About Dayton Ballet

Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke

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 internationally as “The Company of Premieres.” As one of the top three dance companies in the nation that produces and presents new work, and the only dance company to establish a fund designated specifically to create new full-length 21st Century ballets, the organization takes special pride in celebrating its 75th anniversary in the 2012-2013 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, but was forced to return home to Dayton after receiving an injury while performing in New York. In May 1937, Miss Jo and Miss 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.


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. Our “home” 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 in the two venues throughout the season.

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 II Company featuring pre-professional training and performing and our local association with Muse Machine. In addition, our Non-Profit Partners Program allows us to work with community agencies assisting special populations by distributing 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 a ballet performance. Numerous adults enjoy Pre-performance Lectures and Encore! post-performance discussions with Dayton Ballet dancers, choreographers, and other artists.

In 2005 an Associate Board was established to introduce young professionals to the art of ballet. Now, as Dayton Ballet moves into its 75th Anniversary, Miss Jo’s vision lives on through Dayton Ballet’s many groundbreaking programs. Her devotion to artistic excellence, arts education and the love of dance is incorporated into each and every performance.