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Dayton Ballet

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Subject: Anaheim Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Dayton, Ohio, California Riverside Ballet, Miami City Ballet
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Dayton Ballet

Dayton Ballet
General information
Name Dayton Ballet
Previous names
  • Experimental Group for Young Dancers
  • Dayton Theatre Dance Group
  • Dayton Civic Ballet
Year founded 1937
  • Josephine Schwarz
  • Hermene Schwarz
Principal venue Victoria Theatre
Dayton, Ohio
Senior staff
Executive Director/President Paul A Helfrich- Dayton Performing Arts Alliance
Artistic staff
Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke
Associated schools
  • Dayton Ballet School
  • Wright State University Dance Department-Dayton Ballet II Scholarship Program
Formation Company Dancer

The Dayton Ballet is a ballet company located in Dayton, Ohio.[1]

It was founded in 1937, making it the second oldest regional ballet company in the United States. It is also called the "Company of Premieres" as it is committed to presenting new works, including a new full-length ballet every two years.[2] Dayton Ballet hosts a season of four performances that includes familiar traditional ballets, the classic family-friendly holiday staple The Nutcracker, as well as new and innovative works.

The venues of the Dayton Ballet is the historic 1,139 seat Victoria Theatre and the state-of-the-art Schuster Center, which accommodates 2,300 patrons. Over 40 performances are presented throughout each season.

Operating under the artistic leadership of Karen Russo Burke, the company is part of a larger parent organization, The Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, on which it relies upon for its administrative and operational leadership and support.


Dayton Ballet had its beginning when Josephine (Jo) Schwarz and her sister Hermene opened The Schwarz School of Dance in 1927. Jo Schwarz later studied ballet and danced in Chicago, in New York at the School of American Ballet, and in Europe. She danced on broadway, but was forced to return home to Dayton after receiving an injury while performing in New York. In May 1938, Jo and Hermene gathered together the school's finest dancers, named the troupe "The Experimental Group for Young Dancers," and staged a performance at the Dayton Art Institute. This was the first performance of what is now Dayton Ballet.

Jo was a pioneer of the American regional ballet movement of the mid-20th century. Through years of persistence, she made Dayton a center of dance. In 1958, the company restructured as the Dayton Civic Ballet, with a board of directors, and federal tax-exempt status. In 1959, the Dayton Civic Ballet became a chartered member of the Northeast Regional Ballet Association. The Schwarz sisters organized many regional dance festivals and choreography conferences.[3] In 1978, the company dropped the "Civic" designation and became the fully professional Dayton Ballet.


Stuart Sebastian, a student of Josephine and Hermene Schwarz, assumed directorship of the company in 1980 at the invitation of Josephine Schwarz. He had danced professionally for the Dayton Ballet and the National Ballet of Washington before assuming the role. He had also choreographed in New York, Germany and England.[4] Sebastian led the Dayton Ballet for 10 years, in which time the company rose in stature and status. After watching the company in 1981, dance critic Walter Terry wrote in Dance Magazine, "In just one year the Dayton Ballet has moved from first-rate amateur rank into the category of professional ballet. Of particular importance is the stature of the new choreography on view in Dayton. Good dancers are now numerous; gifted choreographers remain a rare species. Stuart Sebastian is one of this special breed."

Sebastian brought in new dancers and created the company's first full-length ballet, The Sleeping Beauty. He choreographed over 25 new works. Of those, six were full-length ballets, including Swan Lake and Dracula. Under Sebastian, the Dayton Ballet toured more than 75 cities and took its first international tour to Jerash, Jordan. In 1988, the company appeared on national television while performing in the opening ceremonies of the Pan American Games.[5]

Transition: 1991-1993

Following the departure of Stuart Sebastian in 1990 and his subsequent death in January 1991 after a lengthy battly with AIDS,[4] the company entered a period of transition. James Clouser, former artistic director of the Houston Ballet, was brought in on a three year contract. It was a bumpy and tumultuous time for the company, and a time of considerable change. Clouser was the first outside, non-Daytonian director, the Dayton Ballet had ever seen, and was a considerable break from the company's past directors. Many dancers and staff from the previous era left, and many new dancers and staff were hired. According to Dayton Daily News articles written during the transition, the board of trustees was looking for change and that is why they brought in someone from the outside. After three years of internal "war", as stated by the Dayton Daily News, in the fall of 1992 an executive director was brought in for the very first time in the company's history. That person was Dermot Burke.

Recent history: 1993–2012

Dermot Burke was a star principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York, and had been artistic director of the American Repertory Ballet in New Jersey for 10 years. He knew and choreographed for Sebastian and the Dayton Ballet back in 1984. That association, in addition to his track record of success leading the company in New Jersey made him the right person to move the company forward. In the Fall of 1993 Dermot assumed the dual role of executive and artistic director of the company.

Under Dermot Burke, the company has taken on a more American flavor in the tradition of the Joffrey Ballet, embracing distinctly American dance literature, dancers and choreographers. There was also a shift to a "repertory company with lots of choreographic voices" as Burke stated. This repertory includes and has held onto the work of Sebastian and the company's past, while at the same time including the work of outside choreographers.

2012 merger

Following more than two years of planning, the Dayton Ballet, Ohio Arts Council.

“It took great foresight, courage, and leadership to engage in the complex due diligence process and pursue a common vision. We are thrilled with what this first-in-the-nation merger will mean for Greater Dayton,” Mike Parks, president of The Dayton Foundation, said of the alliance.

The Dayton Daily News called the merger "a new day for arts in Dayton.”

The new organization has one administrative and operational core with one CEO and executive director, with each performing arts unit retaining its own artistic director.

Dayton Ballet School

The company's dependent dance school, Dayton Ballet School, is the oldest dance school in Dayton and one of the oldest in the US. It is the only school in the Miami Valley that is linked to a professional dance company. The mission of the Dayton Ballet School is " to provide the very finest dance training to any child or adult who seeks to experience the wonder and the fun of dance."

The goal of the School is to serve the community by not only strengthening legs and arms, but also by introducing accomplishments and discipline to the spirit of all participants.[6]


  • Aaron Berenson, dancer with Dayton Ballet.
  • Geraldine Blunden, former director of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company.
  • Rachel Carmazzi, dancer with Dayton Ballet.
  • Rebecca Carmazzi, dancer with Dayton Ballet, BalletMet, and now the North Carolina Dance Theatre.
  • Dan Duell, dancer with the New York City Ballet and artistic director of Ballet Chicago.
  • Joseph Duell, dancer with the New York City Ballet.
  • Robert Eberly III, dancer with Dayton Ballet, Ballet West, and Boston Ballet.
  • Penny Freeh, choreographer for the James Sewell Ballet.
  • Jeff Gribler, dancer with the Pennsylvania Ballet.
  • Carol Jean Heller, Dayton Ballet School Director and dancer with Ballet Repertory in New York.
  • Peter Means, dancer with Milwaukee Ballet, Washington Ballet and Ballet Met.
  • Peter LeBreton Merz, dancer with Louisville Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet, now Assistant Professor of Dance and Head of Ballet at Point Park University (Pittsburgh).
  • Cheryl Mrozowski, director of the Dance Company at Wheaton College (Massachusetts).
  • Bonnie Pickard, dancer with Suzanne Farrell Ballet and North Carolina Dance Theatre.
  • Jennifer Schildknecht, dancer with Dayton Ballet and Ballet West.
  • Stuart Sebastian, former Dayton Ballet Artistic Director and dancer with National Ballet of Washington.
  • Rosalee Calvert, dancer with "Dayton Civic Ballet" Dayton Ballet.
  • Dustin Shane, dancer with San Francisco Ballet.
  • Gabrielle Sharp, dancer with the Dayton Ballet.
  • Jennifer Sydor, dancer with Kim Robards Dance.
  • Jonothan Tabbert, dancer with the Charleston Ballet.
  • Donna Wood, dancer with Alvin Ailey.
  • Rebecca Wright, dancer with American Ballet Theatre, on Broadway in Merlin, and with the Joffrey Ballet.

See also


  1. ^ "The Dayton Ballet". Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  2. ^ "Company Information". Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Jack (2004-03-02). "Josephine Schwarz, 95, Leader In Growth of Regional Ballets". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  4. ^ a b "Stuart Sebastian, Choreographer, 40". New York Times (New York, United States). 19 January 1991. Retrieved 5 April 2013. 
  5. ^ profiles of Ohio women 1803-2003. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  6. ^ "Dayton Ballet School". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 

External links

  • Dayton Ballet, official website
  • Dayton Ballet Company Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
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