As Nashville Ballet enters its 20th season under Paul Vasterling’s artistic direction, current Chief Operating Officer Lisa Dixon French has been promoted to the newly created position of executive director, reflecting the needs of the thriving organization in the face of unprecedented growth. 

This new structure reflects the proven partnership between French and Vasterling and will further Nashville Ballet’s ability to achieve artistic recognition and success across Tennessee and the nation, building on the Ballet’s recent acclaimed performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in 2017, according to Jennifer Puryear, chairman of the board of Nashville Ballet.  

French will lead all administrative aspects of Nashville Ballet as executive director including operations, development, marketing and finance. As artistic director, Vasterling will focus on the creative aspects of the organization, such as talent recruitment and program creation. Recently, Vasterling was awarded prestigious Fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts in New York City.   

“The excellence of Nashville Ballet in performance, talent development and education is well established under Paul Vasterling’s leadership,” said Puryear. “It is an immense pleasure for the organization to have matured to allow Paul to focus on broadening our artistic programming and potential. Lisa is a proven talent who has long been instrumental in our operations success. With her deep passion for Nashville Ballet and strong leadership skills, she will play a critical role in maintaining our professionalism and financial success. We are delighted to announce this expanded leadership team and to have reached this exciting point in the growth of Nashville Ballet.” 

French joined the Nashville Ballet’s administrative team in March 2016 after successful tenures as chief operating officer of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and then as executive director of the Portland (Maine) Symphony Orchestra. During her time at Nashville Ballet, French has facilitated both exemplary operational and cultural shifts for the company and has made multiple critical new hires, such as a director of finance. She has championed the creation of a five-year strategic plan and an annual employee engagement survey, increased Board engagement through focused initiative and grown the operating budget by more than 20 percent.  

Currently, French is pursuing a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. She is also a graduate of an executive level orchestra leadership program through the League of American Orchestras. 

In addition to French’s promotion, School of Nashville Ballet Director Nick Mullikin is stepping into a new role as associate artistic director where he will oversee the School of Nashville Ballet, including Nashville Ballet’s second company known as NB2, and will be involved in the day-to-day activities of the Company. This change comes as a direct
result of the impressive progression of the Company and to meet the increased demands of Nashville Ballet’s artistic team. 

Mullikin joined Nashville Ballet’s team in 2015 after holding managerial positions with Ballet West and Washington Ballet. He has overseen a 30 percent revenue growth within the School, created three Professional Training Division levels to improve training and launched the Young Men’s Scholarship Program in partnership with three Company dancers. Additionally, Mullikin has contributed to a 50 percent increase in auditions in the past year and served as associate director of Nashville’s Nutcracker.  

“Nick brings tremendous history and expertise to this position, and I am excited to welcome him into this new role,” said Vasterling. “He has a passion for the art of ballet and will be instrumental in bringing us to our next level of excellence as associate artistic director.”  

Additional changes to the artistic team at Nashville Ballet include the appointment of longtime Company dancer Christopher Stuart as the organization’s resident choreographer. Stuart, who joined NB2 in 2002 and the Company in 2003, retired from the Company to take on this new role. As resident choreographer, he will be responsible for creating new works under the Nashville Ballet brand. Many of Stuart’s previous works have been highly-acclaimed Nashville Ballet premieres, including Under the Lights, The Raven and Seven Deadly Sins, which returns to the stage in October 2018. Stuart was awarded a choreographic fellowship from the New York Choreographic Institute in 2016 and 2017.   

Company Artist Jon Upleger was also recently promoted and named ballet master for the organization. While Upleger will continue to dance a limited repertoire in the upcoming season, he will take on additional responsibilities such as staging and rehearsing Nashville Ballet’s impressive repertory. Former Associate Ballet Master Denise Eason was also named ballet master.  

“Upleger, Eason and Allison Zamorski will make up the talented team of ballet masters with a comprehensive, impressive knowledge of Nashville Ballet’s repertory,” says Vasterling.  

About Nashville Ballet: 

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 Paul Vasterling. Nashville Ballet and the second company, NB2 (a pre-professional training company), provide more than 70,000 arts experiences to adults and children annually through season performances and its Community Engagement programming. Curriculum-based Community Engagement programs bring dance education to community centers, colleges, public libraries and public elementary, middle and high schools across the state. School of Nashville Ballet brings world-class dance instruction to students age 2 to 70. 
Nashville Ballet receives public funding from Metro Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. Contributions from local, regional and national institutional funders and community partners, as well as hundreds of generous individuals, provide ongoing support of Nashville Ballet’s mission-critical programs. 

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AuthorNashville Ballet