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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre offers three masterworks by three choreographic giants

Pieces by Robbins, Kylián and Morris are featured

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If Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 45th-anniversary season were wine, it would be a vintage year: Every production is a most desirable bottle, none more so than PBT Premieres, to be performed with the PBT Orchestra, March 6-8 at the Benedum Center.

The program of three masterworks by three choreographic giants ranks among artistic director Terrence Orr's finest offerings in the 18 years he has led the company.

It opens with Jerome Robbins' comedic gem "The Concert (OR, THE PERILS OF EVERYBODY), A Charade in One Act" (1956). Set to music by Chopin, performed live by pianist Yoland Collin, the 26-minute ballet for 21 dancers sends up the concert-going experience. From patron discomforts and the fantasies of a hen-pecked husband to some hilariously absurd bits, the ballet taps into Robbins' experience with comedic vaudeville. "It's a ballet you cannot not enjoy," says Kipling Houston, a répétiteur of the ballet for the Jerome Robbins Foundation, by phone from New York.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Julia Erickson and Robert Moore
  • Photo courtesy of Duane Rieder
  • Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Julia Erickson and Robert Moore in Jiří Kylián's "Petite Mort"

"It's very clever," says second-year company dancer Hannah Carter. At the 8 p.m. performance on March 8, the 23-year-old from Essex, England, dances the role of the "Dingbat," whose every move goes humorously wrong.

Next, the company performs Jί Kylián's "Petite Mort" (1991), one of contemporary ballet's most famous works. The 17-minute ballet for six men, six women and six fencing foils, set to music by Mozart, is an "erotic work," says Roslyn Anderson, rehearsal director for Kylián Productions, who staged the work for PBT. "Petite Mort" ("little death") is a euphemism for orgasm. The dancers wear skimpy, flesh-colored costumes, and the men use the foils as extensions of their manhood, partnering them as they would the women dancers.

"The work has an elegance to it," says Anderson. "There is nothing crude or vulgar about it. The dancing is very subtle, delicate and sensual."

The program will conclude with Mark Morris' "Sandpaper Ballet" (1999), set to music by American composer Leroy Anderson, including his familiar "The Typewriter" and "The Syncopated Clock." Répétiteur Tina Fehlandt, speaking by phone from New York, says that the 30-minute ballet for 25 dancers "is a big, celebratory work" that humorously plays with rhythm.

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