Boston Ballet, founded in 1963 by E. Virginia Williams, was the first professional repertory ballet company in New England. Boston Ballet’s national and international reputation developed under the leadership of Artistic Directors Violette Verdy (1980-1984), Bruce Marks (1985-1997), and Anna-Marie Holmes (1997-2000). Today, Boston Ballet is one of the major ballet companies in North America and among the top companies in the world. Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen was selected to lead Boston Ballet in September 2001. Under his exceptional artistic direction, Boston Ballet maintains an internationally acclaimed repertoire of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works, ranging from full-length story ballets to masterworks by George Balanchine, to new works and world premieres by some of today's finest contemporary choreographers. Nissinen leads the company, and Boston Ballet School, the largest ballet school in North America, with Executive Director Barry Hughson as the institution approaches its 50th anniversary in 2013.
Throughout its history, Boston Ballet has been a leader in the arts. In 1979, Boston Ballet opened the Nervi Festival in Italy, and in 1980 was the first American dance company to perform in the People's Republic of China. The Company made its London premiere in 1981, with a full-length production of Swan Lake. In 1983, Boston Ballet presented Don Quixote on Broadway with Rudolf Nureyev as special guest artist, after touring the United States, Mexico, France, and Italy. Boston Ballet collaborated with choreographer Mark Morris for the first time in 1986, performing his Mort Subite at the PepsiCo Festival in Purchase, New York. The following year Boston Ballet was the first ballet company to perform at the prestigious BESSIE Dance and Performance award ceremony at City Center in New York. Boston Ballet was the first major dance company to commission works from contemporary choreographers Mark Morris, Susan Marshall, Ralph Lemon, Elisa Monte and Helen Pickett.
In May 1990, Natalia Dudinskaya and Konstantin Sergeyev, along with then-assistant artistic director Anna-Marie Holmes, staged a new production of Swan Lake featuring Boston Ballet dancers performing the leading roles with dancers from The Kirov Ballet and The Bolshoi Ballet. This historic production attracted international attention and brought Boston Ballet to the forefront of the international dance scene. In recent years, the Company has added James Kudelka’s Cinderella, George Balanchine’s Coppélia, Jewels, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the American premiere of Jirí Kylián’s Black and White and John Cranko's Onegin, The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo & Juliet to its repertoire.
Boston Ballet made a triumphant debut at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in January 1990. In July 1991, Boston Ballet toured throughout Spain. During the summer of 2007, the Company completed a second tour of Spain to audience and critical acclaim. Boston Ballet’s most recent touring has included appearances at the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process series, the Fall for Dance festivals held at New York City Center and Orange County Performing Arts Center as well as back-to-back performances at the Spoleto Festival USA and The Kennedy Center’s Ballet Across America series in Spring 2008. Boston Ballet embarked on its first tour to Seoul, Korea in the summer of 2008 presenting a range of works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp and Christopher Wheeldon, never before seen by Korean audiences. The Company returned to Spain in summer 2010 for a five-city tour of Spain visiting Barcelona, San Sebastían, Santander, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, and Granada with two programs.
In fall 2009, Boston Ballet's sole performance venue became The Boston Opera House. Located in Boston’s Theater District, this 2,500-seat theater provides excellent sightlines and has a newly renovated orchestra pit befitting of the Boston Ballet Orchestra.
Boston Ballet is committed to maintaining a repertoire that combines timeless classics such as Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty, August Bournonville’s La Sylphide, Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake, and John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, with the imaginative visions of today's most innovative choreographers including William Forsythe, Jirí Kylián, Mark Morris, David Dawson, Christopher Wheeldon and Helen Pickett. Boston Ballet appointed Jorma Elo as Resident Choreographer in 2005. Since then, Elo has created six works for the company, including Plan to B, Brake the Eyes and Le Sacre du Printemps. In 2009, The New York Times hailed Boston Ballet’s repertoire as “one of the most eclectic in the country.”
Boston Ballet’s award-winning The Nutcracker, choreographed by Nissinen, has been performed annually for 42 years. Over 35 performances employ the talents of the entire company and more than 250 Boston Ballet School students who perform in the production every year. In 2009 Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker was voted ‘Best-Loved Nutcracker Production in the U.S.’
The Company does much more than offer performances and enrichment to the culture of Boston. Boston Ballet operates Boston Ballet School lead by Nissinen and Director of Boston Ballet School, Margaret Tracey. Boston Ballet School reaches more than 3,000 students at locations in Boston, Newton, and Marblehead for ages 2 through adult at all experience levels. Boston Ballet School also offers numerous educational and outreach activities for the community. Collectively, programs include Summer Dance Workshop, Summer Dance Program, Citydance, Taking Steps, and Adaptive Dance in partnership with Children’s Hospital, Boston. In total, Boston Ballet’s outreach programs reach over 7,000 children each year.
Boston Ballet’s headquarters at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston’s South End neighborhood is one of the largest and best-equipped dance spaces in the country. Designed by renowned architect Graham Gund, this five-story, 60,000-square-foot building is an important hub for dance in New England.
Boston Ballet’s achievements, coupled with the generous and prestigious support of local and national funding sources, have dramatically strengthened Boston Ballet’s position as a world-class ballet company within the local, national, and international communities.
Grand Défilé by Gene Schiavone.