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 friendsofspb@spballet.org 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.

Sincerely,

Lori Gleason
Executive Director
St. Paul Ballet