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Founded in 1970, Milwaukee Ballet is a staple of Milwaukee’s arts and culture community. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Pink, Milwaukee Ballet has become world-renowned for presenting both bold new interpretations of story ballets, and cutting-edge, evocative contemporary works.
Milwaukee Ballet is home to an international company of dancers, and is one of only a few companies in the nation to feature its own orchestra. Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy is the only professional dance school in the Midwest accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Milwaukee Ballet’s award-winning Community Engagement programs serve more than 30,000 people in Southeastern Wisconsin through original, interactive programs.
The curtain rose on rose on Milwaukee Ballet’s inaugural performance on April 24, 1970, audiences crowded into the School of Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They were enraptured by excerpts from Polovetzian Dance, The Hill, and a pas de deux from Le Corsaire. Audiences were enchanted by stunning performances from guest stars Lupe Serrano and American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Ted Kivitt.
As Milwaukee Ballet grew in popularity, it began to present works never before seen by Milwaukee audiences. Before it was a year old, the Ballet presented Coppélia, its first three-act ballet starring Cynthia Gregory and Ted Kivitt of the American Ballet Theatre. For the first time, this performance allowed Milwaukee Ballet patrons to see ballet in Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.
Throughout the 1970s, Milwaukee Ballet continued to thrive. In addition to experiencing the arrival of artistic director Jean-Paul Comelin, in 1974 Milwaukee Ballet opened Milwaukee Ballet School, the official school of Milwaukee Ballet. In 1977, Milwaukee Ballet began performing The Nutcracker, one of America’s most popular ballets, for the first time. It was also during this decade that Milwaukee Ballet began to showcase its talents to audiences across the country.
At the end of a seemingly successful decade, fire struck the home of Milwaukee Ballet. Though the building was almost completely destroyed by fire, the Carley Development Corporation restored the building to appear as it did in the 1800s as Tivoli Palm Garden, a popular beer garden operated by Schlitz. Today the studio is well equipped with four dance studios, a full costume shop, storage for more than 3,000 costumes, and administrative offices.
As Milwaukee Ballet entered a new decade, it began to explore opportunities for long-term growth. After a successful decade introducing more than 40 ballets, Milwaukee Ballet signed an historic agreement with the Pennsylvania Ballet creating a single joint-venture company of dancers, artistic direction, production staff and repertoire. The Pennsylvania Milwaukee Ballet, which required dancers to travel between Philadelphia and Milwaukee, became the only classical ballet company in the United States to offer 52 weeks of work to its dancers. Though an artistic success, the Pennsylvania Milwaukee Ballet dissolved at the end of the 1988-89 season.
Milwaukee Ballet gained new momentum as it entered the 1990s. During this decade Milwaukee audiences were introduced to such pieces as Bruce Wells’ Romeo & Juliet, George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments and Lisa de Ribere’s Harvest Moon. And in an effort to commission at least one world premiere every year, Milwaukee Ballet continued to welcome guest choreographers such as Kathryn Posin and Peter Anastos into its studios.
Since 1970, Milwaukee Ballet has been graced by the presence of incredible artistic talent. Artistic directors such as Yuri Gotschalks, Gloria Gustafson, Jean-Paul Comelin, Ted Kivitt, Robert Weiss, Dane LaFontsee, Basil Thompson, Simon Dow, and Michael Pink have inspired three decades of artistic evolution.
Milwaukee Ballet will celebrate its 50th anniversary during the 2019-20 season. Michael Pink remains our longest standing Artistic Director, serving his fourteenth season during 2016-17. Milwaukee Ballet’s next world premiere will be Michael Pink’s Beauty & the Beast in April 2018.
Michael Pink is the longest serving artistic director in Milwaukee Ballet’s history. Since arriving in 2002, he has demonstrated his commitment to the future of dance through new work, education, and collaboration. His artistic vision for Milwaukee Ballet continues to excite and challenge.Learn More