Dance Circle lecture, dinner celebrate McBride’s honor

BRIA GRANVILLE | Staff PhotographerPatricia McBride, former principal ballerina with the New York City Ballet, speaks with guests during a dinner in her honor held Thursday at the President’s Cottage. McBride, now a master teacher with Chautauqua Dance, was one of five recipients of the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors. .

Flashback to 1973, an article with the headline “Stars of New York City Ballet to dance in Chautauqua Amphitheater,” appears in the Chautauquan. 

The article described Master Teacher of the Chautauqua Dance program, Patricia McBride, as “the most exciting ballerina in America.” Forty-two years later, McBride is still being celebrated at Chautauqua Institution. On Thursday night, members of the community gathered at President Tom Becker’s cottage to celebrate McBride’s recent Kennedy Center Honor. The Chautauqua Dance Circle sponsored the event.

McBride said being a Kennedy Center Honor recipient was a surprise and honor. Very few dancers receive the award, so she said she felt like she was representing dance as a whole and, by extension, showing that dancers are just as important as movie stars.

That weekend at the Kennedy Center is one that McBride said she will never forget. She got the chance to spend time with the other honorees and their families and meet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“I thought the celebrities would play such big stars, but they weren’t,” she said. “They were down to earth and really nice.”

The Charlotte Ballet performed the finale of Who Cares? with members of the New York City ballet such as Tiler Peck and Lauren Lovette, a former student at Chautauqua.

“We were excited to not only get to perform with them [NYC Ballet] but also to get to spend a few days with them too,” said Alessandra Ball, a dancer with the Charlotte Ballet who has been working with McBride for almost 10 years.

McBride said that the best part about the weekend was sharing the experience with her children and husband, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux.

“It was a memory for a lifetime,” she said.

Ball said she loved watching McBride through the whole process.

“When they first told us that Patti was receiving a Kennedy Center honor, I saw this new light in her eyes,” Ball said.

At Thursday night’s dinner, photos of McBride and Bonnefoux at various stages of their careers filled the room showing their transition from dancers to teachers and leaders in the dance community.

While most of the world knows McBride as a Balanchine dancer, in Charlotte and Chautauqua, she is known for her teaching and coaching ability — as well as her love for her students.

“She highlights the finest quality of the artistic staff at this Institution and the best expression of humanity in this community,” Becker said.

It is McBride’s generosity and kindness is something that her dancers and the community admire most.

“Her gift to this place is not only her art and her discipline but also her deep deep kindness and humanity,” Becker said.

Ball said working with McBride on “Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux” was a pivotal moment in her dance career. It changed the way she used her arms and her musicality. But it also taught her more about being an artist.

“I love working with Patti because she really wants to bring the best out of the individual and she isn’t trying to make a dancer look a certain way or make them look exactly like her,” Ball said.

McBride’s celebration will continue at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ where the CDC will present their second “Views on Pointe” lecture of the season, “#PattiPride.” Marty Merkley, vice president and director of programming at Chautauqua Institution, will speak, in addition to Bonnefoux and Ball. They will describe the experience at the Kennedy Center and McBride’s contributions to Chautauqua.

“If I could celebrate Patti every day, I absolutely would,” Ball said.