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About SPB Company

In 1997, St. Anthony Performing Arts had a ballet school and an ambitious goal of creating a full-length ballet at the end of the school year to provide students with performance opportunities.

Over the next five years the organization began to draw students interested in pre-professional training and performances included local professional dancers in leading roles. Creating a company alongside the school was a goal of the newly named Saint Paul City Ballet so a holiday ballet was added to begin creating a season. The small ensemble of dancers ranged from 4-8 members under various directors and choreographers. In the spring of 2012, the ballet faced a financial crisis and the Board of Directors cut the budget to pay off debts. The school would be kept open and only the holiday performance and a premiere performance at The Cowles Center for Dance & Performing Arts would be held. The performance at The Cowles was a turning point for the company in terms of artistic quality but the Board released the dancers following the performance to continue to bring expenses under control and strengthen the school as a foundation for future growth.

In the summer of 2013 a group of professional dancers approached the Board of Directors to propose creating an artist-led company where dancers work as administrative collaborators in mounting and maintaining performances. The dancers proposed to raise the funds to support their “piece” of the SPCB budget and provide the capacity in planning and producing needed to create a small season. The Board voted to let them try this endeavor as long as it did not draw financial or staff resources from the school.

In the 2013-14 season the company became St. Paul Ballet and embarked on their experiment as artist led. Artistic Advisor, Christina Onusko came on board to lend the necessary professional guidance and Zoé Emilie Henrot was made interim artistic director. Drawing on the expertise, advice and talent of local, national and international artists and choreographers they were able to increase excellence, expand the repertoire and create a new incubator in the Twin Cities Dance community for ballet. Eight professional dancers were hired that first season and Ms. Henrot premiered “Clara’s Dream,” an abbreviated version of the classic “Nutcracker,” in December of 2013 which makes Clara the hero without a nutcracker or a prince. The artist-led model was a success and this, combined with raising the bar in excellence in training in the school, and awards of grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council has catapulted the organization forward.

The 2015-16 season marked the first full season by the organization in its history with fall, holiday, late winter and spring performances in The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, The O’Shaughnessy and Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center Main Stage. A new collaboration was established with scenic designer Anne Henly to create over three years new scenery for Clara’s Dream, solidifying the ballet as a annual mainstay for the company. Grants from The St. Paul Foundation, the McKnight Foundation and the City of St. Paul Cultural STAR program have been crucial to St. Paul Ballet’s success. Auditions for the company drew hopefuls from around the country for the first time.

Currently, St. Paul Ballet’s 2016-17 season employs a company of ten professional dancers and three apprentices and has built a small but dynamic repertoire of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works. Artistic Director, Zoé Emilie Henrot is committed to commissioning and producing new works and will premiere “Billy” this spring as well as a full-length Carmen with original score from local composer and musician, Richard Erickson in the fall of 2017.

Local choreographers have included Allison Doughty Marquesen, Zoé Emilie Henrot and Sally Rouse, acclaimed Minneapolis dancer, choreographer, and McKnight Fellow in Dance. National and internationally acclaimed guest choreographers who have set or created local premieres for SPB are: Peter Davison, Boulder Ballet; Katie Elliot, 3rd Law Dance/Theater; Joseph Morrissey, Interlochen Arts Academy; Swiss-Canadian Kinsun Chan; and Diane Coburn-Bruning, Artistic Director of the Chamber Dance Project of Washington, D.C.

In October 2016, St. Paul Ballet was awarded a Knights Arts Challenge matching grant for an event in summer of 2017 in collaboration with Element Boxing and will be part of another award in January 2018 for a snowblower ballet.

St Paul Ballet is a non-profit organization whose mission is to rejoice in the beauty and immediacy of dance with the widest possible audience and lift the human spirit through the art of ballet, to provide the finest dance education, reduce barriers to involvement in the art of dance, and perform a vibrant repertory with a passion for the highest level of excellence.




Apprentice Program

The apprentice program is also made up of young artists who would like to pursue a career in dance or the arts. Apprentices are generally of 18-25 years of age. Apprentices receive pointe and flat shoes as determined by their contract, as well as unlimited Company and advanced academy technique classes. The apprentice program is a two-year maximum program and dancers must audition to be accepted. Contact the Artistic Director for more information at


Professional Company

The Professional Company of Saint Paul Ballet is a group of 8-10 artists who work together 25-30 hours a week, 28-32 weeks a season to produce engaging productions and help the organization with administrative “behind the scenes” duties. Company Artists are employees of the organization and are contracted September through May.


Zoé Henrot, Artistic Director

Ms. Henrot is the Artistic Director and choreographer for St. Paul Ballet. In February 2016 her largest work, Locked Key premiered at The Cowles Center for Dance & Performing Arts. Her holiday ballet, Clara’s Dream is now in it’s fourth season. Earlier works include Gray Matter and Nadine also seen at The Cowles and her work Being Undone was restaged in November 2012 with Mount Holyoke College and the Five College Dance Department in Massachusetts. She received her dance training from Boulder Ballet, becoming an apprentice with the company in 2007.

Additionally, she trained with Kansas City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Joffrey Ballet and graduated summa cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a double major in Dance and Biological Sciences. Working with prominent choreographers such as Peter Davison, Ana Claire, Jim Coleman, Terese Freedman, Rose & Charles Flachs, Kinsun Chan, Diane Coburn-Bruning and Sally Russe has influenced her performing, artistry and choreography.

A Fringe Festival reviewer spoke of Henrot’s work as “A sublime symphony of perfect lines and exquisite gestures, this show doesn’t just feature dancing of the highest caliber, it’s a wonderful embodiment of the Cartesian duality of flesh and mind, of the enactment of consciousness as the transformation of movement into dance.” 

OnuskoC_01Christina Onusko, Artistic Advisor

Ms. Onusko began her early training in the Russian Vaganova technique in her native Pennsylvania. She performed with the Hartford Ballet and principal roles with Ballet West Virginia, where she also served as Assistant Artistic Director for five years. Prior to moving to the Twin Cities, Onusko taught for Ballet West Virginia, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet and directed a branch of the School of the Hartford Ballet. Onusko spent a fulfilling 15 years as a core ballet instructor and choreographer for Ballet Arts Minnesota, as well as instructing and guest choreographing for Twin Cities dance schools including SPB. She also created the Maypole Dances for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for 13 years, casting more than 125 dancers with original and unparalleled choreography.