In 2020 Ballet Northwest will reach an impressive milestone — 50 years of bringing ballet and the art of dance to Olympia and the greater Thurston County region. In celebration, Ballet Northwest presents the 50th-anniversary gala on Saturday, January 25, 2020, at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The program includes professional dancers from the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and National Ballet of Cuba. During the gala, Ballet Northwest alums will share their experiences and memories of dancing with the company and historical ballet videos will be shown.
“Ballet Northwest’s 50th Anniversary Gala will honor the organization’s history and alumni, as well as build excitement for its future by raising funds for scholarships and new costumes,” says Ken Johnson, co-artistic director, Ballet Northwest.
“At the gala – and throughout 2020 – Ballet Northwest will celebrate its legacy,” says Paula R. Lowe, gala coordinator. “Ballet Northwest has impacted thousands of people in the past 50 years from the dancers, cast, crew, parents and volunteers to the audiences. We are inviting former Ballet Northwest dancers to celebrate with us at the gala, connect with their dance community, and support up-and-coming dancers, so they, too, will learn and grow from dance.”
Former artistic director Bernard “Bud” Johansen and his wife, Mary Johansen, will be honorary guests at the gala, along with Sam and Margie Reed. Sam was the president of the Ballet Northwest board of directors in the 1970s when the board hired Bud Johansen. Margie Reed was the first professionally-trained ballet dancer who danced with Ballet Northwest for many years.
Celebrating 50 years during a season of dance
Ballet Northwest will celebrate its 50th season from the fall of 2019 through 2020 during five dances and the gala.
Young Choreographers Showcase, August 17, 2019, Minnaert Center
This performance features 13 world premieres choreographed by local dancers, drawing upon a variety of dance styles.
The Nutcracker, December 13-22, 2019, Washington Center
Olympia’s holiday favorite for 35 years features stunning sets, beautiful costumes, more than 200 local dancers, and guest artists from Dance Theater of Harlem (New York), Ballet West (Salt Lake City), and National Ballet of Cuba. Join Clara and the Nutcracker Prince for the epic battle between the mice and soldiers, journey through the Kingdom of the Snow, and celebration with the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Land of the Sweets.
50th Anniversary Gala, January 25, 2020, Washington Center
Ballet Northwest celebrates its 50th anniversary with a gala featuring professional dancers from American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and National Ballet of Cuba. The event will feature memorabilia displays and video interview clips from throughout BNW’s 50 years, and raise funds for BNW’s costume and scholarship funds. The evening will culminate with desserts and dancing in the black box. A limited number of VIP tickets are available which include a pre-show reception in the black box featuring dinner appetizers and drinks.
Olympia Dance Festival, February 29, 2020, Washington Center
The 11th annual festival features over 200 local dancers performing ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, tap, jazz, ballroom, belly dance, Irish, Chinese dance, and more! This year’s festival will feature guest artists Sergey Nazarov and Corine Latreille who have performed with Cirque du Soleil.
CRESCENDO with members of the Olympia Symphony, May 8-10, 2020, Washington Center
This groundbreaking production will feature Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Ravel’s Bolero, and a suite of dances from the famous Russian ballet La Bayadere with music by Minkus. Guest choreographers include Suzanne Haag (former dancer with Eugene Ballet) and Laney Engelhard (former dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre).
Giving back to the community
Every year Ballet Northwest (BNW) reaches hundreds of schoolchildren through its outreach program: student matinee, free ticket program, in-school assemblies, and free student matinees.
The organization regularly partners with other non-profits such as the Olympia Symphony, Hands On Children’s Museum, Timberland Regional Library, Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia, and South Puget Sound Community College. BNW serves over 10,000 people annually from throughout Thurston, Mason, Lewis, and Pierce counties.
The dance company offers educational opportunities for local dancers. BNW alumni have gone on to train at top academies such as Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and others, and have competed in the world-renowned Youth America Grand Prix at Lincoln Center in New York City.
History of Ballet Northwest
Since 1970, Ballet Northwest serves as a community-based group dedicated to promoting, teaching, and preserving the art of dance in Southwest Washington. BNW is the sole nonprofit ballet company in Thurston County and the oldest in Washington state. As a community-based company dedicated to dance as a performing art, BNW produces five productions annually, including The Nutcracker, a varying spring production over Mother’s Day weekend (such as The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Coppelia or Don Quixote), the Olympia Dance Festival, the Young Choreographers Showcase, and a guest professional company performance (such as Philadanco, Ailey II, Momix, or Oregon Ballet Theatre).
About the artistic directors
Ken and Josie Johnson are the co-artistic directors of Ballet Northwest. Since 2009, they have added new works to the repertoire of the dance company and increased opportunities for community engagement – showcasing ballets to hundreds of children in a four-county region – most of whom have never seen a live ballet.
For 35 years, Bernard “Bud” Johansen was the artistic director from 1972 – 2008, and he was assisted by his wife, Mary Johansen. For many years Bud and Mary Johansen performed in the ballets. Today Bud and Mary choreography and direct rehearsals for the fight scene and Mother Ginger dance in The Nutcracker, and Bud performs in The Nutcracker. Bud also taught ballet at The Evergreen State College from 1972 – 1998 – most of those years he was full-time faculty — at the same time he served as artistic director of Ballet Northwest.
Continuing the 50-year legacy
Since 1970 Ballet Northwest has performed more than 120 ballets entertaining thousands of guests at in Olympia — reaching dancers and audiences in Thurston, Lewis, Mason and Pierce counties. To continue the legacy of Ballet Northwest, and help the non-profit to carry on in the future, it is raising funds to make the art of dance accessible to all children, regardless of their ability to pay and to support high-quality dance productions with funding for new and replacement costumes. To donate, visit www.BalletNorthwest.org
Tickets to the 8 pm, Jan. 25, 2020, gala will be on sale in September, visitwww.WashingtonCenter.org