Renowned professional dancers from around the globe star on St. Louis stages throughout the year. And that same high-caliber talent also trains the next generation of local dance artists. It’s all made possible by Dance St. Louis.
“Dance St. Louis is what brings great dance to our city,” notes longtime board member Ken Kranzberg. He, along with his wife, Nancy, and 12-year board member Barbara Eagleton, will be honored with the prestigious Swan Award, for their years of dedication to the local arts and cultural community, at Dance St. Louis’ annual fundraising gala. This year’s event, The Ballet Ball: I LOVE NEW YORK, will celebrate in the vein of the city that never sleeps, with dinner, drinks and dancing. Festivities will begin at 6 p.m. March 8 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. In addition, New York City Ballet will perform Moves on March 9 and 10 at Fox Theatre.
Proceeds from the The Ballet Ball: I LOVE NEW YORK will benefit Dance St. Louis’ operations and education outreach programs. “The education outreach programs give kids a chance to learn dance from top-of-the-line dancers from all over world so they have the opportunity to become great dancers themselves,” Ken Kranzberg says.
The programs include the Dance Education Residency Program and the newly introduced Dance Career Award Program. During the 2011-12 Dance Education Residency Program, visiting teaching artists led 220 local elementary, middle and high school students in various types of dance at in-school and after-school sessions. At the beginning and end of the residency, Dance St. Louis’ artistic and executive director Michael Uthoff evaluated the students' dance skills using state and national standards. The top five students were recognized for their talent and motivation, and moved on to the new Dance Career Award Program, where they are receiving mentoring from Dance St. Louis, as well as financial support for tuition and transportation to help them pursue dance during and following high school. Dance St. Louis also connects students with its network of dance studios, universities and professional companies to advance their path toward a dance career.
Some of these young dancers have become the internationally touring professional talent that Dance St. Louis strives to bring to the city each year. “We have a lot of young, interesting artists here in St. Louis,” Eagleton says. As a former Washington, D. C., resident, Eagleton recalls being exposed to the world-class talent in the nation's capitol, as well as in New York City. “When I moved back to St. Louis, I was impressed to see how many arts organizations there are here, too. People are very supportive of the arts. And they certainly have enriched my life.”
Through the years, Dance St. Louis has hosted a range of classical and contemporary ballet, modern and ethnic dance, and jazz and hip-hop acts, including Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Martha Graham Dance Company, Stuttgart Ballet, STOMP, Riverdance and Pilobolus at area venues such as Fox Theatre and Touhill Performing Arts Center.
Eagleton and the Kranzbergs not only credit Dance St. Louis donors, but also Uthoff, a former ballet soloist, for his artistic knowledge and connections to the professional dance world that allow St. Louis to experience top talent. “He knows what’s happening and what to bring in,” Eagleton notes. Nancy Kranzberg agrees. “He brings in the cream of the crop from all over world.”