Karen Russo Burke, Artistic Director
MISSION: To educate, enlighten and entertain the widest audience possible with the very best in performance, outreach and community service.
The second-oldest ballet company in the United States, Dayton Ballet is known for its innovative and collaborative endeavors. As a dance company committed to producing and presenting new work as well as promoting ballets by evolving choreographers, the organization is looking forward to celebrating their 85th anniversary in their 2022-2023 season.
Dayton Ballet began when Josephine Schwarz and her sister Hermene opened The Schwarz School of Dance in 1927. “Miss Jo” later studied at the School of American Ballet in New York as well as from emerging modern blazers that were coming into the States from Europe. She was forced to return home to Dayton after receiving a devastating knee injury. In May 1937, Miss Jo and Miss Hermene gathered together the school’s finest dancers from their school, named the troupe “The Experimental Group for Young Dancers,” and staged their first performance at the Dayton Art Institute. This was the beginning of what is now Dayton Ballet.
Miss Jo was also an integral part in the birth of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company by encouraging her student, Geraldine Blunden to go and start her own dance school.
After Miss Jo retired, Stuart Sebastian and Dermot Burke, Dayton Ballet’s former Artistic Directors, led the company for over 40 years taking the company to new heights.
Dayton Ballet has toured, created original full length ballets and presented ballets from iconic choreographers such as George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Alvin Ailey, and Gerald Arpino. They continue to commission new works for the company in addition to presenting pieces by contemporary choreographers, such as Jiri Kylian, Septime Webre, and Jessica Lang.
Dayton Ballet hosts the classic family-friendly holiday staple The Nutcracker at the Benjamin and Marion Schuster Center and offers a Sensory Friendly version as well to our community. Our studios are in the historic 1,139 seat Victoria Theatre and the company presents half their season there. Over 40 performances are presented in the two venues throughout the season.
In 2012, the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera and the Dayton Philharmonic merged as one under the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance. The company has added to their performing opportunities by dancing in famous operas such as Aida, Carmen, and The Pearl Fishers presented by the Dayton Opera.
Karen Russo Burke, the current Artistic Director, has choreographed to iconic oratorios Beethoven’s Ninth, Verdi’s Requiem and Joseph Hayden’s The Creation, presented as collaborations among the three art forms.
Additionally, Karen has added over a dozen pieces by female choreographers and continues to keep the company repertory balanced with classic full-length story ballets and edgy contemporary series.
While performances are Dayton Ballet’s most high-profile events, it is our commitment to dance education, training, and outreach that remains at the core of our existence and allows us to develop future audiences through the Dayton Ballet School, in existence for over 85 years, and Dayton Ballet II Company, featuring pre-professional training and performing. We have a long standing association with Wright State University Dance Department. In addition, our Non-Profit Partners Program allows us to work with community agencies to distribute over 1,000 tickets to at-risk youths, senior citizens, handicapped or terminally ill individuals, and military families so that they may experience the joy of ballet classes and performances.