Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre recruits 5 new dancers for 2014-15 season

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Recruiting new dancers for a ballet company isn’t an exact science. Instead, it’s about finding those with skill and soul at the right time, says Terrence Orr, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s artistic director.

Five dancers who possess this package of traits will join PBT’s corps de ballet for the 2014-15 season and will make their debut at the annual free “Ballet Under the Stars” performance to be held outdoors Sunday at Hartwood Acres, Hampton.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 'Ballet Under the Stars'

Where: Hartwood Acres, Hampton.

When: 5 p.m. picnic dinner, 5-7 p.m. free pre-performance children's activities (crafts, balloon animals, ballerina dress-up, food trucks and more) and 7:30 p.m. free public performance ("In Your Eyes" by Viktor Plotnikov, "The Sleeping Beauty" pas de deux by Marius Petipa and "Don Quixote" divertisement by Mr. Petipa and Alexander Gorsky.

Tickets: The picnic dinner is $75 per adult and $20 per child (or $30 for two). Children younger than 12 are free. Register at www.pbt.org or 412-454-9138.

Three of the new hires -- Masahiro Haneji, Michaela King and Marisa Grywalski -- come from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s graduate program. Lucius Kirst and Jake Unger hail from Ballet San Jose and Houston Ballet II, respectively.

Mr. Haneji is a native of Japan who trained with the Houston Ballet Academy and Houston Ballet II before coming to the PBT School. He’s competed in a number of international ballet competitions, recently earning a bronze in the World Ballet Competition’s pas de deux category.

“He’s done really beautifully,” says Mr. Orr, adding that he has tackled a lot of leads in the graduate program.

Mr. Orr also has worked closely the past couple of years with Ms. Grywalski, whom he considers “a phenomenal talent coming into the company.” The Columbus, Ohio, native has danced in several main-stage productions, including “Swan Lake” and “Giselle,” and previously trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and Houston Ballet Academy.

Ms. King likely will delay her PBT debut due to a foot problem but brings a mix of experience from PBT main-stage productions and training she’s received at the Chautauqua Institution, The Rock School, Carolina Ballet and Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell. She grew up in North Carolina.

“I work with the school a lot, especially with the grads. I get a chance to know them,” Mr. Orr says. “It’s nice to be able to know that I have people who have the caliber to join the company.”

He also makes an effort to spend time with newcomers to the PBT family to not only ensure that they have the technical chops but also a personality that will gel with the other dancers.

“We have a very nice company. They’re very supportive of each other,” he says. “I’d like to keep it that way.”

Mr. Orr was looking to add some taller male dancers, with some being about six feet in height. Mr. Kirst has danced with Ballet San Jose’s corps de ballet since 2012 and studied at Marin Ballet in California, City Ballet School in San Francisco and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre in New York City. He also danced with the American Ballet Theatre studio company. Mr. Unger worked with the second company of Houston Ballet. Previously he trained at California Dance Academy, the Colburn School professional training program, Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet and Houston Ballet Academy, along with several summer dance intensive programs.

Although new dancers typically join only once a year, the search process extends year-round. Mr. Orr regularly receives inquiries about openings and reviews audition tapes, as well as keeps an eye on dancers at the PBT School and competitive dance circuits. Dancers often are drawn to PBT for similar reasons.

“The big thing is probably the repertoire,” he says. “They look at it and say, ’I want to be part of that company.’”

Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

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