About Montgomery Ballet
The Montgomery Ballet began as the Montgomery Civic Ballet in 1958. Since then, this artistic entity has provided 57 years of community enrichment. The Montgomery Ballet has been a professional company since 1987. The Montgomery Ballet is the only professional ballet company in the city of Montgomery and one of only two in the state of Alabama.
The Montgomery Civic Ballet was selected as a member of SERBA (South Eastern Regional Ballet Association) in 1964. Tours to other cities in Alabama and performances in Montgomery relied on guest artists in the early years. In 1966, they presented the Birmingham Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker under the direction of Richard Englund. Desiring to produce The Nutcracker locally, the Montgomery Civic Ballet began presenting segments of the Christmas classic in 1971. In 1976, a review written by Judith Helms (Weathers) stated that “Montgomery had a first Friday night – the complete Nutcracker” – and more than 1,600 people rose to cheer the accomplishments at Lanier Auditorium.
The scenery was a gift from the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery. It has been embellished and repainted by our own artist, Seay Earehart, and is still being used today. The late Mary Gene Bailey was President of the Montgomery Civic Ballet at the time of the first full-length production of The Nutcracker.
The ballet moved the school from Hull Street in the fall of 1970 to a space at Huntingdon College.
Montgomery Civic Ballet presented its first Performance on the Green at Huntingdon College in 1974 – this performance became one of the biggest events in the city over the course of 35 years. The “Party of the Year” fundraisers were born during the 1980s and were hosted by the late Jim Wilson and his wife Wynona who graciously continued the tradition for over ten years.
In 1984, the board of directors hired Don Steffyas Artistic Director and his wife, Marylou Hume, as Associate Director and Director of the Montgomery Ballet School. Mr. Steffyas made many exciting innovations during his 11 year tenure with the ballet. One of his visions was to turn the Montgomery Civic Ballet into a professional company – The Montgomery Ballet. The company began with three full-time professional dancers, and then grew to six members. As the quality of performances increased, the Montgomery Ballet was designated an “Advanced Arts Institution” by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and became a part of the state touring program. Designated “The Official Performing Ballet Company of the City of Montgomery” in 1987, the ballet represented the city when it toured the state and southeastern region. The ballet also achieved the highest rank in SERBA and was selected for membership into DANCE/USA.
Also during Mr. Steffyas’s leadership, community-based outreach was established. The Montgomery Ballet became a Partner-in-Education and developed its own outreach program, LEAP (Linking Education and the Arts Program). Another exciting annual outdoor performance was also started – Ballet and the Beasts at the Montgomery Zoo. This tradition continues to the present day.