Saturday, March 31, 2012

CFB Alumni, JoAnna Schmidt, Talks Life Before and After PBT

After graduating from the Central Florida Ballet Academy in 2010, JoAnna Schmidt immediately joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater Graduate Program on full scholarship. During her two years at PBT, JoAnna trained under Janet Popeleski, Majorie Grundvig, and Dennis Marshall and was even featured in "The Nutcracker" as a Snowflake, Flower, and Shepherdess.

Recently JoAnna had one of the most exciting experiences of her life when she was offered a contract for the 2012-13 season with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. Join us as we speak with Joanna as she revisits her training days at Central Florida Ballet Academy and discusses her new life at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater....

JoAnna Schmidt in class at the Central Florida Ballet Academy. 
Photo By Virginia Trudeau & Deedee Sherman

At what age did you start training at the Central Florida Ballet Academy (CFBA)?
I started taking classes at Central Florida Ballet when I was seven years old.

What are some of your most memorable highlights during your years training at CFBA?
I could write a novel about memorable moments I've had at CFB! I will never forget when Mr. Vasile promised the Level 2 class that if we all got our splits down to the floor, he would demonstrate his own split for us. I remember when he finally did, we all ran over to him and started jumping on him to push him down further. Of course, I could also never forget the first time Mr. Vladimir called me Joni. The first time was an accident, but afterward it became my permanent nickname.

What featured roles did you enjoy dancing the most with the CFB professional company? Getting to dance the role of Maria was my dream since the first year I came to CFB, and I was lucky enough to do it twice! I also loved being a Wili in Giselle.

How was the transition to Pittsburgh? Was it tough to leave your family and friends? How do you keep in contact with them? It was definitely enlightening; I had a lot of growing up to do when I first came to Pittsburgh (still do, of course). It was tough, but I've met so many marvelous people here. Some of my friends and I exchange letters, but mostly I stay in touch over the phone.

What is a typical day in the PBT Graduate Program like?
The days vary a lot. In the morning, we either start at 8 or 9:30 with ballet, modern, or pilates. Then, for the rest of the day, we go back and forth between regular dance classes (partnering, variation, etc) and rehearsals for upcoming performances. The days typically ends somewhere between 3 and 6pm.

What did you learn from CFBA that has helped you at PBT?
One thing I am so thankful I learned at CFB is the ability to pick up choreography quickly. That is so vital, especially when you're competing against other students to get cast in company productions. The director is going to pick the people who learn fast. I miss reversing petite allegro combinations at CFB! Sometimes here in Pittsburgh, I'll reverse the combination in my head, just to make sure I still can!

What surprised you most about training at PBT?
I think the biggest shock was getting used to wearing pointe shoes in ballet class. At first I couldn't stand it, but now I actually prefer wearing pointe shoes!

You took a six month break from dance at age 17 (something many dancers could never start back from). What influenced you to keep dancing? 
The support from my parents was a major factor. Plus, everyone at CFB made me feel so welcome, as if I'd never left. That made it so much easier to come back. I'm sometimes tempted to be ashamed of that part of my life. For me personally, though, the break was necessary. It made realize that ballet is one of the most profound sources of joy I have in my life. It made me realize that I never want to stop dancing now.

What is your dream role to dance at PBT? 
Honestly? PBT has these little bumblebees in The Nutcracker. They just run around with jazz hands in the beginning of the Waltz of the Flowers. It looks like so much fun, but that is one dream role that will probably never come true for me.

Overall, what do you think about your accomplishment of receiving a contract with PBT?  It is an overwhelming honor to have received this contract. I am so thankful for the years I spent at CFB! I believe I wouldn't be where I am now if I had trained elsewhere.

Thank you for the interview JoAnna! Everyone at CFB gives you a big Congratulations on your accomplishment and we wish you all the best in your blossoming career!

For more information on the Central Florida Ballet, visit or Call 407.849.9948.

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