Pittsburgh Ballet promotes 2, hires 3 dancers

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The curtain may have just closed on Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 2011-12 program, but the company is already looking ahead to next season with the announcement of two promotions and three new hires.

Artists changing ranks are Christine Schwaner, promoted from soloist to principal, and Amanda Cochrane, a corps de ballet member promoted to soloist.

Ms. Schwaner, a native of Brazil, is entering her seventh season with the troupe and has performed featured roles in such ballets as "Coppelia," "Dracula" and "Sleeping Beauty" during her tenure. Prior to joining PBT, she danced with the Cleveland Ballet.

"She is just a very professional, beautiful dancer," said PBT artistic director Terrence S. Orr. "She is just a really good fit for the kind of repertoire we do."

Ms. Cochrane, of Spokane, Wash., studied at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, among other training and summer programs. Highlights of her repertoire include Tinker Bell in "Peter Pan" and featured roles in "The Nutcracker" and PBT's "Uncommon." This fall will mark her fourth season.

"She has proved herself in every production," Mr. Orr said. "She is a very, very gifted dancer."

The crop of newcomers includes Corey Bourbonniere (training: State Ballet of Rhode Island and Heritage Ballet) of Woonsocket, R.I.; JoAnna Schmidt (training: Academy of The Central Florida Ballet, Miami City Ballet Academy and Bolshoi Ballet Academy) of Mount Dora, Fla.; and Pittsburgh native Casey Taylor (training: Pacific Northwest Ballet, The School of American Ballet and Boston Ballet).

All three have participated in the PBT School Graduate program as well as performed last season in some company productions.

Competitions, performances and professional contacts are all pools for potential new talent, but there are benefits to recruiting from the PBT School student body.

"I can work with the dancers, and I can watch them in class. I can watch them in rehearsal and performances," Mr. Orr said. "It's a big advantage to knowing what and who they are before they join the company."

Company members not returning are corps de ballet dancers Aygul Abougalieva, Ashley Wegmann and Ted Henderson.

The 2012-13 main stage season will open in October with "Giselle" at the Benedum Center, Downtown.


Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com.


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