In a city that has most everything at its fingertips, the year 2008 was the third year in which there was no professional ballet in Indianapolis. Ballet Internationale, a $3.5 million per year company had run out of money as it wore through an audience that no longer identified with its style of ballet. The question on the minds of city advocates, ballet advocates, and arts leaders was, ‘could an audience be encouraged to support ballet again in Indianapolis?’.
Robert Hesse, Jane Fortune, Kevin Hesse, and Jolinda Menendez, conceived the program to test, adapt and build a ballet program of the highest international quality and to do so at a low cost. And so, Indianapolis City Ballet burst onto the Indianapolis arts scene in September 2009 with its Evening with the Stars, gala-style program. The audience was enthusiastic and immediately embraced the new ballet presence. The event sought not to divide the audience into the classically and contemporary-minded but to unite them. It was a unique event including some of the world’s foremost dancers performing their signature works, including classical and cutting-edge contemporary ballet works and excerpts. Over its initial 8 years, the annual performance has been named “Event of the Year” every year and the Indianapolis audiences were treated to the greatest dance and dancers in the world!
With almost 100 schools of dance in the metropolitan area, an opportunity to bring new opportunities for young dancers to learn and network, the master class series program would unite these schools, teachers, and students from across the region. Sponsored by Penny and Jock Fortune, the Master Class Series started in January 2010 and has brought some of the world’s most renowned teachers and artists to Indianapolis. This series has served to unite a community of dance in Indianapolis and, with classes sizes capped to assure a productive experience, all have been filled to capacity. Video-taped question and answer sessions allow students, parents, and teachers to learn more about the teachers and artists and to gain from the insights and experiences of some of the ballet world’s leaders.
As the Amateur Sports Capital of the World, Indianapolis is an ideal host venue for a competition-style dance event. The 2015 Indianapolis International Ballet Competition, with the support of Sarah and John Lechleiter, brought together some of the most talented young dancers to compete for scholarship and jobs. This program has been expanded to include a New York City-based site that can alternate with its Indianapolis host.