Mt. Lebanon residents have a special reason to celebrate the grand opening of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s (PBT) new Byham Center for Dance at a free community day celebration, 12-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at PBT’s expanded Strip District campus.
The Center is named in honor of Mt. Lebanon residents and philanthropists Bill and Carolyn Byham, Pueblo Drive. The Byhams, longtime and passionate supporters of the ballet, co-chaired the capital campaign for the new 14,000-foot, $8.5 million annex and have been major contributors to this and many other PBT initiatives.
Carolyn, a former Mt. Lebanon Commissioner and, more recently a member of the Mt. Lebanon Planning Board, takes a special interest in the young dancers who come from all over the country to study with PBT, and was instrumental in establishing the Byham House, PBT’s first company-owned student residence. She and Bill, who co-founded DDI and grew it into a global presence, have worked hard for many organizations to introduce young people to the arts. Carolyn was among the founding members and a board chair of Performing Arts for Children, which started in Mt. Lebanon and grew to become the Pittsburgh Children’s Festival.
The new PBT “annex” adjoins the original five-studio facility at 2900 Liberty Avenue and includes two spacious dance studios, an expanded Pilates and Gyrotonic studio, new community dressing rooms and cross-training space. The space will allow PBT to expand the ballet school’s community division for teens and adults, offering programs such as pre-ballet for children to new Pilates, dance cardio and conditioning classes. It also will boost the company’s internationally recognized pre-professional program for students pursuing dance careers.
The free Grand Opening Celebration will feature sample ballet and conditioning classes, performance demos, photo opportunities, food vendors, music and children’s activities as well as opportunities to sit in on company rehearsals, tour the costume shop, meet the artists, learn conditioning tips and get a closer look at tutus, pointe shoes and other tools of the trade.
“We hope guests will discover something new about dance and the many ways we can use movement to inspire and empower ourselves,” says PBT Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr. “For alignment, expression, exercise and coordination, ballet offers incredible benefits for the mind and body. We look forward to inviting in more dancers—whether they are just starting out, returning to it or looking for a place to pursue it on a professional level.”
Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, founded in 1969, now has 30 full-time professional dancers and more than 1,000 students. PBT continues to seek support for a $2 million reserve fund for the building and other campaign priorities, including endowment and innovation funds to support repertory, live music, student scholarships and other artistic objectives that impact PBT audiences from season to season. For more information about the capital campaign, visit www.pbt.org/campaign or call 412-454-9133.