While ballet began in the courts of the Italian Renaissance, it has made its way to nearly every corner of the world, the United States included. We would like to utilize this blog post to learn about the many American ballet companies that exist throughout the country that keep this art of dance alive and leaping.
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1. Eugene Ballet – Oregon
This first company was created in 1978 by Toni Pimble and Riley Grannan. In the beginning, they would pick local high schools to house each season. Then, in 1982, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors as part of an urban renewal project and the Eugene Ballet found a permanent home.
Currently they have twenty members to make up their ensemble. Over the course of their seasons the Eugene Ballet has worked with classical works as well as current works. They also pride themselves in education of ballet with curriculums that focus on teaching to large crowds. With this program the group travels thousands and thousands of miles every year, bringing the art of ballet to their region.
2. Alabama Ballet Company – Birmingham
Our next American Ballet Company, as with most, boasts a company and a school. This one was contrived from three previous ballet companies that once performed throughout Alabama. Currently the company has thirty-nine dancers that fall under the title of professional and apprentice.
Even though this company is in the heart of Dixie, as some southerners see it, the dancers that make up the group are from all over the world. They have performers that were born in China, Italy, the Republic of Georgia, Japan, and many more. Some of these dancers began their careers with other well-known companies like the Bolshoi in Moscow or the School of American Ballet.
3. Ballet Magnificat! – Jackson
Staying in the southern United States, this next ballet company was founded in 1986 and they pride themselves on their Christian message. The title means “to magnify him” in Latin and is taken directly from the bible. They tour regularly hoping to spread their message.
Currently they have a roster of three hundred pupils and more attend during the summer months for their own Dance Intensive and Teachers Workshop. Their wish is to achieve artistic distinction. The do this by centering their training on “creative movement, motor skills, locomotor skills, basic ballet vocabulary and terminology.”
4. Colorado Ballet – Denver
Founded in 1951 by Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker as a ballet school. The company was founded ten years later as a vehicle to display the talented students from the school. Their first production was The Nutcracker and it was performed at the Bonfils Theater in Denver.
Their website quotes founder Covillo as saying their “dream” was to create a place where professionals could work without moving to “other cities” to get work. In less than twenty years the company had a group of sixteen dancers and was considered an expert company in the world of ballet.
5. Richmond Ballet – Virginia
It wasn’t until 1975 this company’s school was formed, yet twenty years’ prior, the Richmond Ballet survived as a minor, community company that got its start in 1957. Today it is as professional a company as any that decorate the globe. They are “dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and continuing evolution of the” ballet.
Ms. Stoner Winslett is the woman responsible for founding the school was also their artistic director. It was under her control when the Richmond Ballet became the State’s first professional ballet company. In 1990 the Governor named it “The State Ballet of Virginia.”
Ten years later the Richmond Ballet was relocated to a new building in downtown Richmond with “state of the art” amenities. There are more than fifty works in their repertory
6. Smuin Ballet – San Francisco
Much older than the last ballet, Smuin opened its doors in 1994 by Michael Smuin, who dreamed of a ballet educational institution that would be distinctly American in its style. It seeks to unite classical ballet with unique physical movements. Smuin was born in Montana and spent his time before starting his own company learning and dancing with the San Francisco Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre.
Smuin passed on in 2007 but the company still follows his vision today with Celia Fushille at the helm. They are dedicated to creating performances that combine the classical with the contemporary. Smuin has more than sixty performances during the standard season and more than 30,000 people attend each year.
7. Mystic Ballet – Mystic, Connecticut
Starting out as a miniscule assembly of dancers in training, this unique ballet company got its start in 1997. From there the company has evolved to a professional company that rivals the companies that have been around for hundreds of years. Goran Subotic is the founder and has preserved a collection of works that cover classical, neo-classical, and modern ballets both full-length story and fresher pieces.
Mystic Ballet has been on tours through Connecticut, New England, New York, Germany, Nicaragua, Japan, Serbia, and Brazil. Their unique TIC technique has been showcased in education institutions in London, Milano, Frankfurt, Osaka, Sydney, New York, and Taipei.
8. Savannah Ballet Theatre – Georgia
Another youngster on our list is in Savannah, a Georgian city known for its beauty and uniqueness. Founded in 1998 by Artistic Director Suzanne Braddy. Originally called the Savannah Danse Theatre, their first performance was The Nutcracker in Savannah with a WWII backdrop and it has been a holiday favorite ever since.
In 2013 the company was given the name Savannah Ballet Theatre when it merged with the Islands Dance Academy. Other ballets that have become a part of their repertoire include Sleeping Beauty, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and Swan Lake.
9. Sarasota Ballet – Florida
This next ballet company hailing from the United States was founded in 1987 by Jean Weidner Goldstein. Currently they perform at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, the Sarasota Opera House, and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Their debut performance was on November three years after the company was established.
The first artistic director was Eddy Toussant, and then the position went to Robert de Warren, who once directed the ballet for Teatro alla Scala Milan. The current artistic director, Iain Webb, was appointed to the position in 2007 after his time dancing with the Royal Ballet in London.
Besides holding performances in Sarasota, the company tours and has danced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and with Ballet Across America III.
10. The Pennsylvania Ballet
Our final company on the list of American Ballet institutions was founded in 1963 by Barbara Weisberger and their performances are held primarily at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Currently under the direction of Ángel Corella this company is associated with The Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra.
The founder, Weisberger, was once a student of the renowned George Balanchine. Due to this close relationship, they perform his choreography for Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker annually. The Pennsylvania Ballet has also toured outside their home state with performances at the New York City Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
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