In 1972, thirty-four rural ballet companies were formed by funding made possible through a special grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Of the thirty-four initial companies, Ballet Idaho remains one of two companies still performing today.
Ballet Idaho originated in Moscow, Idaho under the artistic directorship of Carl Petrick and Jeannette Allyn and was called Ballet Folk of Moscow, Inc. By 1980 the company had grown to ten full-time dancers and through extensive touring had become a regional company renamed American Festival Ballet.
In 1982 the company relocated to Boise, opened its first academy, and in 1983 gave its first performance in the Morrison Center accompanied by the Boise Philharmonic. During the 1980’s the company expanded its tour schedule to include performances in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Utah, as well as Idaho, and paying its first visits to British Columbia.
In 1993, American Festival Ballet was renamed Ballet Idaho to reflect its status as Idaho’s professional ballet company. The company then made the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy its permanent home. In 1994 Ballet Idaho formed a unique alliance with Eugene Ballet. This agreement allowed each company to share production costs for the professional troupe while maintaining separate administrative offices, boards of directors, educational outreach programs and dance schools. In 2000, Ballet Idaho was recognized for Excellence in the Arts with the Governor’s Awards in the Arts.
The alliance with the Eugene Ballet Company was dissolved after the 2007-2008 season to fulfill the long-held goal of establishing a true resident company serving the Treasure Valley and the state of Idaho. To that end, internationally renowned Artistic Director Peter Anastos was hired to take the artistic helm and presented his first season in 2008/09. A new company of dancers from across the United States was established. During the second season, our Academy of Dance was reconstituted and new teaching standards and curriculum were put into place.
Ballet Idaho’s third season was tremendous and displayed significant growth in both the company and the staff. The Board of Directors hired new administrative leadership appointing Paul Kaine as the new Executive Director for Ballet Idaho. Following the appointment of Mr. Kaine, new Development and Marketing Directors were hired. 2010/11 was marked by the creation of new marketing and branding campaigns; creation of new development and communications plans and the establishment of organizational goals through the creation of a long-range, sustainability-focused plan designed to take Ballet Idaho through the next three years.
2011/12 was a year of growth for Ballet Idaho. We increased the number of our performances both in Boise and on tour, revamped our Academy with the hiring of a new Academy Director Emily Wallace. We streamlined our staff and increased the size our professional company of dancers, as well as our Board of Directors, all in keeping with our long range plans.
The 2012/13 season for Ballet Idaho was a turning point. The company performed their entire season at the Morrison Center. The season opened with George Balanchine’s Serenade… the ballet that reshaped classical ballet in America. The significance of this performance, only the most talented companies are authorized to perform the works of Balanchine, arguably the greatest choreographer of all time. As well, Mr. Anastos premiered his full-length Swan Lake in April.
A major effort to acquire the works of George Balanchine began in earnest in 2014. Since he is acknowledged as perhaps the greatest choreographer of all time, it was determined that Ballet Idaho’s profile should include this master. In succeeding seasons the company acquired Mr. Balanchine’s Rubies, Valse Fantaisie and Concerto Barocco. These world-renown masterpieces added particular luster to Ballet Idaho’s reputation and “put us on the map,” so to speak with the international dance world. One of Balanchine’s greatest ballets, “Agon” is scheduled for performances in February, 2018. Another milestone for the company came in 2015, with the acquisition of Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs.
The company also invested in local talent through the NewDance program, a twice-yearly workshop presentation of new ballets by company dancers and invited guests. This program grew substantially into a sold-out event that addressed the interests of contemporary audiences and opened up new avenues for people to explore beyond the classical repertoire. Daniel Ojeda has emerged as an important talent in this process and continues to create new work for the company, both in NewDance and on the main stage at The Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts.
In 2017, Artistic Director Peter Anastos announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 2017/18 season, and the Board of Directors launched a search for a new Artistic Director. Ballet Idaho continues today in a very strong artistic and financial position. Three years of surplus budgets, a burgeoning new Apprentice Program and the creation of new ballets mark the company’s current profile. Ballet Idaho is poised to enter a new phase of its existence with many new and exciting plans for the future.