History of Ballet Arts Foundation (Ballet Tucson)

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 been comprised of artists who have danced professionally throughout the States, as well as regionally in such companies as Cleveland Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Arizona Dance Theatre.  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 and again to critical accolades.  Over the years, the Ensemble has continued to establish itself as Tucson’s resident ballet company by producing historic classics with innovative contemporary dance.

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 to date.

The Children’s Company 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 have also been given regularly at the Border involving children from Arizona and Mexico from 1993 - 1999.

During the summer months, both students and instructors have taken part in an International Dance Exchange.  Students study and perform together in participating countries.  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 Festival in August.

The Annual Summer Dance Workshop has been held for 23 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 now held at the new 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.  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 a professional symphony, theatre, opera, and ballet companies.  The 2009-2010 season promises to be the best yet as Ballet Tucson continues to set the standard for excellence in Southern Arizona.