Nashville Ballet’s history of consistent growth and steady expansion is a credit to the dedicated artists and philanthropists who worked tirelessly to bring the art of ballet to Nashville. Those visionaries worked diligently to bring this classical art form to a city that was already well on its way to becoming a cultural hub.
Nashville Ballet officially became a professional company in 1986, but its beginnings started a decade prior:
1974: A small group of committed dancers opens Dancers Studio in the Green Hills area. Dancers Studio offers ballet and other dance classes to the public, including many Opryland USA theme park performers.
1981-1985: Six teenagers from the Dancers Studio create The Young Dancers’ Concert Group, a performance group lead by Jane Fabian, a native Nashvillian who taught at Dancers Studio. The group rehearses in donated space downtown and first performs in 1981 at TPAC’s Polk Theater. After several successful productions, the Young Dancers’ Concert Group evolves into Nashville City Ballet, a regional performance group.
1986: Nashville City Ballet transitions to a professional performance company and hires its first artistic director, Dane LaFontsee.
1987: Nashville City Ballet officially changes its name to Nashville Ballet.
1989: Nashville Ballet hosts its first Ballet Ball fundraiser, originally known as Masked Ball, co-chaired by Clare Armistead and Elizabeth Nichols. Paul Vasterling is hired as a company member.
1991: Clay Jackson, Welling LaGrone and Donnie Nichols co-chair the Ballet Ball and it becomes an annual fundraiser. Nashville Ballet grows out of its space downtown and moves to a building on Sidco Drive to provide larger rehearsal studio space and expand the offerings of the School of Nashville Ballet. Nashville Ballet has 17 company members and begins an Outreach & Community Engagement program to bring the art of ballet and love of dance into the community.
1992: Friends of Nashville Ballet is founded as the volunteer auxiliary of Nashville Ballet, planning dancer dinners, hosting special guests and planning fundraising events for Nashville Ballet.
1998: Nashville Ballet names Paul Vasterling artistic director, after serving as Ballet Master and various other positions within the company.
1999: Nashville Ballet makes its international debut, performing in Basel, Switzerland.
2000: Nashville Ballet purchases the building at 3630 Redmon Street, in the Sylvan Heights neighborhood, where it remains. The building, a former indoor tennis facility, is renovated to meet the needs of the company and school. Thanks to generous donors, Nashville Ballet becomes the first performing arts group in the city to own its own building.
2005: Nashville Ballet embarks on its second international tour, performing in Argentina after Paul Vasterling is granted a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.
2008: The Nutcracker is reinvented as Nashville’s Nutcracker. Set at Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1898, it features new sets, costumes, Vasterling’s original choreography and on-stage magic tricks.
Today: Nashville Ballet is the largest professional ballet company in Tennessee. Nashville Ballet presents a varied repertoire of classical ballet and contemporary works by noted choreographers, including original works by Artistic Director & CEO Paul Vasterling. Nashville Ballet and the second company NB2 (a pre-professional training company) serve nearly 70,000 adults and children annually through performances and outreach and community engagement programming. Curriculum-based outreach programs bring dance education to community centers, colleges, public libraries and public elementary, middle and high schools across the state. The School of Nashville Ballet provides world-class instruction in ballet and other forms of dance for dancers of all ages.