Patricia McBride

Jennifer Driver

Many young girls, like myself, started dancing soon after they learned to walk. Each of us dreams of becoming a prima ballerina, but very few of us ever grace the stages of New York City. Although, this Jersey girl never made it to New York City, she is performing with the Penn State Lionettes Dance Team. However, Patricia McBride, a more fortunate Jersey girl, became one of the most outstanding ballerinas of our time.

“My career went beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve loved every minute of it. I did everything I wanted to do. I just feel very lucky, very blessed. I can look back and have no regrets,” says Patricia McBride (Dubin 1989).

Patricia McBride was born on August 23, 1942 in Teaneck, NJ ("McBride, Patricia" 2005). Her parents were divorced. At age seven she began taking dance lessons at Ruth Vernon’s school in Teaneck (Stuart 1989).

Then, at age 13 she saw her first professional ballet performance (Stuart 1989). She also started taking classes in New York City with Sonia Doubrovinskaya ("McBride, Patricia" 2005). At the midtown ballet school, she was told that she looked like a Balanchine dancer and that she should go to the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet. “At 13 I was the size I am now,” says McBride. “I was gangly. I had funny, skinny legs and long arms. It was fate” (Dunning 1989).

Soon after, she became a scholarship student at the School of American Ballet, and made her professional debut in 1957 with Andre Eglevsky’s Petit Ballet Company ("McBride, Patricia" 2005).

In 1959, McBride joined the New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine, one of the world’s greatest choreographers ("Patricia McBride" 2004). With outstanding grace and technique, she became a soloist a year later ("McBride, Patricia" 2005). Then, in 1961, she was promoted to principal dancer in the New York City Ballet—at the time, the youngest principal dancer in the company ("Patricia McBride" 2002 & "Patricia McBride" 2004).

In the 1960s, Balanchine began to cast her and Edward Villella as partners. But by the 1970s, she was dancing with other partners and in other ballets, as Edward started to have problems with his hip (Dunning 1989). Despite the changes, she maintained her dedication to performing, as she continued to dance seven times a week and rehearse everyday, four to five hours each day (Dubin 1989).

Her talent inspired roles in over one hundred ballets in the New York City Ballet as well as many other notable performances, which include the following: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1962), Tarantella (1964), Harlequinade (1965), Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (1966), Jewels (1967), Dances at a Gathering (1969), In The Night (1970), Who Cares? (1970), The Goldberg Variation (1971), Divertimento from "Le, Baiser de la Fée" (1972), Coppelia (1974), Pavane (1975), The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1975), Union Jack (1976), Bournonville Divertissements (1977), Vienna Waltzes (1977), The Four Seasons (1979), Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1979), Opus 19 - The Dreamer (1979) ("Ballet Archive" 1999).

Throughout her career she performed with many outstanding dancers and choreographers, including George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Andre Eglevsky, Rudolph Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Peter Martins. Her idols include George Balanchine and Albert Schweitzer ("Patricia McBride" 2004).

In 1973, she married Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. The couple has performed in Paris, Tokyo, and New York City ("Patricia McBride" 2004).

After dancing for about 20 years, Patricia took a year off in 1983 to have her son, Chris (Dubin 1989). They also have an adopted daughter, Melanie ("Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux" 2004). During this time she danced less often, but was still able to combine motherhood and her career (Dubin 1989).

After 31 seasons with the New York City Ballet, and specifically 28 years as a principal dancer, she retired in 1989 ("Patricia McBride" 2004 & Dubin 1989). “I could go on several more years if I wanted to. But I felt that I wasn’t dancing that much now, and it was selfish to dance two times a week and keep our family apart. It was very hard on the marriage. I was also doing the same ballets basically. I was not having any new challenges . . . . Even old dancers need new ballets,” she says (Dubin 1989).

Meanwhile, her husband became the artistic director, choreographer and teacher for a ballet company and the school at the Chautauqua Institute in southwestern New York. Bonnefoux’s choreography includes pieces commissioned by the New York City Ballet, The Lincoln Center Institute, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, and the Pennsylvania Ballet ("Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux" 2004).

A year later, McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux moved to Bloomington, Indiana. She taught dance as a tenured professor at Indiana University, and her husband became the director of the university’s dance department (Dunning 2003).

Then, in 1996 the couple moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they still reside today. There they joined the North Carolina Dance Theatre. Today, McBride is the Associate Artistic Director of Dance Theatre and her husband is the President and Artistic Director of the company (Dunning 2003 & "Our Staff" 2004).

The couple and the 20-member dance troupe tour for 12 to 14 weeks each year with choreography as stylistically far-ranging as Balanchine, Alvin Ailey, William Forsythe, and Nacho Duato. Their children have also been very successful; Melanie is a soon-to-be published novelist and Chris is attending college (Dunning 2003). They also have three dogs, a black Labrador, a Maltese, and a pug ("Patricia McBride" 2004). “I’ve had a wonderful life,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for anything more” (Dubin 1989).


“Ballet Archive: Patricia McBride, dancer.” Ballet Archive. 28 Feb. 1999. 18 Jan. 2005

Dubin, Zan. “Reflections on a Career: Retirement at the Top.” Los Angeles Times 18 Jun. 1989: C6.

Dunning, Jennifer. “Ballerina Refuses to ‘Dwindle Off.’” New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)) 1 Jun. 1989: C15.

Dunning, Jennifer. “Familiar Faces In a New Frame.” New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)) 2 Mar. 2003: 2.46.

“Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux.” North Carolina Dance Theatre. 2004. 18 Jan. 2005

"McBride, Patricia." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service. 19 Jan. 2005

“Our Staff.” North Carolina Dance Theatre. 2004. 18 Jan. 2005

“Patricia McBride.” North Carolina Dance Theatre. 2004. 18 Jan. 2005

“Patricia McBride.” The Ballerina Gallery. 2002. 18 Jan. 2005

Stuart, Otis. “Patricia McBride: Ballerina Plus.” New York Times (Late Edition (East Coast)) 15 Jan. 1989: 213.