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Photo courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre announced today that former American Ballet Theatre principal Susan Jaffe will succeed Terrence Orr as artistic director of the company, effective July 1. Jaffe becomes PBT's seventh artistic director and only the second female director in the company's history.

Dubbed "America's Quintessential American Ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe comes to PBT after eight years as dean of the dance program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Born and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, Jaffe joined ABT II at age 16. joining ABT's corps de ballet in 1980, at age 18. She was promoted to principal dancer just three years later, and was a company star until her retirement in 2002. Jaffe has held a wide range of teaching and leadership positions since then, and has also choreographed for ballet companies and colleges around the country. She recently launched The Effect of Intention, a series of live and online wellness workshops and audio meditations.

Pointe spoke with Jaffe shortly after receiving the news of being named to her first artistic directorship.

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Teaching Tips
Courtesy of Susan Jaffe

Throughout Susan Jaffe's performance career at American Ballet Theatre, there was something special, even magical, about her dancing. Lauded as "America's quintessential American ballerina" by The New York Times, Jaffe has continued to shine in her postperformance career, most recently as the dean of dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She credits the "magic" to her meditation practice, which she began in the 1990s at the height of her career. We sat down with Jaffe to learn more about her practice and how it has helped her both on and off the stage.

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News
Photo via Unsplash.com

When news about the lawsuit against New York City Ballet and Chase Finlay emerged last week, plaintiff Alexandra Waterbury, a former School of American Ballet student, told The New York Times:

"Every time I see a little girl in a tutu or with her hair in a bun on her way to ballet class, all I can think is that she should run in the other direction," she said, "because no one will protect her, like no one protected me."

It was quite a statement, and it got us thinking. Of course, it's heartbreaking to imagine the experiences that Waterbury lists in the lawsuit, and it's easy to see why this would be her reaction.

But should aspiring ballet dancers really "run in the other direction"? Were her alleged experiences isolated incidences perpetuated by a tiny percentage of just one company—or are they indicative of major problems in today's ballet culture within and beyond NYCB's walls?

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Trending
Photo by Morah Geist, courtesy of Complexions

While studying at ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School as a teenager, Complexions Contemporary Ballet dancer Andrew Brader shared a special moment with Susan Jaffe, who soon became his mentor.

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