Milwaukee Ballet Tops a Successful Year with Announcement of National Accreditation

High honor makes Milwaukee Ballet School the only accredited professional dance school in the Midwest

Milwaukee, Wis. – September 24, 2008 – At today’s annual meeting Milwaukee Ballet’s executive leadership team announced that Milwaukee Ballet School has been awarded a full five year accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD). This significant recognition makes the School the only accredited professional dance school in the Midwest, and one of only 13 professional studio schools accredited nationally.

The NASD, an organization recognized by the United States Department of Education, is composed of schools and individuals representing the highest traditions and aids in the education of dance students. Other accredited schools include Atlanta Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. With this national recognition, Milwaukee Ballet School is recognized as an educational institution meeting the high standards of excellence set by the members of the NASD. This accreditation means the School will be able to greatly expand the opportunities and benefits it provides to its students, including access to specific benefits such as academic credit for classes taken, federal financial assistance, expanded health care options for student families, and student work visas. Milwaukee Ballet and the School will also have access to nationwide resources and collaboration for improving and developing education programming. Also, with the recent opening of a new, expanded Westside studio branch Milwaukee Ballet School continues to strengthen including total class registrations that are up 20% over last year.

“After an extensive application and review process, we’re extremely proud to be recognized for something Milwaukee has known for some time,” said Dennis Buehler, the Ballet’s executive director. “Accreditation recognizes the stature and importance of the School as a training institution with the highest quality programming, but now further expands opportunities for our students and families.”

At the meeting, Milwaukee Ballet also announced additional positive steps taken this year to continue to support the development of a more effective and strategically aligned organization.  The education department served more than 28,000 people through its outreach programs, a 15% increase over last season, and more than a 300% increase over the past three years. Through the implementation of a dedicated strategic marketing plan, season subscriptions are strengthening heading into a second fall campaign, up 130 seats over this point last year. Of special note, the Ballet has already captured more than 400 new subscribers, nearly matching the last two seasons combined at this same point in time. Finally, nearly 1,400 individuals contributed to the annual fund in 2007 – 08, representing an almost 20% increase over last year.

“Our institutional progress and stability are certainly important, and reflect our commitment to implementing effective artistic, educational and strategic business plans. While there’s still significant work to do, we continue to take steps to ensure we’re a viable, strong arts organization for years to come,” said Buehler. “Many performing arts groups continue to struggle nationally during difficult economic times and it’s truly a testament to our city that Milwaukeeans continue to support organizations such as the Ballet through subscriptions, contributions, and volunteer efforts.”

The Ballet also announced it had reached an agreement to extensions of its collective bargaining agreements with its dancers through 2011 and orchestra musicians through 2009. This news comes on the heels of last year’s announcement that Artistic Director Michael Pink’s contract was renewed through 2011.

“With these important agreements in place, Milwaukee Ballet will continue to focus its energy on groundbreaking initiatives in the studio and on the stage,” said Michael Pink, the Ballet’s artistic director. “Ensuring we have a strong company and orchestra allows us to develop artistically by creating new works, hosting international competitions, and sharing world class ballet with our community.”

Finally, the meeting included a recap of the Ballet’s financial position. The organization ended the 2007-08 season with a balanced operating budget and a post-depreciation year-end result of $114,000. Total revenue of $5,757,544 against operating expenses of $5,598,665 allowed the organization to eliminate core debt while enhancing its overall net assets. Operating expenses were held to less than a 1% increase over the previous year. Following the completion of its internal re-organization, the executive leadership team announced the receipt of a grant that will allow for the development of a new organization-wide strategic plan.

Additional Announcements
Milwaukee Ballet’s Board elected the following officers: Mary Hill Leahy, Chair/President; Emmett Wright, Chair Elect; Linda E. Benfield, Secretary; and Dorinda Floyd, Treasurer/Chair of Finance. Colleen Henderson was newly elected to the Board. Directors re-elected include Mary Hill Leahy, Melanie Holmes Cosgrove, Kim Marotta, Louise Perrin, William Raasch, MD, Lynne Dixon-Speller, and Mary Vandenberg.

Additional awards presented include: Leadership Award, Mary Hill Leahy; Grand Jeté Award, Einhorn Family Foundation; Pas de Deux Award, 100 Monkeys, a Communications Firm; Daniel Forlano Award of Note, Robert Dohmen; Employee of the Year, Sam Bahr, CPA; School Employee of the Year, Renee Griswold; and Volunteer of the Year, Lori Barrieau.

About Milwaukee Ballet
Founded in 1970, Milwaukee Ballet strives to inspire its audiences to think within and beyond traditional ballet through the presentation of quality performances and the implementation of educational opportunities. Milwaukee Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet School are recognized among the top companies in the nation. With an annual operating budget of more than $5 million, Milwaukee Ballet presents more than 40 performances to more than 50,000 people each year. Its resident company includes 25 professional dancers along with 18 trainees in its Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II program and is one of the few dance companies in the country to maintain its own symphony orchestra. Milwaukee Ballet School, the official school of the Ballet, has an enrollment of nearly 900 students at three locations throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.