By Bernie Petit
The world knows her as renowned ballerina Patricia McBride.
But locally, she’s just as admired and beloved for being one of the driving forces behind Charlotte Ballet alongside her husband Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux.
So, when The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced in September that McBride will be one of five individuals who will receive the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors, it felt like she was being recognized for more than the unparalleled versatility, spontaneity, stamina and warmth she displayed as a dancer.
It felt like she was also being honored for what she means to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural community.
“I’m so excited to share this incredible honor with the city of Charlotte and all of those who have supported Charlotte Ballet and our extraordinary dances for all these years,” said McBride, the dance company’s associate artistic director and master teacher. “It means a lot to Jean-Pierre and me.”
Other recipients to be honored at the 37th annual national celebration of the arts are singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, singer-songwriter Sting, and comedienne Lily Tomlin.
McBride and her fellow honorees will receive their Kennedy Center medallions Saturday, Dec. 6, at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry. Seated with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, they will be celebrated at a gala at the Kennedy Center the next night. The Honors Gala airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 30, on CBS.
For McBride, the gala will be held on a familiar stage. She has great memories of dancing masterpieces by eminent choreographers George Balanchine and Jerry Robbins at the Kennedy Center with the New York City Ballet.
“New York City Ballet used to go every other year to the Kennedy Center, and I’ve danced there so many times,” she told The Charlotte Observer. “Then we went twice with Charlotte Ballet and it was thrilling to see our extraordinary dances being craved and loved.”
In announcing this year’s honorees, the Kennedy Center referred to McBride as “one of the world’s greatest ballerinas, (who) continues to carry forward her legacy for future generations.”
Her bio details her lifelong dedication to her craft. At 18 years-old, McBride became the youngest principal dancer for New York City Ballet. She spent 28 years as a principal dancer with company, the longest career in that position with the famed dance troupe. She pirouetted into stardom in 1979 as Mikhail Baryshnikov’s partner in the flirtatious classic “Coppelia.”
In June 1989, at the age of 46, she gave her official farewell performance to a standing-room-only audience at Lincoln Center in New York. Nearly 13,000 roses showered her during her final standing ovation; her former partners Baryshnikov and Edward Villella gave her a kiss and one pink rose.
McBride and Bonnefoux received the Arts & Science Council Honors – Lifetime Achievement in the Field of Arts Award in 2008. Charlotte Ballet’s home and ballet academy is named The Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance.
McBride said she is “honored, astonished, moved, humbled and ecstatic” to be chosen a 2014 Kennedy Center honoree. It would be a dream if Charlotte Ballet dancers could dance at the ceremony in D.C., she told the Observer, but “they’ve told me to just relax, do nothing and enjoy the celebration.”
“It’s extraordinary to be honored for something that I have loved doing and has given my life so much meaning and fulfillment,” she said. “My mom would have been so happy. This makes me look good to my children and grandchildren!”
Show Your #PattiPride!
At Charlotte Ballet, Patricia McBride is just Patti, and members of the dance company are so proud that she will be a 2014 Kennedy Center Honoree. It’s why they’re asking everyone to show their #PattiPride by sharing a photo with a #PattiPride sign to social media. You can get a sign here: http://bit.ly/1oo2ho5. Download your sign and post your picture on social media with the hashtag #PattiPride to show Patti just how proud Charlotte-Mecklenburg is of her!