Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s The Great Gatsby impresses

Griffin Sendek | Features Editor


My theater-going experience began at a young age; I have been to countless plays and musicals, from comedies to dramas, classical Shakespeare to modern experimental projects, but never have I gone to a ballet.

I finally got my chance last Saturday at the premiere of Pittsburgh Ballet Theater’s production of The Great Gatsby at the Benedum Center Downtown.

I had little idea what to expect from a ballet based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel — my attendance was a last minute decision, so I had little time to research any details about the production. In retrospect, I was happier that I walked in with a completely open mind.

As is tradition with ballet, there is no spoken, narrated or sung dialogue. The story is told to the audience entirely through live orchestration and dance.

How a 200-page novel is to be transformed into a ballet and still be a cohesive, understandable story that is also entertaining to watch is no easy task. I was a bit skeptical at how well it was going to be pulled off, but I was proven wrong in the most spectacular fashion.

The challenge was up to artistic director Terrence S. Orr and choreographer Jorden Morris to mold the story of Gatsby to fit the traditions of ballet, and they did so fantastically.

If I had to describe The Great Gatsby in one word, it would be “beautiful.” You can clearly see the numerous hours of work that went into getting this production ready for the public. Every single element of the ballet came together seamlessly and with fantastic results.

The music played by the PBT Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Charles Barker, would have been well worth the admission price alone. The orchestration brought thought, flow, pace, emotion and meaning to the performers dancing. Ballet is a unification of elegant dance and melodious music; one cannot be as captivating or effective without the other. The music fit perfectly with the 1920s setting, all the while guiding the story forward.

I have seen a lot of different dancing throughout my life, but this was by far the best I have seen. Every minute movement, every toe-point, every jump and leap, every twist of the body was choreographed to the point of mistakes being impossible. The performers danced for the entire show, and they did it as if it was effortless; the dancing was utterly flawless.

The leads — Lucius Kirst, William Moore, Luca Sbrizzi and Alexandra Kochis (playing the roles of Jay Gatsby, Tom Buchanan, Nick Carraway and Daisy Buchanan) — all danced like there was no tomorrow. Kochis’ performance was breathtaking as glided across the stage as if she were as light as a feather. Kirst and Moore spun through the air with great power yet perfect elegance and precision. And Sbrizzi, through his movement, embodied the character of Nick Carraway exceedingly well. I can’t fail to mention the ensemble of supporting and minor characters’ excellent dancing. They were another factor that took this show from the fantastic performances of a few to the wondrous spectacle that was The Great Gatsby.

The Great Gatsby at the Benedum Center, being my first exposure to ballet has set the bar high; it will be hard for another ballet to surpass this wonderful experience.

 The show runs until Feb. 17; Tickets are available at