MISSION: The name says it all—Dance St. Louis is focused on bringing dance performances and education to area audiences. In addition to presenting shows by acclaimed touring companies, Dance St. Louis provides dance-related programs like pre-show discussions, master classes and youth outreach.
HISTORY: Founded in 1966 by Washington University dance professor Annelise Mertz and a handful of other dance enthusiasts, Dance St. Louis was “mostly conceived as an outlet to bring in contemporary work—and specifically works of Alwin Nikolais, one of the artists [Mertz] was enamored with,” says artistic and executive director Michael Uthoff. The organization originally started with meetings held in someone’s living room and an operating budget of merely $11,000. “It certainly grew with companies; by the time I came on board, our budgets were fluctuating anywhere between $1.6 and $2.4 million.”
Uthoff says some "came from begging, and the generosity of many corporations and individuals in the city; and close to 50 percent—or a little less—comes from ticket sales. We live in a time where the arts are totally dependent on the generosity of people. We’re trying to keep our ticket price accessible, and we’re way below the average market place; therefore, it’s the individual generosity that makes it possible.”
COMMUNITY IMPACT: While Dance St. Louis does not have its own dance company, it offers programs and classes about dance and how to dance. The Monsanto Dance Education Residency Program provides two three-week programs per year that unite teachers from a touring company with students from urban middle and high schools. Six area schools participate in this program, and students who complete the course are invited to attend Dance St. Louis performances free of charge.
Additionally, a Young People’s Performance is presented once per year; these shows, aimed at a youth crowd, are shorter and less expensive than average, making them ideal for field trips.
The outreach of Dance St. Louis extends beyond the schools. Uthoff says master classes are held with each visiting company, and have a typical turnout of 30 to 35 dancers. And prior to each performance, there is an installment in the ongoing discussion series, Speaking of Dance, during which professionals from the company “bring light to the audience about what they’re going to see, and why they do what they’re doing," he explains.
But of course, Dance St. Louis is not simply educational. At the core of the organization are the performances. Still on the docket for 2013-2014 season is Los Angeles dance company Diavolo, “an incredible company that really defies gravity,” says Uthoff, as well as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “That is usually a favorite—it’s one of the most popular American dance companies all over the world. They represent the power and nuances and simplicities of the American dance scene.” Additionally, the seventh Annual Emerson Spring to Dance Festival will be held over Memorial Day weekend, and will feature 30 dance companies over a three-day period.
WHAT/WHEN/WHERE: THE BALLET BALL: A SWAN-DERFUL EVENING, MAR. 22, ST. LOUIS UNION STATION HOTEL
This event will honor the 2014 Swan Award Recipients, Carol and Tom Voss, and will feature dinner, dancing, an auction and a performance from the Shanghai Ballet Residency Program.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To find out more about Dance St. Louis, call 534-5000 or visit dancestlouis.org.
ON THE BOARD: RICHARD WINTER
Richard Winter has been involved with Dance St. Louis on-and-off since 1998, serving in a multitude of leadership roles, including treasurer and board president.
“They bring in wonderful performances from all over the world. Without this organization, we would not have the kind of dance we have available here in St. Louis,” says Winter, who is co-chairing the upcoming Ballet Ball, along with his wife, Kathie, and Joan Quicksilver.
Winter also is president of the three Garden View Care Center locations, Health Care Investments, Art Obsessions, Larus Corporation and Larus Management Corporation. Before entering the retirement facility business, the St. Louis native attended Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri - St. Louis. He currently serves on the board of a number of area organizations, including Saint Louis University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Jazz St. Louis and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.