Florida Ballet to honor founder with performance

Laurie Picinich-Byrd honored for 35 years of service to community

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This Friday, the Florida Ballet is presenting a very special performance. It's a tribute to Ms. Laurie Picinich-Byrd, who helped start the ballet along with her husband. She's being honored for her 35 years of contributions to dance in our community.

The performance is titled "Joffrey Concert Group (New York) and The Florida Ballet presents Celebration of Achievement: Tribute to Mrs. Laurie Picinich-Byrd" It starts at 8:00 p.m. at The Lazzara Performance Hall on the campus of the University of North Florida. Tickets are $25, $35, and $45 with a $5 discount for Students, Military, and Seniors

Davis Robertson, Artistic Director of the Joffrey Ballet Concert Group and a former student of Mrs. Byrd, will produce a program of mixed repertoire with a special performance by The Florida Ballet dancers. Proclamations from the Mayor of Jacksonville, the City Council and the Governor of Florida will be presented on stage.

According to the Florida Ballet, Laurie Picinich was born and raised in New Jersey with a heritage rich in the European traditions of the arts. At age 12 Laurie Picinich was accepted into the ballet school at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

For her last two years of high school, Laurie Picinich transferred to the Quintano's School for Young Professionals in New York so that she could train at the Joffrey Ballet School as a full time student, continue modern classes with Pauline Koner and perform in New Jersey with Classic Ballet. At this time she began to teach and experiment with her own choreography. An accidental fall in a subway station ended all performing and Ms. Picinich turned her full attention to teaching and choreography.

According to the Florida Ballet, while attending a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera House, she met Michael Byrd, a dancer from Jacksonville, Florida. Together they conceived a professional dance company that would address issues of its home city, span classic as well as contemporary dance and provide education opportunities for public and private schools. They married and moved to Jacksonville in 1978 and in April of 1979 the first dancers of The Florida Ballet took the stage.

In addition to her responsibilities of The Florida Ballet and The Florida Ballet Training Center, the group says Laurie Picinich-Byrd was part of the 1983 class of Leadership Jacksonville, served on the Dance Panel of the Cultural Council of the Department of the State of Florida for three years, was President of the State Dance Association and participated in the Jacksonville Community Council, Incorporated study of Arts and Entertainment in Jacksonville.

According to the Florida Ballet, in 1984, Laurie and Michael Byrd welcomed the birth of their son Christopher. In 1993, Ms. Picinich-Byrd attained two degrees from Jacksonville University, a BFA in Dance and BS in History with Honors. In July of 1996 Michael Byrd died of cancer. Since that time Ms. Byrd has continued to nurture their dream of a professional dance company that enriches the quality of life in the Northeast Florida area.

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