Tommie Kesten in The Sleeping Beauty with Lucius Kirst. Rich Sofranko, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre.

2019 Stars of the Corps: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Tommie Kesten

With her shining stage presence and high-kicking moxie, first-year Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre corps member Tommie Kesten is hard to miss. In the company's recent premiere of Jordan Morris' The Great Gatsby, Kesten didn't need her bright green flapper dress to stand out in the corps—her playfulness and easy swagger shone on their own.


Kesten in The Great Gatsby. Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy PBT.

The audience, and PBT leadership, took notice of the young risk-taker, and since then she's been cast as the soloist girl in "Rubies" and Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty. In "Rubies," she bravely danced the role to the edge, and kept the audience on the edge of their seats. It is startling to imagine the artistry that will follow her with more maturity.

A homegrown talent, Kesten studied at Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh before leaving to attend Miami City Ballet School and then Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. Kesten's joie de vivre is entirely authentic. She is named after her brother Tommy, who died before she was born; her other brother Ty passed away in a motocross accident when she was just 15. "Whenever I am onstage, I am always performing for my big brothers in heaven," she says.

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks