Butler Ballet is the pre-professional performing ensemble of the Department of Dance, Jordan College Of The Arts, Butler University. The dance program is consistently ranked as one of the top five in the nation; granting dance degrees since 1952, it has been accredited since 1992.

Ballerinas from the Butler Ballet, ca. early 1970s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

The dance faculty is a diverse group of artists and teachers who have had national and international careers before coming to Butler. A professional training program centered on classical ballet, it includes modern, jazz, character dance, improvisation, world dance, and choreography, with the goal of producing versatile, well-rounded dancers who are prepared for the professional stage. Quality dance instruction and professional-level performance have a long history at Butler, going back to its predecessor institution, the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music.

Each year, the Butler Ballet presents three fully produced professional-level dance performances. The classical ballet repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries, performed with live music in Clowes Memorial Hall, is featured in two of these concerts. The third concert is a mixed-bill program that highlights a licensed work by a major 20th-century choreographer, or a newly commissioned work created for the group by a contemporary dance artist, and includes original works by the company’s resident choreographers.

Ballerinas from the Jordan College of Art, 1946
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

In 1895 the Metropolitan School of Music was founded and merged the Indiana College of Music and Fine Arts in 1928 to become the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music. The conservatory became part of Butler University in 1953 and changed its name to Jordan College of Arts in 1978.

Butler Ballet first performed sections of The Nutcracker in 1962 with the Mansfield, Ohio, Symphony Orchestra. In the following years, the Ballet collaborated with other professional orchestras in performances of the second act of The Nutcracker. In 1983, the first full-length, fully produced production with a live orchestra was presented at Butler University and the annual tradition was born.

The Indianapolis Children’S Choir joins the Butler Symphony Orchestra or the Butler Ballet Orchestra for seven performances, including those for schoolchildren. The Nutcracker Tea Party, sponsored by the Sigma Rho Delta dance fraternity, has also become an annual event, giving young dancers the opportunity to interact with cast members. With its beautiful set, gorgeous costumes, a cast of over 120 dancers, and live music, Butler Ballet’s The Nutcracker has been a grand holiday tradition with consistently sold-out performances and over 14,000 audience members annually.

The Schrott Center For The Arts is the current home for the Midwinter Dances (formerly the Mid-Winter Dance Festival), first presented in 1964 and performed early in the spring semester. Each year, the Midwinter Dances features a historically significant work by a major choreographer or commissions a new work by a contemporary dance artist. Past years’ concerts have included works by such luminaries as George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Gerald Arpino, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Nacho Duato, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano, and Patrick de Bana. Midwinter Dances traditionally presents two separate programs in a rotating repertoire. Rounding out each program is original choreography created by the company’s resident choreographers, ranging in style from the neoclassical to the avant-garde to contemporary ballet.

Butler Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker, 2007
Credit: Butler University

The Spring Ballet is the final Butler Ballet performance of the academic year, presenting a full-length classical ballet drawn from the nineteenth- and twentieth-century repertoire. Performing in Clowes Memorial Hall with a live orchestra, Butler Ballet currently rotates among the five classics in its repertoire: Giselle, Coppélia, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, giving dance majors experience with four different ballets during their college careers.

The Department of Dance supports two other concerts that highlight student choreography. The fall semester Choreographers Showcase is produced, organized, choreographed, and performed entirely by the students. In the spring semester, the department showcases the choreographic work of the graduating class. The student concerts are performed in the Lilly Hall Studio Theatre and often include collaborative work with other Jordan College of the Arts student artists.

Revised March 2021

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