Currently under the leadership of Executive Director Dennis Buehler and Artistic Director Michael Pink, formed in 1969 by Robert Boorse, Milwaukee Ballet premiered its repertoire on August 24, 1970 at the School of Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Since then, the Ballet has ridden the waves of diverse decades. From the 1970s opening of its own ballet school to the collaborative 1980s in response to a loss of their establishment, Milwaukee Ballet continues “to inspire its audiences to think within and beyond traditional ballet through the presentation of quality performances and the implementation of educational opportunities.”
1. Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives. Please explain the adjectives you selected.
Quality: From stage presentation to training, our approach is to support Milwaukee Ballet with the best practices available, creating quality work throughout the organization. Too many times, quality is solely associated with a budget number. Milwaukee Ballet firmly believes that at every level of the organization a quality approach to work translates into a moving experience in the theatre and the studio.
Innovative: Milwaukee Ballet continues to balance a traditional repertoire while infusing it with engaging new work. It is an innovative approach to the artistic product that will keep audiences engaged and invite new dance patrons.
Integrity: An innovative program is only possible within one’s ability to support and sustain it. Managing a business model and studio culture built on integrity is critical to maintaining a quality work force and the artists necessary to advance Milwaukee Ballet’s mission with a community that has confidence in its ability to sustain it.
2. What inspires the work of your organization and why?
Milwaukee Ballet is inspired by the challenges of maintaining the highest standards of excellence through our performances, training, education, and outreach whilst making dance more accessible to the next generation of supporters without devaluing the quality and integrity of the Ballet’s heritage.
The work is also inspired by the passion and desire of the artists, school families, and the community that supports Milwaukee Ballet.
3. What accomplishment from the past year is your organization most proud of and eager to share with Dance/USA’s membership and the field at large?
In 2009, Milwaukee Ballet launched a ground breaking new program as a direct result of its long- range strategic vision.
The Harmony Initiative formed an idea to develop a defining new collaborative approach to building a sustainable business model in support of its innovative programming. By partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts and the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Ballet has formed a new business model which manifests itself within a transformative cultural and wellness facility in downtown Milwaukee. This destination facility will become a new national model for sustainability within the field which invests heavily in program engagement through the community.
While still in the early stages of development, this past year has seen the formation of a governance structure, an operating model, architectural, and funding feasibility studies and growing support for the required capital and endowment campaigns. While conversation continues with local officials and development partners to announce the definitive project, the Ballet is hopeful those announcements will arrive within the coming months.
4. Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision.
Classical ballet will always have its place in the cultural legacy of any civilized community as with opera, art, music, and theatre. The broader spectrum of dance that has evolved and developed over the past 80 years will continue to evolve and challenge the artists and audience alike. Only the true ‘dance makers’ will leave a lasting influence on the art form. The challenges currently faced are the same for any entertainment industry. Take into consideration the hundreds, if not thousands, of young students who have attended summer programs across the nation, it is safe to assume there is a future audience who will breed the next generation of dancers and dance lovers.
Milwaukee Ballet will continue to try and maintain a balance between presenting the traditional repertoire, consisting of major works of the 20th century and new work. The Ballet will also continue creating and exporting narrative dance works that appeal to a wider audience with the aim of cultivating and developing a core and future audience.
5. As an organization, what do you hope your dance legacy to be?
Artistically, Milwaukee Ballet hopes to be remembered as the company that had “its head in the clouds but its feet firmly planted on the ground.”
It is hoped the legacy will be in part for the diversity and quality of work and the significant impact Milwaukee Ballet had on the artists who worked here and within the community.