In 1969, Roberta Boorse gathered all of the ingredients necessary to transform her dream into reality. Less than a year later, she combined the spice of talented dancers with the sweetness of a brilliant repertoire, creating a main dish on which the city of Milwaukee would feast for many years to come.

When the curtain finally 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. Finally, they were excited about the potential of the city's newest performing arts organization.

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 Coppelia, 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 Commelin, 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 a 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 Commelin, Ted Kivitt, Robert Weiss, Dane LaFontsee, Basil Thompson, Simon Dow, and Michael Pink have inspired three decades of artistic evolution.

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, is a nationally accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD) with an enrollment of nearly 900 students at three locations throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.
This biography was most recently edited by...
Simeon - 21 Dec 2009