Barbara Weisberger, 94, passed away at home in Kingston, PA on Wednesday, December 23, 2020.
Barbara was predeceased by her husband Ernest Weisberger, her parents Herman and Sally Linshes, and her sister Lenore Harris. She is survived by her children, Wendy Kranson (Bill Littleton) of Kingston, PA and Steven Weisberger (Denise Marks) of Houston, TX; her grandchildren, Emily Norris (Michael) of Richmond Hill, GA, Jessie Schneider (Zachary) of Austin, TX, and Dane Weisberger (Karrissa) of Austin, TX; and her great grandchildren, Brooke Norris, Kaitlyn Norris, Ryder Weisberger, and Cash Schneider; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Barbara Weisberger was a visionary leader, inspiring teacher and artistic director, and founder of the Pennsylvania Ballet based in Philadelphia, PA, and had been the vanguard of every important movement of contemporary American ballet. She culminated her distinguished career with the conception in 1984 of the Carlisle Project, the distinctive highly respected national program for the professional development of choreographers and dancers, which she led until the end of 1996 when the Project’s formal operations were suspended. Beginning in the spring of 2001 and until she was in her early 90’s, she was the Artistic Advisor of Peabody Dance, the dance program of Peabody Preparatory, an adjunct of the renowned Peabody Institute in Baltimore, MD.
Mrs. Weisberger was born in Brooklyn, NY to Herman and Sally Linshes (nee Goldstein) on February 28, 1926. She started her ballet training at the age of five and when she was eight, she became the first child accepted at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City, NY. After her family moved to Wilmington, DE when she was fourteen, she commuted to Philadelphia and continued her training with the legendary Littlefield sisters, pioneers in the creation of the first indigenous American ballet company. The World War II years and college, starting at age 16, interrupted the flow of a professional career as a dancer, but her eventual return to dance was inevitable. Barbara married Ernest Weisberger in 1949 and now based in Wilkes-Barre, PA, with the establishment of the Wilkes-Barre Ballet Theatre in 1953, she began her major role in writing a crucial chapter of American ballet history—the launching of the Regional Dance movement.
Barbara Weisberger’s leadership continued during the dynamic decentralization and proliferation of professional companies and dance audiences when in 1962, she founded the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, the initial step in the formation of the Pennsylvania Ballet Company the following year. Within two years, encouraged by her friend and mentor, George Balanchine, and a Ford Foundation grant, the company gave its first Philadelphia performances. Under her guidance for twenty years, the Pennsylvania Ballet became internationally renowned.
Mrs. Weisberger is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including Pennsylvania State University’s Distinguished Alumni, the Hazlett Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Governor of Pennsylvania, Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania Award, the Gimbel Philadelphia Award, and the 2013 Dance/USA Ernie Award. She has received honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Temple University, Villanova University, King’s College, and University of New England. She has also served on the National Endowment for the Arts dance panel, on the executive committee of the American Arts Alliance, on the Board of Directors of Dance/USA, and as a board member of the Research Center for Arts and Culture, Teacher’s College, Columbia University in NY.
We would like to thank Dr. Richard Blum, Erwine Hospice, and the many caregivers (the “A Team”) who provided assistance, comfort, and friendship to Barbara over the last years of her life—Denielle, Mary Ellen, Chris, Courtney, Annie C., Kathleen, and Annie R.
Interment was at the Temple Israel Cemetery in Swoyersville, PA but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, no services were held at that time. Instead, the family will be hosting a memorial at a later date, where family and friends can together celebrate Barbara’s memory and remarkable life.