Twelve girls of the , ages ranging from 7 to 12 years old, performed in “Circus Polka” at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with the New York City Ballet earlier this month.
“Circus Polka” is a ballet set to the music of Igor Stravinsky with choreography by Jerome Robbins.
Marin Busselberg, 7, (the youngest of the girls) was hand-picked by New York City Ballet's Children's Ballet Mistress Garielle Whittle to lead a group of girls in the performance.
Busselberg got one of the few funny moments in “Circus Polka,” when her character breaks from the official line of performers and gets schooled by the ringmaster, narrowly avoiding the crack of his whip.
Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company's artistic director Jean Gedeon is extremely proud of her girls.
“Nineteen years ago, I took a group of five girls up to audition in Saratoga," she said. "The girls went into the audition and never came out. I saw other girls go in come out, some of them crying. I kept thinking my girls are lost or trapped somewhere. Two hours went by and my girls still didn’t come out. I was starting to panic. They were on stage the whole time.
"Finally, Garielle Whittle told me that my girls were among the best—that they were so well-trained. Ever since then (representatives) from the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company have been going to New York."
PYBC teacher Hallie Leach, and her daughter Erin, a student at PYB, went on the three-week trip at the end of June through mid-July.
“The girls went to classes, went to rehearsal and went to see ballets," she said. "For three weeks, Saratoga transforms into a ballet town. All the shops sell ballet-related items. Everyone eats, sleeps and breathes ballet.”
The young girls took classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the older girls took classes Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but everyone went to rehearsal, and some rehearsals lasted anywhere from two to six hours.
“In the three weeks, Erin probably only had two days off, but she loved it," Leach said. "Every girl going up was grateful for this opportunity. The kids learned teamwork, healthy eating and ballet—lots of ballet.”
The girls went to several ballets including “Serenade,” “Dances at a Gathering," “The Magic Flute,” and “Agon,” starring prima ballerina Wendy Whelan.
The girls got to meet Tiler Peck, of the New York City Ballet.
Sydney Borandi, 10, was one of the girls that was starstruck.
“We were on an elevator with Daniel Ulbricht (a principal dancer at the New York Ballet, and former teacher at PYBC)," she said. "He was really nice, but when he got off the elevator and the doors closed. We just all screamed!”
student and PYB dancer Brooke Marynak, 12, said, “It was all very exciting. We learned a lot. It was challenging, but it was so fun!”
The girls said they are grateful for their experience at PYBC, and are bursting with pride.
“Everyone is so encouraging here,” said Lucy Merz, 10.
Aliyah Busselberg, 11, Marin’s slightly older sibling, is one of the many dancers spending July at PYBC.
“We get to do a lot of performing here, and the teachers never give up on us,” said Busselberg.
Busselberg and her sisters are at the school from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
“We’re here every day but Sunday," she said.
“We’re like a family here,” Borandi added.
The dancers who attended the trip to New York were Brooke Marynak of Peters; Tia Watts of Upper St. Clair; Lucy Merz of Squirrel Hill; Rachel Stowe-Nash of Friendship; Sydney Borandi and Madison Miller, both of Bethel Park; Aliyah Busselberg, Marin Busselberg, Autumn Graham, Erin Leach, Grace Millet and Cami McKeever, of Mt. Lebanon.