The history of Greensboro Ballet begins with the regional dance movement of the 1960’s. Prior to that, ballet training was primarily available in New York and San Francisco. But, when many Ballet Russe-era dancers relocated to communities across the United States, the regional dance movement was born.
The movement represented a sea change in dance education. Regional dance organizations focused on decentralizing ballet education to establish an expectation of finding legitimate training anywhere in the country. The movement launched a network of artistic directors, helped them learn how to run not-for-profit ballet organizations, and gave students opportunities to take master classes and perform for their peers.
Out of this movement came Greensboro Civic Ballet in 1964. Initially, the organization was informal. There was no official school, but rather a focus on providing local dancers an annual performance. The school came later, in the 1970s, when former dancers in our community identified a need to provide consistent, structured training and renamed the organization Civic Ballet Theatre (CBT). Organizers approached the United Arts Council of Greensboro for membership, funding and space in the Greensboro Cultural Center.
In 1980, Maryhelen Mayfield, an alumnus of Kansas City Ballet, was hired. Enrollment in the school grew rapidly and quickly surpassed the goal of 75 students. In that first year, 123 students enrolled in classes. Public performance followed soon afterward. Within 30 days of opening its doors, the Ballet performed at the first annual City Stage arts festival. Later that year, CBT first performed The Nutcracker with North Carolina Dance Theatre. Rapid growth in school enrollment—overseen by School Director John Dennis—followed, as well as membership in Southeast Regional Ballet Association (SERBA). CBT was the first SERBA Honor Company, the highest level of membership, from North Carolina.
The organization’s evolution brought two further changes: A new name, Greensboro Ballet, and the addition of professional dancers in 1995. Although the financial downturn of 2003 was a difficult time for the Ballet, the company forged ahead and made decisions that put the organization on a better financial footing. A dedicated group of staff and volunteers have been central to continuing Greensboro Ballet’s mission.
Greensboro Ballet remains not only a vibrant member of the local arts community, but stands among its peers in regional dance, including Atlanta Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Ballet St. Louis, Birmingham Ballet and others.
It is very important to Greensboro Ballet that it give back to the community in which it makes its home. Our various outreach programs include:
-The Build-a-Ballet program, funded generously by Lincoln Financial Corporation, in which an original dance work is created by and performed at a different public school in Guilford County each year;
-Dancing Above the Barre, a program for students with various disabilities that in the past have kept them out of dance class;
-Out on the Town series which performs in community centers and schools in traditionally under served areas;
-Participation in Downtown Greensboro’s free First Friday events and other community and arts events which have included Touch A Truck, BurMill Fall Festival, Winterfest and much more;
-Providing complimentary tickets to other non-profit organizations in order to expose more members of our community classical dance.