Patricia Wilde

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Patrica Lorrain-Ann White

Also Known As: "Patricia Wilde"
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Sister of Nora White

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About Patricia Wilde

http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/november-2013/Dance-Magazine-Award-Spotlight-Patricia-Wilde

Patricia Lorrain-Ann White followed in her sister Nora's footsteps to become a dancer. She was born in Ottawa, Canada, where she and Nora received their early training from Gwendolyn Osborne. At the age of 13, Patricia came to New York and studied with Dorothy Littlefield at the School of American Ballet.

A year or so after her arrival she appeared with the American Concert Ballet, and then joined the Marquis de Cuevas's Ballet International. She accompanied George Balanchine and a small group of dancers to Mexico City in the summer of 1945. They danced with the opera company at the Palaciodes Belles Artes and gave a few all-ballet performances, dancing Les Sylphides, Apollo and Constantia. Upon her return to New York City Patricia White joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Because her sister was already a member of the company she changed her name from White to Wilde.

On opening night she danced as a featured performer in three ballets: Danses Concertantes, Concerto Barocco, and Le Beau Danube. During the next four years she danced in just about every ballet in the Ballet Russe repertoire.

In 1949 Wilde decided to go abroad to study. Roland Petit persuaded her to join his company for its Paris season. She was reunited with Balanchine while performing with the English Metropolitan Ballet. Balanchine lured her back to America to join his New York City Ballet just before their first foreign tour to London and other European cities.

Patricia Wilde remained with the New York City Ballet for many years. She once said, "Those were the years in which Balanchine's company hit its prime. Working from 1950 to 1965 was a beautiful time to be working with Mr. B. You had the feeling that what you were doing there was important; what was going on was marvelous."

Balanchine created many roles for Wilde, including the Highland Girl in Scotch Symphony, the Pas de Trois in Swan Lake, and Glinka Pas de Trois, Square Dance, Waltz-Scherzo, Native Dancers, and Raymonda Variations.

Wilde was an amazingly quick study, and a person who would tackle any job with good-humored audacity. She worked her way through the repertory, leaving her personal mark on each part.

Dance critic Toby Tobias wrote, "Her forte was allegro. She was a terre-à-terre dancer, the girl with the gorgeous jump. She has the fastest feet on the City Center Stage."

It was clarity, that beautiful sharpness in Wilde's dancing that gave it its focus. She had projection and showmanship. She has said that her idea of a good dancer is one who has the ability to hold the audience.

In 1965 Wilde left the New York City Ballet. Balanchine, as always, lost interest in his mature dancers as new young talent emerged.

Patricia Wilde was not unemployed for long. She was invited by Rebecca Harkness to become Director of the new Harkness Ballet School in 1965. Unfortunately Harkness's and Wilde's personalities clashed and Wilde left to look for a more satisfying position. She taught for awhile in Geneva, then in 1969 she became company teacher for American Ballet Theatre. She remained with ABT until 1982, when she left to become the Director of the Pittsburgh Ballet.

(First published July 1998)

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Dancing with New York City Ballet from 1950 to 1965, Patricia Wilde gave iconic performances in many of Balanchine’s greatest ballets. Coming to NYCB from the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, she was well versed in dance theatricality, but was true to Balanchine’s philosophy that personal stamp did not demand excess mannerism. Speed and size, power, grace and graciousness: Her dancing fused all of it. She was brisk, precise, but also rapturous and abandoned. She took risks. “Balanchine loved that I would just go,” she recalls about her jumps in Serenade. “He liked that I really seemed to have a ball doing everything. The more difficult it was, the more I seemed to like it!”

Curious about all forms of dance, Wilde has studied the techniques of Martha Graham and others. After retiring from the ballet stage, she enjoyed distinguished careers as teacher and school and company director. At 85, she continues to teach, to explore, to give of herself freely.

Wilde grew up in the rural outskirts of Ottawa. She and her older sister Nora began taking dance lessons as toddlers. They trained extensively with Gwendolyn Osborne before moving to New York, where they studied at the School of American Ballet. At 16, Wilde danced with Marquis de Cuevas’ Ballet International. Her association with Balanchine began in the summer of 1945, when he took her and a small group of dancers for a residency in Mexico City. There Balanchine created a solo for her in the opera Faust; it was the first of nearly 20 roles he made for Wilde during the next two decades.

Patricia WildeIn the fall of 1945, Wilde joined the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Balanchine was chief choreographer, but she also worked there with Bronislava Nijinska, Léonide Massine, Ruthanna Boris, and Valerie Bettis. In 1949 she spent a year in Paris, studying with Olga Preobrajenska and Nora Kiss, and dancing with Roland Petit’s company. She returned to New York after Balanchine asked her to join NYCB in time for its London debut in July 1950.

Over the next 15 years, Wilde starred with the company at City Center in New York, and on tour across the United States, in Europe, Australia, Japan, and Russia. She brought to life not only Balanchine’s athletic virtuosity, but lyric, dramatic, and mysterious elements in his work. She was acclaimed for her Odette in Balanchine’s one-act Swan Lake, and in the title role of his Firebird. More opportunities to show her range came in William Dollar’s The Duel, and in pieces like Lew Christensen’s comic Con Amore and Boris’ Cakewalk.

In 1965, Wilde resigned from NYCB and became co-director of Harkness House ballet school. “You can always come back,” Balanchine told her, and that’s what she did when her approach did not mesh with Rebekah Harkness’. Wilde taught and coached at NYCB, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet school and the school of American Ballet Theatre. Eventually she worked full-time for ABT. She was ballet mistress in the company, while teaching at its school and eventually directing it.

Wilde became artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in 1982. She added many Balanchine works to their repertoire; while under her direction the company also performed works by Fokine, Tudor, Nijinska, Ashton, Paul Taylor, and the 19th-century classics. She expanded the company’s school, increased performance weeks and dancers’ salaries, and oversaw a new building to house company and school. She nurtured young choreographers, prominent among them Ohad Naharin, and helped develop a Dancers’ Trust to assist company members with life after retirement. She stepped down as PBT director in 1997. Today she travels the country as a guest teacher, most recently at the Colorado Ballet, Ballet Arizona, and Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive. —Joel Lobenthal

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