Peter LeBreton Merz
began his ballet training in his hometown of Dayton, OH, at the Schwarz School of the Dance. At the age of eight, he was chosen by Dayton Ballet’s artistic director Stuart Sebastian to appear in a new imagining of The Sleeping Beauty
, which was the spark that started his life as a dancer. His training included study at the School of the Washington Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet School, and Burklyn Ballet. He attended the University of Cincinnati as a Ballet major on full merit scholarship.
At the age of 19, Peter was invited by Alun Jones to join the Louisville Ballet. While a member of that company, he was asked to head the In-School Lecture Demonstration program, which became the beginning of his passion for dance education. He was also invited by Mr. Jones to choreograph a ballet on his fellow company members, at the age of 20. He later joined the Cincinnati Ballet, where he continued to choreograph and teach, as well as pursue his performing career. During his time as a performer, he danced roles in ballets by such important twentieth-century choreographers as Doris Humphrey, Agnes de Mille, George Balanchine, Lew Christensen, and Paul Taylor.
Peter has choreographed scores of ballets, ranging from solo works for students to larger ensembles for professional companies. His ballets have been performed throughout the US and internationally. He has won several awards for his choreography, and continues to create new works on a regular basis. While his ballets are rooted heavily in classical technique, they also rely heavily on his passion for contemporary dance. His aesthetic seeks to explore the boundaries of the classical vocabulary, and to keep this idiom vital for today’s audiences.
Peter is known as a master teacher for his enthusiastic and encouraging approach to ballet training. He has had the pleasure to teach master classes and at summer intensives to thousands of students, both here and abroad. His approach to classical training is to concentrate on helping each student find the strength that comes from understanding how best to place themselves, to maximize their expressive voices through the pursuit of clear and articulate technique.
In 2002, he served as the Artistic Administrator for the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS. In 2004, he joined the faculty of Point Park, where he was an associate professor of dance and Head of Ballet. He joined Ballet West Academy as Director in 2015. While in that position, he oversaw the creation of a Professional Training Division. He also expanded the Academy to Park City, Utah. The students body of the academy grew from about 500 students to over 800 during his tenure, and the tuition revenue of the Acadmey more than doubled between 2015 and 2018. He has served as a judge and Master Teacher for Youth America Grand Prix, the American Dance Competition, the American Ballet Competition, and many other organizations. He has twice been named Outstanding Choreographer by the Youth America Grand Prix. He was also honored to be named Outstanding Teacher by that organization in 2014. He holds a BFA in Theater Design and Production from the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music, and an MBA in Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management from Point Park University.