Susan Pilarre was born in Brooklyn, NY, and began her ballet training in Cedarhurst, NY, with New York City Ballet Principal Melissa Hayden. She enrolled at the School of American Ballet at age 11 and subsequently performed several children's roles in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker® in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Ms. Pilarre was invited by George Balanchine to join NYCB when she was 15. She was named a soloist in 1971.
Teaching at SAB, 2004; © Ellen Crane
Performing "Emeralds" from Jewels with NYCB, circa 1970s; Photo © Martha Swope, Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
During her 16 years as a member of New York City Ballet, Ms. Pilarre appeared in numerous works by the Company's founding choreographers, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She originated a featured role in Balanchine's Who Cares?, and her repertoire included featured roles in The Four Temperaments, Stars and Stripes, Serenade, La Source, La Valse, Divertimento No. 15, Jewels, Raymonda Variations, Dances at a Gathering and Coppélia.
Ms. Pilarre appeared in the original productions of Balanchine's Harlequinade (1965), Jewels (1967), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Danses Concertantes (1972), Le Tombeau de Couperin (1975), and Union Jack (1976).
Ms. Pilarre retired from dancing in 1980 but continued her involvement with the work of George Balanchine by staging his ballets for companies around the U.S. In 1983, she staged Balanchine's Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet for the Broadway revival of On Your Toes.
Ms. Pilarre joined the permanent faculty of the School of American Ballet in 1986. Since then, she has staged numerous ballets or ballet excerpts (primarily by George Balanchine) for SAB’s annual Workshop Performances.
For New York City Ballet’s 1993 Balanchine Celebration, Ms. Pilarre reconstructed Balanchine’s Symphonie Concertante, consulting with the ballet’s original principals, Tanaquil LeClercq and Maria Tallchief, and using archival film footage of Ballet Society’s 1947 production and ABT’s 1983 revival. The ballet was performed by an all-SAB student cast at the Balanchine Celebration and at the School’s 1993 Workshop Performances. Ms. Pilarre set this version of Symphonie Concertante on ABT in 1994.
Other Balanchine ballet stagings include Serenade for Warsaw Ballet and Tarantella for ABT Studio Company in 2004, and Symphony in Three Movements for Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2005. Ms. Pilarre also collaborated with Suzanne Farrell on the staging of La Valse and La Source for Suzanne Farrell Ballet’s 2005 performances at The Kennedy Center.
Ms. Pilarre joined SAB's permanent faculty in 1986. She is one of the principal auditioners for the School's National Audition Program, which screens over 2,000 prospective students each year in 22 U.S. cities for the five-week Summer Course.