – featuring the evocative Swan theme.

WATCH/LISTEN: ‘Burgh Vivant interview with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director, Terrence S. Orr

“Swan Lake” tells the story of a young village girl trapped in a curse by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. Bound by day as the Queen of the Swans, she returns to her human form only after nightfall, when she first encounters Prince Siegfried near the enchanted lake during a hunting expedition. Prince Siegfried soon falls in love with the beautiful Odette, but can only set her free by pledging his eternal love and fidelity. In order to thwart the lovers, Von Rothbart transforms his daughter Odile into the dark double of Odette to deceive Prince Siegfried at the royal ball. Performed by the same dancer, the character of Odette/Odile demands great technical and emotional range to morph from the pureness and fragility of Odette to the darkness and deception of Odile.

Ranging from the ornamentation of the court to the lyricism of the Swan scenes, the choreography of “Swan Lake” especially showcases the technical prowess of the ballerina through virtuosity of the Swan Queen, the intricate variations of the Cygnets and the lyrical unification of the corps de ballet. “Swan Lake” features its own signature movement vocabulary, such as the undulating port de bras of the White Swan and the Black Swan’s famous 32 fouettés – consecutive quick turns considered to be one of the highest feats of virtuosity, stamina and strength demanded of a ballerina. The expressive choreography of the Swan Scenes sets one of ballet’s highest standards for the corps de ballet, which moves as one entity with lyrical movements that create images of a swan’s wings, necks and mannerisms.

Danced in four acts, “Swan Lake” alternates between the lavish scenery of The Great Palace and the moonlit Swan Scenes near the enchanted lake. The costumes also vary from the elaborate robes and gowns of the courtesans to the ethereal aura of the swans, which are set apart with pure white, feather-trimmed classical tutus. Created after designs by Peter Farmer, PBT’s “Swan Lake” costumes were built in the PBT Costume Shop under the direction of Costumier Janet Groom Campbell, who celebrates her 40th anniversary with PBT this season.

Tickets start at $25.75, and can be purchased online at www.pbt.org, by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting the Box Office at Theater Square.

Pgh Ballet Theatre to receive $1million in Commonwealth Economic Growth Funding

The Shaker
Funding to Advance Construction of New Building at PBT’s Strip District Campus

PITTSBURGH, PA – As part of Pennsylvania’s 2013 Economic Growth Initiative grants, Governor Tom Corbett announced today that Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will receive $1 million to fund the construction of a new annex building at the company’s Strip District campus.

WATCH, LISTEN:  ‘Burgh Vivant interview with PBT Artistic Director, Terrence Orr
The $1 million Economic Growth grant will bring PBT to 43% of its total $14 million goal for the PBT School Expansion Project, a four-phase plan to accommodate rising enrollment trends in the company’s official training institution. The grant will advance the fourth phase of the project this spring when PBT breaks ground at its recently-purchased adjoining lot – 2930 Liberty Ave.  – to begin significant site improvements, including leveling and retaining projects, for the future footprint of the annex building. Under Phase IV, PBT will construct a 17,000 square foot building, which will house three new dance studios to expand PBT School’s four training divisions, grow community-based programs and generate at least 13 permanent artistic and administrative jobs. PBT has retained IKM Architects, which has developed a preliminary design for the $10 million Phase IV building project based on input from stakeholders.

With a total enrollment of 1,000 students across its Children’s, Student, Pre-Professional and Adult divisions, PBT School conducts classes six days a week at PBT Studios in the Strip District, which sees more than 2,000 weekly visits from employee, student and family commuters through the school and company. In the past five years, PBT School has increased Children’s Division enrollment by 92 percent while Student Division enrollment has grown by 53 percent in the past two years. Overall, the new building would allow PBT School to increase enrollment by nearly 60 percent to 1,590 students.

The Economic Growth Initiative program provides grants to local communities for the construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical improvement projects. PBT’s School Expansion project is among 58 projects state-wide to receive Commonwealth funding through the program.  PBT has raised $6 million to date for the four-phase project, and will be matching the RACP award at a ratio of at least 4 to 1 through other funding sources.

“In addition to our full-time company dancers, a significant number of PBT School students from around the country and world move to Pittsburgh to take part in our training program. This new space will allow us to continue accepting and recruiting the next generation of professional dancers to Pittsburgh, and it will also help us to broaden our community programs to increase accessibility to the art form,” said PBT Executive Director Harris Ferris. “We see this surge in enrollment as promising not only for the future of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, but also as a positive trend for the city’s thriving cultural community. Our full-time artists and professional-track students not only make Pittsburgh their home, but they also bring hundreds of friends and family members to the city each year to contribute to the downtown and Strip District economies while visiting Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.”

PBT launched its four-phase School Expansion Plan in 2009 with the opening of PBT School’s first student residence, Byham House, which houses up to 21 full-time Pre-Professional Division students and helps to draw aspiring young dancers to Pittsburgh each year. Phase I also included the installation of five new Harlequin floors in the PBT Studios to benefit the safety and health of PBT company and student dancers. In 2012, PBT completed Phase II by opening a renovated lobby with expanded family waiting areas and student study space to accommodate rising enrollment and the need for more public space in the building.  Also in 2012, PBT purchased its neighboring lot at 2930 Liberty Avenue, increased its campus footprint to 60,000 square feet and constructed a new parking lot to improve traffic flow and reduce the need for families and students to cross traffic-heavy Liberty Avenue from PBT’s overflow parking lot. The new building will mark the fourth and final phase in the PBT School Expansion Project.

In addition to PBT School, the PBT’s Strip District Studios currently house five fully-equipped studios for PBT’s professional company of 29 full-time dancers – including eight international dancers – who live and work in Pittsburgh year-round. Throughout the season, PBT also hosts a number of community engagement events at the Studios for patrons, educators, community organizations and supporters.

PBT School’s 2013-2014 enrollment includes 61 out-of-state students and 14 international students, who have relocated to Pittsburgh to enroll in the full-time high school and graduate programs of PBT School’s Pre-Professional Division. In addition to the regular school year, PBT School brings 165 to 200 students to Pittsburgh each summer to participate in its five-week Intensive Summer Program, an immersive training program taught by PBT faculty and prominent guest artists.

About Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is a community based and internationally recognized professional ballet company that performs traditional and contemporary ballets and develops innovative 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’s 2013-2014 Season continues with Swan Lake with the Orchestra, Feb. 13-16 at the Benedum Center; 3×3, March 7-16, at the August Wilson Center; and Don Quixote with the Orchestra, April 11-13, at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at $25.75 and are available online at www.pbt.org, by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting the Box Office at Theater Square.

About Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School
As the official training institution of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School is recognized as one of the nation’s finest schools for dance education and training. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr and School Directors Marjorie Grundvig and Dennis Marshall, PBT School offers classical ballet training and a diverse dance curriculum to more than 1,000 students of all ages, levels and degrees of interest taught by faculty and guest teachers of international acclaim. Strengthened by daily exposure to PBT’s professional company of dancers, PBT School provides dance training through Children’s, Student, Pre-Professional and Adult Open divisions.



Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Premieres First-Ever, Autism-Friendly Performance of “The Nutcracker”

The Shaker

PITTSBURGH, PA – Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is preparing to premiere its autism-friendly production of The Nutcracker, the first production by a professional U.S. ballet company to make the magic of the holiday classic accessible to children on the autism spectrum and their families. The autism-friendly performance will take place at 2 p.m. Friday, December 27, 2013 at the Benedum Center.

“The Nutcracker is a holiday staple in ballet companies across the country and an annual tradition for many families here in Pittsburgh, so we are particularly excited to pilot this program with a timeless story that reaches so many people year after year,” said PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. “With this special performance, we want families to know that we are performing with them in mind and welcome them to experience this production in a comfortable and inclusive atmosphere.”

For the autism-friendly performance, the entire theater will be reserved for families with individuals on the autism spectrum – and others with intellectual or developmental disabilities – to create a fully supportive audience environment. Autism-friendly accommodations will include designated quiet areas and activity stations in the lobby, relaxed house rules, adjustments to potentially startling light, sound and special effects and opportunities for families and children to familiarize themselves with the production in advance. Throughout the performance, the house lights will remain dimly lit and audience members will be free to come and go from their seats as needed. In advance of the performance, PBT will distribute online an illustrated guide, or social story, to walk audience members through the theater experience from the layout  of the Benedum Center to the characters, scenery and music of  The Nutcracker production.

“This is a performance where families can come as they are and be who they are. Whether they are looking for a new artistic experience, bonding time with their family, or simply an escape into a magical world, we can offer all of that through this performance, “said PBT Education Director Alyssa Herzog Melby, who heads Accessibility Initiatives at PBT. “We hope that we can become a model for other ballet companies across the country to open their doors to people on the autism spectrum, sharing the beauty of what we do with all people in our community.”

Autism Spectrum Disorders affect 1 in 88 children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The effects of autism are unique to every individual, though ASD characterizations usually include difficulties with social interaction and communication.  Many children with autism have sensory sensitivities in response to sounds or sights, which is one of the focused areas of adaptation for autism-friendly productions.

Although autism-friendly productions have begun to establish a foothold in the theater world, autism-friendly performances are relatively new to ballet. This year, for example, New Jersey Ballet presented an autism-friendly version of Pinocchio; but, to date, no other U.S. ballet company has presented an autism-friendly version of The Nutcracker.

“Very few times in our careers as dancers will we get the chance to do something this important. The autism-friendly performance will be one of those defining moments for me,” said PBT Dancer Stephen Hadala, who has performed in all 11 seasons of Terrence S. Orr’s The Nutcracker. “This performance gives us an opportunity to use our art form to do something for the community, and it’s exciting to be able to share ballet with children who might not ordinarily experience a production.”

In order to adapt the ballet, PBT worked with a focus group represented by local autism advocacy groups – including Autism Speaks of Greater Pittsburgh and ABOARD’s Autism Connection of Pennsylvania – parents of children with autism and individuals on the autism spectrum. After watching the production and learning about the characters, music and scenery, the group submitted recommendations to adapt the production to viewers on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities.

PBT also looked to other organizations as models, including the Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Theatre Initiative, which presented the first autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show in October 2011 with Disney’s musical The Lion King. PBT thanks TDF’s Autism Theatre Initiative for serving as an advisor during the planning process. Locally, PBT acknowledges The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for its leadership in establishing best practices and providing Benedum Center staff training for autism-friendly performances. Funding support for PBT’s autism-friendly production of The Nutcracker comes from the Edith L. Trees Foundation, Giant Eagle, Pitt Ohio, The Children’s Institute, and FISA Foundation.


Tickets for the autism-friendly performance are available at a discounted rate to families with members on the autism spectrum. For more information about tickets, please call 412-454-9107 or visit www.pbt.org.

Featuring more than 200 costumes, 100 colorful characters and Pittsburgh-inspired set design, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s grand-scale production of “The Nutcracker” illuminates the holiday season Dec. 6-29, at the Benedum Center. Tickets start at $25.75, and can be purchased online at www.pbt.org, by calling 412-456-6666 or visiting the Box Office at Theater Square.


The autism-friendly performance fits into PBT’s overarching Accessibility Initiative, which made several significant strides during the 2012-2013 Season. 2012-2013 accessibility accomplishments included the introduction of PBT’s Audio Description for Dance program, large-print and braille programs and other accommodations for people with visual impairments and special needs. For more information about Accessibility at PBT, please visit www.pbt.org/plan-your-visit/accessibility.

TERRENCE ORR – Artistic Director, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Christmastime just wouldn’t be the same in Pittsburgh without THE NUTCRACKER, performing at the Benedum Center Dec. 6th through 29th.  Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director Terrence Orr discusses the details he’s crafted into this particular production that will have Pittsburghers coming to see it again and again.  Host Brian Edward delves into the dynamic director’s career to learn how it began, and the discipline it takes to succeed in ballet – past and present.  Listen to “The Full Martini” – the complete, unedited interview in audio podcast for more insight on the ballet industry, the evolution of The Nutcracker, and Brian Edward as…King Rat??  Nutcracker photography by Rich Sofranko. Continue reading “TERRENCE ORR – Artistic Director, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre”

TERRENCE ORR - Artistic Director, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

LEG UP! Express Burlesque entertains at Off The Wall

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– Sexy, alluring and energetic describe the dancers in Express Burlesque, the first production of the newly formed (January 2013) Red City Live Entertainment. The four young dancers are all beautiful in their scant, but tasteful costumes. Picture lots of sequins, fringe, ruffles and high heeled boots. Oo, la, la!!

Jason Scattaregia, a gifted drummer, added live drum rhythms to the diverse, engaging pre-recorded music.  This throbbing, driving series of beats accentuated  perfectly the dancers moves which were sometimes sensual, sometimes teasing or tongue-in-cheek and even acrobatic. The music encompassed pieces from Bette Midler, Eartha Kitt, The Police and Led Zepplin, and Tchaikovsky-just to name a few. The bulk of the contemporary choreography was done by Elisa Alaio (Point Park grad) and some numbers were choreographed by Sean Van Der Wilt of Los Angeles.  Sean has performed with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Beyonce.  The pieces were great fun to watch.  The audience could never be sure of what to expect.  There were hints of the Charleston, Can- Can and even a little of the Funky Chicken.

Each of the dancers, Brittany Marsicek, Cammi Nevarez, Allie Bath and Jada Paladino is a dance major at Point Park University. Each of them is amazing in their flexibility, style, stage presence and their mastery of dancing skills.

In the Christmas finale of the show Samuel Mancini,  Season 5 of NBC’s, THE VOICE sang a beautiful rendition of All I Want for Christmas. All I want for Christmas is the chance to see more live entertainment that is this enjoyable.

Susie Dohmlo, who formerly danced for Brockett Productions, and Reid Gustin are the producers of Red City Live. I congratulate them on a successful first production. Susie says that their next production is scheduled to open in April. She’s not giving away any of the details, not even a hint of what we should expect. That certainly piques my curiosity!

Express Burlesque is playing at the intimate Off The Wall theater in Carnegie, tonight, November 23 and next weekend 11/29 and 11/30.

– Lonnie the Theatre Lady

Boys and girls: today’s word is BURLESQUE

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“Express Burlesque” presented by RED City Live Entertainment opens its holiday show at Off The Wall Theatre this weekend, and its the perfect opportunity for you to check and balance any preconceived notion you may have of this delightful art form.

You hear the word “burlesque.”  What’s the first thing that comes to mind?  If you said “pasties and a g-string, beer and a shot, Portland through a shotglass and a buffalo squeeze,” (or any derivative thereof), congrats – you’re in good company with most Americans.  But the art of Burlesque is more than skin deep.

First, let us consult Websters:

burlesque:  noun.  a literary or dramatic work that seeks to ridicule by means of grotesque exaggeration or comic imitation.

The word itself actually comes from the Italian “burla,” which is a joke or a mockery.

Burlesque is not pornographic.  So – how do we get from enjoying a comic imitation to the notion that we might not want to be seen exiting the building?  First, let’s accept that, as in the maligning of most things inherently enjoyable by human nature, religion is the number one party pooper.  If you liked it, you should be ashamed of yourself.  This considered, we can proceed.  “Burlesque,” as it was bandied about in the Victorian era, was a general term referring to theatre.  And what is theater but a portrayal, often sensational and exaggerated, of life?  The term even found itself applied to music, in compositions that perhaps had a self-aware sense of humor about themselves.

America has a knack for Americanizing things, and burlesque was spared no treatment.  As vaudeville theatre became prevalent throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, featuring comedy acts, clowns, jugglers, singers, oddities, etc., the term “burlesque” was applied, differentiating it from “legitimate” theatre such as Shakespeare – which, ironically, was itself considered burlesque in its time and country of origin.  There was nothing dirty or shameful about it, and nobody was getting naked.  But at some point along the way, burlesque picked up the strip-tease.  This is a term that gets maligned as well.  A true burlesque striptease is a work of art.  It may actually be the closest tidbit of Americana to the highly respected Geisha culture of Japan.  Its all about the build-up, never the reveal.  The essence of the art is in what you don’t see rather than what you do see.  It is a dance – it is a performance.  Consider the alternative.  In my mind, the direct foil is Zorro, the Baltimore stripper often and fondly recalled by John Waters in his stage show “This Filthy World,” who “just walked out nude,” leaving nothing to the imagination, nor to artistic interpretation.  Bear in mind, burlesque shows were variety shows, and this dance was a welcome shift from the tap-dancing bowling pin juggler who had just taken his bow.  Don’t want to feel guilty about enjoying a true burlesque strip-tease?  Think of it as a “costume ballet.”  And this ballet fit within the parameters of burlesque, because it was entertainment.  An exaggeration, perhaps, of femininity itself.

I had to face the disconnect head on when in 2005, I began touring a musical comedy cabaret that I had written and produced entitled “Amish Burlesque.”  Insert chuckle.  Because the name itself is the very essence of burlesque.  A parody, a mockery.  The comedic formula is perfectly summed up in the opening number, during which the lead female (Goody Plenty), in black dress and white bonnet, enters to the tune of David Rose’s “The Stripper,” expressionless, takes off her sock, twirls it in the air, and shows off a bare ankle.  The show plays with your expectations by taking something that would typically not be thought of as sexy and funny, and treating it as if it were sexy and funny.  Really, the joke is on you.  Still, there were a few people who thought that, given the title, they’d see Amish ladies flashing their pumpkins.  Hey – if they bought a ticket, I was thrilled.  But the misconception was present.  In some ways, we used it to our advantage in promoting the show: “Girls Gone Mild!,” “The Cleanest Dirty Show in Town!,” etc.  The fact that the preconceived notion of burlesque could be comedically manipulated in such a manner speaks to how we’ve mislabeled this art form.

Is it cheeky?  Absolutely.  Is it risque?  Sometimes.  But its 2013.  A billowing dress and parasol is not going to go over the same way it did in 1902.  RED City gets this.  Express Burlesque combines an old burlesque feel with a provocative, yet classy, modern twist.  So enjoy!  And be thrilled that “burlesque is back!”  (That sounds nice to say with the alliteration and all, but truly, burlesque never went away).  This is a great chance to let your hair down and be entertained, and if you’ve never been to Off the Wall Theatre in Carnegie, what better occasion could there be?  You’ll find that the space is perfectly suited for a dance review of this kind, as well as the top-notch professional theatre that Off the Wall is turning out in its annual season.  So have a look.  The show runs through November 30th, and in fact, this may be the perfect night out for the crazy nut-ball family you’ll be spending Thanksgiving with.  Imagine the conversations you’ll have over leftover turkey.  “Leg” puns are already springing to mind.  Get your tickets here:  http://www.showclix.com/event/3783798   You’ll find that burlesque is a great deal more than just “showin’ your shimmy.”

– Brian Edward


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