Hart Artistic Director’s Chair
Mikko Nissinen assumed the position of Artistic Director of Boston Ballet and Boston Ballet School in 2001. Born in Helsinki, Finland, Nissinen began his dance training at age ten with The Finnish National Ballet School, and launched his professional dance career at age 15 with The Finnish National Ballet. In 1978, he won First Prize at The National Ballet Competition in Kuopio, Finland. He continued his studies at The Kirov Ballet School. Nissinen went on to dance with Dutch National Ballet, Basel Ballet and San Francisco Ballet, where he held the position of principal dancer for ten years. During Nissinen's performance career his vast repertoire ranged from classical to contemporary works. As a guest artist, he danced with many different companies and partners and at numerous international galas.
Nissinen directed the Marin Ballet in San Rafael, California from 1996-1998, and Alberta Ballet, in Calgary, Canada from 1998-2001, also serving as Alberta Ballet’s Executive Director from 1999-2000. Under Nissinen’s leadership, Alberta Ballet’s global visibility, national stature, performance schedule and touring were increased.
As Artistic Director of Boston Ballet, Nissinen has defined the Company’s image, cultivating a compelling and dynamic collection of classical, neo-classical and contemporary repertoire, ranging from such full length classical ballets as Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty, Nureyev’s Don Quixote, Nissinen’s Swan Lake, Bournonville’s La Sylphide, Cranko’s Onegin and Romeo and Juliet, and Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, to masterworks by George Balanchine, to new works and world premieres by some of the finest contemporary choreographers including William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Peter Martins, Mark Morris and Christopher Wheeldon. This three-part balance of Boston Ballet’s repertoire has established the Company as one of the leading ballet organizations in America, acclaimed for its excellence, artistry and versatility. Firmly committed to developing the art form and the future of dance, Nissinen actively promotes progressive new work and creations, commissioning emerging choreographers such as Helen Pickett, Sabrina Matthews and Heather Myers. In 2005 Nissinen appointed Jorma Elo as Resident Choreographer, who has since created a distinct identity for the Company, with six world premieres unique to Boston Ballet. Nissinen’s own choreography includes productions of Swan Lake, Raymonda Act III and an award winning The Nutcracker. Audiences and critics alike have noted the Company’s remarkable development under Nissinen’s regime; The New York Times stated “Boston Ballet has come a vast distance. It's dancers are striking by national and international standards” and The Boston Globe called Boston Ballet’s transformation one of the “biggest arts stories of the decade”.
Commencing in the winter 2008, for a year and a half, Nissinen served as Executive Director of Boston Ballet, during which time he provided full organizational leadership, initiated a major redesign of the organization’s image, branding and website, and facilitated the Company’s move to its permanent performance home, The Boston Opera House. Under his direction, Boston Ballet has toured nationally as well as internationally for the first time in 16 years, to Spain, Korea, and Canada.
Nissinen also heads Boston Ballet School, the largest ballet school in North America, which annually enrolls over 3,000 students in its recreational and pre-professional programs in three studio locations, and serves over 7,000 children and youth who participate in nationally recognized and acclaimed community outreach programs, including various summer dance intensives, Citydance, Adaptive Dance and Taking Steps.
His broad knowledge of dance, its history, and arts organization business leadership makes him a popular presenter at conferences including Harvard University, Harvard Business School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a fellow at the 2002 Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders in the Arts at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has juried the Prix de Lausanne, Benois de la Danse, Japan Grand Prix, the Helsinki International Ballet Competition and the New York International Ballet Competition. He is a member of the Artistic Committee for the New York Choreographic Institute, an advisory board member of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and the recipient of the Finlandia Foundation’s 2008 Arts and Letters Award, the 2007 United Nations Association of Greater Boston Leadership Award, and Boston’s Guide for the Arts 2009 Ambassador for the Arts Award. Nissinen is a dual Finnish and American citizen.
Headshot photo by Sadie Dayton.