Oklahoma City Ballet has had several names dating back to the early 1960s, but the organization truly started because of a desire to present professional ballet to the community.
The organization has undoubtedly had a storied journey along the way. Many people do not realize that the company almost folded in 2008 due to the financial crisis. During those dire times, the board Artistic Director Robert Mills had to practically start again from scratch. In only 12 years, the company’s budget has more than quadrupled, their school enrollment has grown by about 700%, they also have established one of the most incredible ballet facilities in the world, and their national reputation for quality and excellence grows every day.
In the midst of this booming cornerstone of the performing arts community however, they currently find themselves in survival mode at the moment like so many nonprofit businesses. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were forced to cancel their spring productions and close their school, which are both significant earned revenue streams for Oklahoma City Ballet. Luckily, they have incredibly generous supporters who are helping them weather the storm, and a caring community that values the arts.
Fortunately, they are always looking ahead and making plans for the future. Oklahoma City Ballet has a fantastic 2020/21 Season of performances that will begin in the fall. They hope to hold our Summer Intensive program in June/July that usually brings 150-200 dancers (ages 13-23) from around the world to dance in their facility for eight hours a day for six full weeks!
Oklahoma City Ballet wants to give every person who wishes to dance an opportunity to do so. Most people know their organization for their professional productions at the Civic Center, but they also have the Oklahoma City Ballet Yvonne Chouteau School that conducts classes for dancers from age three to 103, for all levels and abilities. Because they do not want to turn away children who wish to dance, they give over $200,000 in tuition scholarships annually. They also have free community engagement dance classes in seven schools, five Boys & Girls Clubs, two senior centers, and they have free classes at their own facility for people with Parkinson’s disease and children with special needs. Dance is a universal language and it is their job to make sure their community will keep dancing.
When asked what they are most proud of, they are proud of everything that they do.But most notably, it has been the growth and flourishment of the organization over the past five years into one of the best ballet facilities imaginable, drawing talent from around the world and keeping that talent in OKC. They are also tremendously proud of the surge of local support letting them know that having a professional ballet company is important to their cultural landscape. They acknowledge that they certainly wouldn’t be here without the support of their community.
Something that sets the ballet apart is the fact that Oklahoma City Ballet conducts programs and productions that are equal if not better than many companies that have 4-5 times their annual budget. Their repertoire (collection of ballets they have performed) is extremely impressive and the quality of dancers they have is comparable to any major city. Somehow, they make it work on a much smaller budget and a small but mighty staff who are fiercely dedicated and immensely talented.
In addition to productions, their school, and community engagement programs, they also host really fun parties. Their annual Ballet Ball is in April, they have the family-friendly Nutcracker Tea in December, and their Associate Board throws a PROM in January in their facility.
Simply put, come dance with Oklahoma City Ballet… in any capacity.