BalletMet History

Founded in 1974, BalletMet has developed into a best-in-class Ohio cultural institution. BalletMet serves Central Ohio as a cultural and educational resource by engaging the best and brightest dancers and choreographers to live and work in Columbus, attracting regional audiences, and educating the next generation of dancers, audiences and supporters. With over $6M in annual operations, BalletMet ranks among the nation's 20 largest ballet companies. BalletMet’s Dance Academy is one of the largest affiliated with a U.S. professional company. BalletMet is known for collaborations both regionally and nationally including programs with Cincinnati Ballet, The Jazz Arts Group, The Ohio State University, Shadowbox, Opera Columbus, Columbus Symphony Orchestra and recently Tulsa Ballet.

Since its founding, BalletMet has set the stage for dance in Ohio. While a classically based ballet company, BalletMet has also brought the best of contemporary dance to Central Ohio, along with national and international venues. Since its inception, BalletMet has had more than 140 World Premieres and 125 Company Premieres. These works have brought the world’s best dancers and choreographers to work in Central Ohio.

BalletMet’s Dance Academy has 1700 students ranging in age from 3 to 93. It has trained students who became professional dancers and so many more who have left with a lifetime appreciation for dance in all its forms.

BalletMet’s education programs have brought dance into the Central Ohio community and its schools to help about 30,000 students per year from pre-k through high school to experience dance, many for the very first time.


Ballet Metropolitan, Inc. was created as a civic organization in 1974 and immediately began researching how to move toward professional status.
Guest Artists included Susan McKee and Eric McCullough of the Harkness Ballet. Susan McKee was a Columbus native who had appeared with the Columbus Civic Ballet. Other guest artists were Patrick Bissel (then a student at North Carolina School of the Arts) and Joseph Duell (then a student at School of American Ballet). The Artistic Director was Tatjana Akinfieva-Smith, the General Manager was Jack Kamer and the Ballet Mistress was Daryl Kamer.
1976 saw the advent of the Ballet Metropolitan Ensemble with six advanced dancers receiving a monthly stipend of $50. The Ensemble performed 20 lecture demonstrations as part of the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Artists-in-Schools Program..
The stipend of the Ensemble was raised to $100 monthly, and the performance schedule was enlarged. Ballet Metropolitan dancers performed in more than 60 area schools, appeared publicly at shopping malls, festivals and numerous organizational functions in Columbus and surrounding areas, as well as out of state. The Ensemble also was invited to dance at the Northeast Regional Ballet Association festival in Dover, Delaware in May. The annual budget was increased to $100,000. During this season Ballet Metropolitan leadership developed a 5 Year Plan to go forward as a professional company and submitted grant requests to fund the plan
Spring of 1978
Ballet Metropolitan received a $200,000 three-year seed money grant from Battelle Memorial Institute, enabling the organization to make the leap to professional status. Wayne Soulant was hired as the first Artistic Director and began auditioning for the professional company.
1978-1979 was the first Professional Season for BalletMet Columbus. With Wayne Soulant at the helm, the twelve member company opened the season at Sullivant Hall on the Ohio State University campus. The opening program was Kinderszenen by to Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op 15, played by pianist Bela Szilagyi; Dance Rites by Fernando Schaffenburg to Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances; Black Swan pas de deux and Home to You, choreographed by Wayne Soulant to the music of John Denver, played by local band Souvenir. Other ballets that year included Grand Tarantella / Zachary Ward; Holberg Suite / Arthur Mitchell; Pas de Dix / Eugene Tanner after Petipa; Rags `n Things / Mark Schneider; View from the Gallows / Wayne Soulant; Women / Domy Reiter-Soffer and The Nutcracker / Wayne Soulant & Kathleen Smith.
The first subscription season was mounted in the Ohio Theatre with all performances accompanied by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.
BalletMet acquired the Academy initially owned by Jack and Daryl Kamer. Daryl Kamer has been one of the through-lines ever since, at various times heading the Academy, the Educational programs and serving on the faculty where she is still an inspiring teacher.
John McFall became the new artistic director. The company had a company of 18 dancers. McFall was as an established choreographer having created work for most of the major companies in the US and Canada. He had danced with San Francisco Ballet – a company that is known for internally nurturing young choreographers and had become one of their most successful. John elevated the level of artistry of the company, bringing in many new dancers. While John was a choreographer, he worked diligently to have his work for BalletMet complement other work he was bringing in. He was well known and very well-connected in the dance world and was able to use those connections to bring in dancers and new works. Highlights of his tenure included tours to Brooklyn, Egypt, Spain and many US destinations. John left BalletMet in 1994 and became Artistic Director at Atlanta Ballet.
BalletMet moved from Jefferson Avenue to their current space on Mount Vernon Avenue. They were able to double the size of the school from 300 to 600 students and then quickly built enrollment to over 1000 students in the early 90’s.
David Nixon became the artistic director. David had danced with the National Ballet of Canada and in Berlin and brought an international aesthetic which again elevated the level of artistry at BalletMet. He acquired sets and costumes for full-length works and developed his choreographic talent. His Beauty and the Beast created for BalletMet, toured extensively both in the US and in Canada. In 1999 he created Dracula which is still being performed. He also created a Romeo and Juliet [1998] and a Sleeping Beauty [2000] among others. He brought in dancers who had memorable careers here and who are now involved as faculty, ballet masters and choreographers. David left BalletMet in 2001 to become Artistic Director of Northern Ballet Theatre in England.
After an international search, former Associate Artistic Director Gerard Charles became Artistic Director. BalletMet also hired Stanton Welch as an Artist in Residence. Stanton left a few years later to become the Artistic Director at Houston Ballet. Gerard was a gifted storyteller who appealed to all ages. Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland have been audience favorites. His Nutcracker [2003] has generated more than $12M in revenue to date for BalletMet and is still being performed. Gerard also helped steer the company during the 2005 and beyond recession in a way that allowed the company to remain fiscally responsible but also inspired the organization to start the Moving Forward campaign to raise money to expand programs rather than shrink as many other arts organizations were forced to do.
Among the highlights during his tenure were two highly successful engagements at the Joyce Theatre in New York City. In 2012 Gerard became the ballet master for the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.
As part of a successful capital campaign, BalletMet purchased a city block which included its dance studios and warehouse. Campaign funding also allowed the creation of a black box performance space which has been used extensively by both BalletMet and the community.
Internationally acclaimed choreographer and dancer Edwaard Liang became Artistic Director. Liang is a creative artist and leader. Since Edwaard’s arrival, BalletMet has again made great artistic leaps. Dancers from around the world have joined the company and many of the works are getting national and international attention. In his first few years, Edwaard has choreographed, some spectacular new works including Art of War (2015) and his new ballet in water – Airivata (2017). Edwaard has also created a number of new full lengths including Cinderella (2015) and Sleeping Beauty (2016). BalletMet’s performance of Edwaard’s Murmuration was listed as a Best of 2016 by Dance Magazine. Edwaard has also led the creation of BalletMet’s award winning Dance on Film series which so far has included Becoming Violet (2016) and Vaulted (2017).
The just announced 2017-18 40th Anniversary Season will again focus on special collaborations and exceptional programming. BalletMet plans to spend the year celebrating its history and looking forward to the future.
BalletMet - Edwaard Liang, Artistic Director
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