Ballet Arts Foundation (now Ballet Tucson) was established in June 1986. The main goal has always been to foster and develop both a professional and a children’s performing ensemble, designed to meet the needs of young dancers in Southern Arizona with career aspirations. The two ensembles have provided a rich training ground for the serious student by offering interaction with professional dancers, teachers, and choreographers. This in turn allows young dancers to view ballet as a career, while simultaneously instilling a love for the art, and providing a means for greater self-expression.
Ballet Tucson has comprised artists who have danced professionally throughout the United States, in such companies as Cleveland Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Arizona. The ensemble’s preview performance took place in April 1987 at Centennial Hall in Tucson, with more than 900 in attendance, and received rave reviews. Arizona Daily Star critic Robert Cauthorn proclaimed, “Ballet is Back!” An even more successful follow-up performance took place in October 1987 with an audience of over 1200 — again to critical accolades. Over the years, the ensemble has established itself as Tucson’s resident professional ballet company by producing historic classics and innovative contemporary dance.
The Children’s Ensemble has appeared in numerous performances throughout Arizona and also in Mexico, Ukraine, and France. Annual stagings of fully-produced ballets are regularly presented. The 1994-95 Season marked the debut of Tucson’s own full-length holiday classic The Nutcracker. Five sold-out performances were given, leaving audiences cheering for more. Performances were also given at the international border, involving children from Arizona and Mexico, from 1993 to 1999.
The “Ballet from Classroom to Stage Project” was inaugurated in the 1990-91 Season. It has toured Tucson public schools with the support of Tucson Pima Arts Council, offering tens of thousands of children their first exposure to ballet at their own schools. The company has also participated in residencies, performances, and workshops with Young Audiences, The Imagination Celebration, Arizona Opera Company, NEA’s Dance on Tour, Ballet West, Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Ballet Arizona, and Philharmonia Orchestra of Tucson.
In 2009, Ballet Tucson introduced an emerging education program in local Title 1 elementary schools. Students participating in “Put Your Best Foot Forward with Ballet Tucson” learn important life lessons such as teamwork, discipline, and self-confidence along with basic ballet technique and creative movement. The program was piloted at Tully and Pueblo Gardens Elementary Schools with great success. Another important component of our outreach efforts is the Ticket Subsidy Program, which provides over 1,500 free tickets each year to under-served youth, families, and other populations from our community to attend live ballet performances.
Over the years, students and instructors have taken part in an International Dance Exchange. During the 1990 exchange with the Palace of Pioneers from Kiev, Ukraine, a joint performance was given at the Kiev Opera House, benefiting the Children of Chernobyl Fund, with over 2,000 people in attendance. Our dancers also appeared on Soviet Television and traveled to Odessa and Moscow. A joint performance given in Tucson was featured on the cable TV network Bravo. In the summer of 1994, an exchange took place with Centre de Danse, Beziers, France. An International Summer Ballet Institute was held in Tucson for ten days featuring the French instructors and exchange students. Ballet Tucson dancers then traveled to France to train and perform in the Beziers Arts Festival. In 2009, the International Dance Exchange included 18 students and instructors from Arizona and New Mexico touring Foix and Suze La Rousse in southern France. Participants stayed with host families and had the opportunity to take classes from European master teachers and perform abroad.
The Annual Summer Dance Workshop has been held for 31 years in cooperation with the University of Arizona School of Dance. For four weeks each summer, students ranging in age from 5-18 participate in a 4-week intensive. Nationally and internationally recognized master teachers come to Tucson to work with students – teaching classes and holding dance-related lectures. The workshop culminates in a performance at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre in late June.
Ballet Tucson’s 2004-2005 season marked the debut of a fully professional company. A dream of nearly two decades was finally realized when the company secured ten professional dancers for the season. Currently, 24 artists are on the Ballet Tucson roster. This long-awaited addition fills the void within Tucson’s fine arts community and makes Tucson one of only a handful of cities nationwide with professional symphony, theatre, opera, and ballet companies.
This year marks the company’s 30th Pearl Anniversary season and 12th professional year, and promises to be the best yet. We are enormously grateful for the community and patron support over the years. You make it possible for us to provide the highest caliber ballet performances filled with beauty, passion, and imagination. Thank you for recognizing that the arts touch and enrich all our lives.
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