Exquisite entertainment with charming, elegant choreography and some of the loveliest dancers found performing in the Midwest are accessible to St. Louis regional residents and visitors via the Saint Louis Ballet. The group is the area's only professional ballet company, and operates a training program for young dancers in Chesterfield.
Under the direction of former New York City Ballet principal dancer Gen Horiuchi, the ballet company's classically trained dancers (currently tallying 21) are selected in a competitive national audition, and come to St. Louis from a large universe of training programs and ballet companies, including Japan, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania and of course, Missouri.
This is a special year for Gen, who himself relocated to St. Louis during the 2000-2001 ballet season, making this his 20th season of spearheading the company.
He says he danced in New York for 20 years and discovered the overall attraction of St. Louis first as a guest dancer. "I always loved baseball, and was a Yankees fan. Then I saw what a huge baseball town St. Louis is. The fans were so supportive, when a St. Louis player struck out, they still clapped for him and looked forward to his next at-bat. The same type of deep support happened while we were dancing. When something interesting happened on stage, the audience immediately applauded with such strong support," explains Gen.
He remembers feeling so comfortable in St. Louis, he took a big leap of faith by deciding to live here and launch a new ballet school. He started with 40 students, and says he's up to 400 now. "People here do appreciate good dance education and love ballet as an art form," he says.
The company’s repertoire includes full-length ballets, as well as contemporary work from renowned choreographers, such as George Balanchine, Christopher d’Amboise, Jessica Lang, Twyla Tharp, Tom Gold, Emery LeCrone, Amy Seiwert, Nilas Martins and Michael Uthoff.
In addition to a season of productions and the local training program, the Saint Louis Ballet team conducts an outreach program, Pointe to Succeed, for students at select urban schools.
Gen's advice to those wanting to attend a ballet performance for the first time: "There's nothing that anyone needs to study about ballet before attending. You will see what you see," he says. "The beauty of ballet comes from individual interpretations."
Gen says attendance of the local ballet performances over the past five years has increased by 30 percent.
Upcoming Saint Louis Ballet Performances:
February 14-16: Could This Be Love? / Saint Louis Ballet + Arianna String Quartet featuring Tony Award-Winner Christopher Wheeldon’s The American
For the first time, Saint Louis Ballet pairs with the talent Arianna String Quartet for its annual Valentine’s weekend performances. Could This Be Love? is a program of romantic works, features The American, a ballet by Tony Award-Winning director and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. A former Royal Ballet dancer and Gold Medal winner at the Prix de Lausanne, Christopher was called by one New York critic “the best thing to happen to ballet in 50 years.” He's created work for such companies as New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, and is best known to Broadway audiences for his An American in Paris.
The American will be performed by Arianna String Quartet to Antonin Dvorak’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96. Hailed for outstanding musicianship, Arianna String Quartet members have established themselves as one of America’s finest chamber ensembles. Their performances are praised for “tonal warmth, fastidious balance…expressive vitality” (Chicago Tribune) and “emotional commitment and fluent virtuosity,” (Pretoria News, South Africa). Formed in 1992, the ASQ garnered national attention by winning the Grand Prize in the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition, First Prize in both the Coleman and Carmel Chamber Music Competitions, and were Laureates in the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition. The Arianna Quartet has appeared throughout North America, South America, Europe and Asia, with frequent visits to Brazil and South Africa.
Gen says the whole group is very enthused about the unique collaboration that will occur for these performances.
April 3-5: Swan Lake
Swan Lake was premiered by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1877 and has found its way into the repertory of virtually every professional ballet company. Fashioned from Russian and German folk tales and with music by Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake is the story of Princess Odette who is turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse.
Gen's production of this famously favorite show is a grand one with glorious costumes, sets and lighting. He says the group hasn't performed it since 2016, so everyone's eager to relive its appeal.
The Saint Louis Ballet School is located in 218 THF Blvd., in Chesterfield.
Saint Louis Ballet Company performances are held in the Anheuser-Busch Theatre at Touhill Performing Arts Center, One University Drive in St. Louis.
Tickets: $24-$59 (Could This Be Love?); $25-$69 (Swan Lake). Get tickets online at touhill.org or phone the Touhill Box Office at 314.516.4949.