It all started with George Balanchine, one of the greatest choreographers in the history of dance. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, when Balanchine came to the United States he brought with him a burning desire to develop ballet and assure its continued vibrancy through teaching. One of his protégées, Barbara Weisberger, in 1963 founded Pennsylvania Ballet. She shared Balanchine’s devotion to teaching, and dreamed of the day when the professional company and the school of aspiring dancers would work together in harmony. Today this school carries on the traditions that have their roots stretching from St. Petersburg and which are flowering in a beautiful new home, the Louise Reed Center for Dance.
Situated at one corner of Center City Philadelphia’s “Golden Triangle of Culture”, the School of Pennsylvania Ballet is alive and dancing from morning until well past dusk. Led by Director Arantxa Ochoa, one of the most celebrated ballerinas in the history of Pennsylvania Ballet, the school’s mission is to provide the highest quality dance education by fostering artistic and technical excellence while preparing students for careers as professional dancers.
With teachers drawn from among the dancers in the Pennsylvania Ballet’s company and elsewhere, the School of Pennsylvania Ballet believes in the empowering forces of energy and compassion. The School and all its teachers strive to create a nurturing environment that fosters a positive learning experience. Through a carefully graded curriculum, we accommodate a natural progression of skill development from the earliest levels of training to the elite performer. Our students receive intensive instruction in each of the classical disciplines: classical ballet technique, pointe work, partnering, men’s classes and variations. To further assist in their studies, students are provided additional classes in modern dance, music, and Pilates. All ballet classes (except for Pre-Ballet) are accompanied by a live pianist.
The goal of the teachers at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet is to enable every student to achieve his or her goals as a dancer. We know that our students have a genuine passion for this art form, and we treasure the dedication that they bring to the studio every day. We also believe that the passion, commitment and joy of dance will spill over into all aspects of the lives of our students. Dancers are good people who have infectious enthusiasm coupled with rock-hard discipline. They are gifted, engaged individuals who understand the value of work and patience.
The School of Pennsylvania Ballet has the unparalleled advantage of a close affiliation with the world-renowned Pennsylvania Ballet. There is an ineffable feeling of promise and excitement in taking classes from members of the Pennsylvania Ballet company. In addition, students in the School have opportunities to perform (and get paid!) in professional productions with the Company. Each year an average of 100 students are selected exclusively from the School to appear with the Pennsylvania Ballet in its annual holiday production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™. From time to time, other productions (such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream) draw on students from the school.
A full school year runs for 35 weeks, starting in September and ending in June. There are seven levels of training in the Student Division in addition to Pre-Ballet classes for students ages 5 to 7. There is no audition requirement for Pre-Ballet (see next section for more information on Pre-Ballet) but all new students (ages 8-19) attend a placement class so artistic staff may determine the level of study appropriate to their abilities. General auditions take place periodically throughout the year. If you are unable to attend one of the auditions scheduled, we are happy to organize an individual placement class.
Attracting students from around the United States and Canada, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet also holds an annual five-week summer course and a week of a ‘Company Experience’. Students are admitted through auditions, which are scheduled in cities around the United States in January and February of each year.
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