CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

PBT ballet mistress featured in 'American Ballet' display at Smithsonian

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: As a young girl, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre ballet mistress Marianna Tcherkassky used to go on school field trips to the Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

But she never thought that one day she would be a part of what is called “the nation’s attic,” specifically the Museum of American History, which houses a hefty portion of 138 million carefully conserved items preserving our way of life. Ms. Tcherkassky is among the prima ballerinas whose costumes are showcased in the museum’s “American Ballet” display, which is on view through April 29.


Katherine Sharpless said...

It's pretty wild that the whole Smithsonian exhibit featuring only a handful of costumes and designers took a full 10 years to complete. I do wish though that the mentioned designer, May Ishimoto, could have her own exhibit one day- her time in a Japanese internment camp and her influence on ballet across the country was lightly mentioned and an internet search of her name produces less than satisfying results. Also, it'd be great to retell the seemingly interesting story of how a casual conversation let to the "Giselle" costume at the Smithsonian. I also imagine this article on Pittsburgh native Marianna Tcherkassky could promote the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, even though the exhibit seems to focus only on the American Ballet Theatre instead of a range of national institutions. I shouldn't judge though without seeing the exhibit and learning more about American ballet history- and hopefully the dance presence in Pittsburgh and at CMU grows and that education and opportunity is available for designers.

Rebecca Meckler said...

This is such a sweet article. I love the antidote about Marianna Tcherkassky costume for Giselle. It’s amazing how a simple conversation between Tcherkassky and May Ishimoto, though they did know each other before, was what triggered her first custom made costume. I would love to know which designer Ishimoto based the Giselle dress off of and how she felt that is worked for the ballet Giselle. On a different note, I wonder how surprising the connection between Tcherkassky, Verdy, and Copeland is. I would have thought that the ballet world and community would be pretty small. Therefore it would be common for dancers to meet. Though it’s a nice note that Tcherkassky is a connection between Copeland and Very, I wonder if many dancers could have filled the description. Nevertheless, the article is a nice light read. I wish the connection to Pittsburgh had been more apparent, but overall I enjoyed the article.

Claire Krueger said...

At first I was confused to as to why they didn't interview Ishimoto until I read farther and realised she had passed on. I found the curation of these costumes to be wonderful, and while Ishimoto didn't get an exhibit herself at the very least her work can live on past her. Before taking costuming seriously I never noticed just how much costumes travelled around. The fact that costume was worn by so many different people was funny to me seeing how it was a very simple and plain one. I didn't see what the costume looked like until I finished reading the article and I was expecting something absolutely fabulous, with excellent craftsmanship and intense detail. However on further contemplation it makes sense a simple costume, one that can be applied to many characters, is what gets passed and loan around the most. And while it is simple it still shows the wear and yellowing a dress passed around so much would be expected.