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An Open Letter to the Community

Dear students, families, patrons, donors, partners and supporters of St. Paul Ballet,

We are so thankful for our community and are looking forward to another great year. Our school director is committed to providing the highest quality training in a safe and healthy environment.

I am writing to you about recent changes at St. Paul Ballet, the departure of the company artistic director and company dancers. Transitions like this can be difficult and it’s understandable that there are questions.

I have complied the questions we have heard into this public letter.

Who will be teaching at St. Paul Ballet this year?
Our new and returning faculty can be found on our website faculty page.  They are a highly qualified group of instructors with many years of experience. More than half of our staff are returning and others are new.

Can the board and school management assure families that their dancer will be in a safe and nurturing environment?
Respectful and constructive language about bodies of dancers at all levels is one of our top priorities. This has been our hallmark. Body shaming and unsafe practices are not tolerated.

St. Paul Ballet has been a place where dancers and staff have shared their personal stories and engaged in healthy dialogue.

We continue to partner with Melrose Center who offer support, encouragement and healing for people struggling with all types of eating disorders. This season, staff will have professional development tailored to the cultural messages and unique challenges of the ballet environment.

The board has recently implemented a new committee structure, including a personnel committee that will review our policies and make any additions as needed to ensure that SPB continues to be a safe, accessible, healthy place to dance.

We will continue to provide an open, nurturing and welcoming environment for all.

Was the board involved in the decision to terminate the company artistic director?
Yes, the decision was made by the full board. This decision was not made in haste and was made after consulting with legal and human resource nonprofit experts who know the full history, demands and challenges of our organization.

Who is on the board?
We have a board of eight people representing diverse backgrounds and skill sets. (See Board list below under About St. Paul Ballet)

One board member has recently left and a current parent has joined who will continue to bring the parent perspective to us.

Two of our board members have worked as dance artists, another member is a director and performer, and we have an entrepreneur and community leader. Other members bring business, marketing, human resources and financial skills to the board.

This is a dedicated, diverse, compassionate and bright board who are committed to the vision of SPB for all of the students, families, artists, patrons, donors and partners of SPB. They have provided many hours of service at no cost and we hope you’ll join us in expressing deep gratitude to them.

Will there be a performing company?
We have secured the dates at O’Shaughnessy for our Nutcracker, November 30 through December 2 and will have company interim artistic direction. We are seeking a permanent company artistic director who has the highest qualifications in dance, in working with students, and is also committed to this ideal of creating access for all socio-economic levels, body types, ages, levels of ability and dancers of color. It is the interim artistic/artistic director’s job to audition and hire the company dancers.

Is the continuing partnership with Element Gym going forward?
Yes, the work I started with Element Gym will continue. In fact, Dalton Outlaw, Element Gym’s owner has been on our board of directors for two years and is looking forward to continued collaboration with us.

We are partnering with Artspace to guide us in creating a collaborative permanent space. Please check out the video they just released today describing our Immersion cohort.

Are the finances stable?
Yes. Our revenue sources include tuition fees, grants, performances and individual donations. We contract an outside accountant for monthly financials and our 990s are public information.

We are a 501©(3) nonprofit and we work with Propel Nonprofits for holistic guidance in governance and financial management.

With so many changes, how can the board and management guarantee that St. Paul Ballet will remain the same great organization we all know and love?
The board and management team are guided by our vision, mission and values, which are greater than any individual. We believe that St Paul Ballet will continue to grow and thrive as we remain committed to our mission and serving our community. I cannot promise you that everything will always stay the same because growth often comes with some change. It is our goal to serve a broader community, both through our training and performance, to truly extend the access to ballet to all who want to participate, to challenge ourselves on the role and the power of dance in our classes, shows and outreach. We understand that change carries challenges, but we also believe that’s where our opportunity lies. We remain committed to our vision and hope you do too.

St. Paul Ballet is dedicated to increasing access to ballet for all. We’re proud of the great progress we have made over the last five years expanding our base and our vision to be more inclusive. We have a track record of creating excellent training, demonstrated in part by the success of our students being accepted at prestigious summer dance courses and the students coming to us from across the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota because of our reputation.

We are launching a Community Advisory Committee to ensure we continue to shape our strategy around what the community wants and needs. If you are interested in supporting us through this process, please contact about joining the Advisory Committee. It will be a great opportunity to connect to other St. Paul Ballet supporters and help guide our growth and development.

We will come through this with strength and resilience and we invite you to grow with us.


Lori Gleason
Executive Director
St. Paul Ballet

About St. Paul Ballet


655 Fairview Avenue N., St. Paul (In the Living Word Church building 3 blocks north of the University/Fairview Ave. Greenline LRT station) Phone: 651-690-1588

Saint Paul Ballet’s vision is to lift the human spirit through the art of ballet.

Saint Paul Ballet’s mission is to perform a vibrant repertory with a passion for the highest level of excellence, provide the finest dance education and reduce barriers to involvement in the art of dance.

Today’s dancer can do more than ever and choreographers are embracing the new fluid boundaries of ballet. Whatever 21st century ballet becomes you can be sure it will be deep and wide and rich as it always has been and Saint Paul Ballet wants to be part of its evolution. The technical foundation of professional dancers springs from a deep love of classical ballet. They are masters of ballet’s universal language and its countless nuances which brings integrity to their contemporary work. As they extend their movement vocabulary they hope to stir our souls and articulate the resplendent as well as the relevant.

We strive to create a nurturing environment in which the student’s individual development is supported. The pre-professional program provides students with exceptional clarity and strength while encouraging a life-long love of dance and healthy body image. Live accompaniment, enrichment in modern and character dance along with promotion of health and well-being complete the training.

Students enrolled in the pre-professional program build the foundation for college-level programs, conservatory or a professional career. Over 100 students each year are trained in the Vaganova-based progressive curriculum augmented by modern dance and other genres to create the well-rounded dancer. The training is divided into levels appropriate to the age, maturity and dance expertise of each student. Auditions are required for placement and progressive advancement is based on strength, physical development and mastery.

Engagement and Outreach
There is no substitute for actively participating in art. At first glance the biggest barriers to participation seem to be location (transportation) and cost. At St. Paul Ballet we have the good fortune of residing just three blocks off the Greenline LRT in St. Paul. We hold recreational classes and offer the first class free with subsequent convenient drop-in classes at affordable rates.  But we have found that a welcoming, non judgmental atmosphere is the most critical factor in participation. St. Paul ballet celebrates inclusiveness and values all body types.

The recreational program at the School of SPB serves an additional 300 students and their families in our community through music and movement programs for young dancers ages 4-6, beginning ballet for ages 7-11 and ballet on a drop-in basis for teens and adults who enjoy exercise in its most elegant form.
SPB also serves the broader population of St. Paul and Minneapolis through:
• Saint Paul Public Schools Community Education
• Free public performances at the Landmark Center monthly and at Toddler Tuesdays, Mall of America semi-annually
• Tickets to performances provided to school children and their families in partnership with Project Success which provides transportation and childcare removing the biggest obstacles to families attending dance performances.

Saint Paul Ballet is a 501(c)(3) organization.

Board of Directors
Sarah Leismer, Interim Chair, Medtronic
Lillyan Hoyos, Secretary, Account Director at Altus Marketing & Business Development
Steven Pomeroy, Treasurer, Merkle, Associate Director of Analytics
Amber Genetsky, Chiropractor, and Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board, SMSC Wellness Center
Timothy Knutsen, Human resources consultant
Christina Onusko, Artistic Advisor: Director, Block and Grading Services, Alvanon

Dalton Outlaw, Owner, Element Boxing and Fitness
Kelly Turpin, artistic administrator and consultant with Libby Larsen Chronofon Productions

Executive Director
Lori Gleason

School Director
Laura Greenwell

Directors Emeritus
David Trayers

Marla Murphy-Guddal 

Saint Paul Ballet (SPB) was established in 2002 when the St. Anthony School of Dance merged with the St. Anthony Performing Arts Guild located in the historic Grand Avenue “studios above the hardware store” where ballet has been taught for over 60 years. In 2012, SPB was restructured and has grown exponentially.