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December 28, 2020

Pennsylvania Ballet founder Barbara Weisberger dies at 94

Philly company reflects on 'pioneer' who led rise to world recognition

Obituaries Ballet
Barbara Weisberger Ballet Pennsylvania Ballet/Facebook

Barbara Weisberger, founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet, was a student and protege of famed choreographer George Balanchine, many of whose famous works were produced by her company in Philadelphia and remain in the organization's cycle.

Pennsylvania Ballet founder and longtime trustee Barbara Weisberger died last week at 94 years old, the Philadelphia-based organization confirmed Monday.

Weisberger was a protege of choreographer and New York City ballet co-founder George Balanchine, who was considered the father of American ballet. He encouraged Weisberger to establish a company in Philadelphia, where she launched the Pennsylvania Ballet with help from a Ford Foundation grant in 1963.

"Mrs. Weisberger was a true visionary, a natural leader and a perpetually creative artist," the Pennsylvania Ballet said in a statement on Facebook. "A pioneer of every important movement in American ballet, Mrs. Weisberger was a remarkable force and we are forever grateful for the indelible impact she made on our art form. The Pennsylvania Ballet is the world-renowned institution it is today because of Mrs. Weisberger’s artistic courage and fortitude."

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Barbara Weisberger, founder of Pennsylvania Ballet, passed away on...

Posted by Pennsylvania Ballet on Monday, December 28, 2020

Weisberger led the Pennsylvania Ballet for 20 years before leaving in the early 1990s amid internal conflicts and a dire financial picture for the company.

Over the past 20 years, the Pennsylvania Ballet has regained its financial footing and popularity. Weisberger, who became an honorary trustee after her departure, helped welcome the company into its new Louise Reed Center for Dance for its 50th season in 2013.

Weisberger is survived by her daughter, son, three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

"We send our deepest condolences to the family, friends and fans of Mrs. Weisberger," the company said Monday. "The Pennsylvania Ballet will dance on in Barbara Weisberger’s memory forever."