I first came to northern Nevada in 1988 when my then ballet partner, former San Francisco Ballet Principal, Horacio Cifuentes and I were invited to guest perform with composers/musicians Susan Mazer and Dallas Smith on a program supported by the Tahoe Arts Project. It was love at first visit for me, and I hoped that I would somehow be able to return.
The opportunity came when (after retiring from the professional stage) I was invited to become Artistic Director for the newly formed Reno Ballet in 1995 and 1996, presenting a (pre Artown) large Summer Ballet Event at Wingfield Park featuring top dance artists from all over the world with a corps of dancers that I had either trained or had worked with in my career.
The Reno Ballet trained and rehearsed in the SF Bay Area at Peninsula Ballet Theatre School (internationally known for its fine ballet training), where I had taken over directorship. Directing both organizations enabled me to work with dancers from both states and to travel back and forth on a regular basis. When Raphael Barkley (the Reno Ballet Founder and Executive Director) was in a serious car accident, the RB Board elected to temporarily postpone performances in Reno. We continued doing some performing in California under the name Perspectives Dance Theater.
It was (three years later) when the company was performing in the SF Bay Area that I met Steven M. Porter and was invited by Gina Kaskie Davis to direct the ballet program at Western Nevada Performing Arts Center in Carson City, traveling back and forth weekly throughout the year. It very soon became obvious to me that, while there were many talented student dancers in the northern Nevada area, they had little exposure to real professional level ballet. For that reason, when Steve and I married in 2000, we got together with a group of ballet lovers and dedicated ourselves to establishing a professional ballet company in Reno. Instead of resurrecting the Reno Ballet the new board preferred to broaden the community base and officially formed Sierra Nevada Ballet in March 2001 as the professional ballet company for all of northern Nevada.
With wonderful sponsors SNB quickly began to hire professional dancers, presented yearly workshops and regular performances throughout the year and inspired acclaimed music, theater and dance critic Jack Neal to review Sierra Nevada Ballet as a “truly professional dance company emerging in the Reno metropolitan area.”
SNB started an Apprentice/Trainee Program which was a free program (by invitation or audition) offered to talented students in northern Nevada and started the SNB educational outreach program and the young choreography program.
For several years SNB moved around from studio to studio, being housed in many places until we finally found a home in 2016.
Throughout the years SNB began to get a quality reputation in the arts world on both the East and West Coasts due to national auditions and affiliations with ABT, Dance Theatre of Harlem and many other top companies. SNB began attracting more funding from the City, State and other foundations and direct grants from the National Endowment for The Arts (for 3 years) and inspiring people like former Reno Arts and Culture Manager, Christine Fey, to say in 2015: “SNB has raised the bar in the Reno Dance Community.”
The Apprentice/ Trainee program produced quite a number of professional ballet dancers and inspired the board to start an academy in 2012 which was housed at Fascinating Rhythm Preforming Arts Center. When it became apparent that SNB needed a home of its own, the SNB Board elected to try to find a venue for both the academy and company.
With a very short time to move and not a lot of funding in place, it looked like it would be an impossible task for us. But (as my mother always told me) miracles do sometimes take place. We found a great location, and donations began to pour in from throughout northern Nevada. An architect, a building contractor, a painter, a floor specialist, a glass company and many volunteer workers donated their services, and monetary donations came in from several businesses and the Buck and the Marin Foundations.
On June 6, 2016 SNB opened its new home at 3929 S. McCarran Blvd. in Reno.
The miracles did not stop after the venue was constructed. During these challenging COVID times, SNB has survived thanks to our wonderful City and State and many volunteers.
2021 marks the 20th anniversary of SNB. It is a company filled with love and built by love through the dedication of an amazing community.
When I fell in love at first visit with this community in 1988, I did not realize that it would be a love that would grow and last for my lifetime. Thank you – to all of you wonderful people for 20 years of Sierra Nevada Ballet!