The Toledo Ballet History
Toledo Ballet was founded in 1939 by Marie Bollinger Vogt. A native of Toledo, Vogt taught dance at an early age at the Bach Conservatory in Toledo and studied at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, the premier ballet academy in the nation, bringing back to the region the forefront of dance instruction and choreography, including classical Greek, classical Spanish, and Flamenco dance, in addition to classical and contemporary ballet.
In 1941, only two years after the founding of Toledo Ballet, the first production of The Nutcracker in the United States took place in Toledo, Ohio, complete with live orchestral accompaniment by the Friends of Music, a precursor to the Toledo Symphony. Though only an abridgement of the score was permitted out of Russia at the end of the Great Depression and the onset of World War II, more and more of the score would be released over time, and Toledo Ballet continued to grow the production. To this day, Toledo Ballet holds the record for the longest, consecutive-running production of The Nutcracker in the nation, perpetuating a beloved holiday tradition that has become synonymous with Christmas.
In 1958, a group of citizens interested in supporting Toledo Ballet’s mission to present quality dance education and performances in the region founded the Toledo Ballet Association, and in 1963, the association was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization. After a 55-year career as Artistic Director of Toledo Ballet, Marie Vogt stepped down in 1995. Nigel Burgoine proceeded Vogt and served as Artistic Director of Toledo Ballet from 1995-2005. Under his direction, Toledo Ballet co-presented visiting, internationally touring dance companies in collaboration with the Valentine Theatre. Starting in 1998, Open Door to Dance was presented in Northwest Ohio schools. In 1999, First Steps, a dance education program for kindergarteners linking dance and literature was presented in area Title I-funded schools.
In 2007, Toledo Ballet moved to the expanded studio space at Franklin Park Mall and alumna Lisa Mayer-Lang was appointed School Director. During this time, Toledo Ballet premiered nine original productions featuring choreography by faculty member Michael Lang. In 2014, Lisa Mayer-Lang was named Artistic Director of Toledo Ballet and she served in this role until 2022.
Following a decades-long collaboration on various productions, most notably The Nutcracker, Toledo Ballet and Toledo Symphony realized more synergies in marketing and ticketing operations in 2017, setting the stage for increased collaborations. On January 1, 2019, Toledo Ballet and Toledo Symphony officially merged to form the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA), a new non-profit organization dedicated to providing exceptional live music and dance performances and education for the region. This partnership is one of only a few in the nation and promises to create new and invigorating programs, provide cost and revenue synergies in operations, and integrate the arts through shared educational missions.
In 2022, professional dancer, educator, and choreographer Eric Otto was appointed as Toledo Ballet’s Artistic Director & Head of Curriculum.
- In 1939, Marie Bollinger Vogt, Artistic Director Emerita founded the Toledo Ballet Company, originating at the Bach Conservatory near downtown Toledo, OH. In 1941, the Toledo Ballet Company performed excerpts of The Nutcracker for the first time. In 1958, the Toledo Ballet Association was founded to support the Toledo Ballet Company.
- In 1964, the Toledo Ballet School moved to an independent site with two studios at Cricket West Shopping Plaza in West Toledo. In 1975, the tradition of its then-groundbreaking Friday Student Performance of The Nutcracker began. In 1982, the ballet school moved to a larger facility with three studios at the Franklin Park Mall in West Toledo. In 1995, Mrs. Vogt retired as Artistic Director of the Toledo Ballet Association. That year, the Toledo Ballet Association purchased the ballet school from Mrs. Vogt and it became part of the non-profit Toledo Ballet Association.
- Nigel Burgoine served as the Artistic Director of Toledo Ballet from 1995-2005. Under his direction, Toledo Ballet co-presented visiting, internationally-touring dance companies in collaboration with the Valentine Theatre. Starting in 1998, Open Door to Dance was presented in Northwest Ohio schools. In 1999, First Steps, a dance education program for kindergarteners linking dance and literature was presented in area Title I-funded schools.
- In 2007, Toledo Ballet moved to the expanded studio space at Franklin Park Mall and alumna Lisa Mayer-Lang was appointed School Director. In 2009, the Adaptive Dance program for youth with Down syndrome began. During this time, nine original productions premiered featuring choreography by Michael Lang. In 2014, Lisa Mayer-Lang was named Artistic Director. In 2015, Toledo Ballet moved to its current location on Monroe Street with four studios and an on-site set and costume storage. That same year, Toledo Museum of Art partnered with Toledo Ballet to celebrate the Degas exhibit by mounting a parallel exhibit celebrating the rich history of Toledo Ballet (The Blade, July 30, 2015). Marie Vogt was awarded the 2015 Ohio Governor’s Award in the category of Arts Administration for lifetime achievement and influence in American ballet, through her history with The Nutcracker, her exceptional success as a savvy businesswoman, and her ability to bring world-renowned dancers to the Toledo stage. In 2017, the After School Dance Program was established at the Boys & Girls Club of Toledo. In 2018, at a performance with Toledo Symphony featuring excerpts from Swan Lake, a merger between Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet was announced.
- On January 1, 2019, the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) was formed. TAPA’s vision is to inspire our region to come together through the performing arts with a mission to inspire the passions and spirit of our community through dance and to bring together our community in lasting musical moments. The values of TAPA include Collaboration, Communication, Empowerment, Excellence, and Sustainability. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, classes went virtual and were offered online. On June 9, 2020, Toledo Ballet Founder and Artistic Director Emerita Marie Bollinger Vogt passed away at age 99. That December, Toledo Ballet’s 80th production of The Nutcracker was dedicated to and performed in her honor, including some of her original choreography. In April 2022, with the support of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo, Toledo Ballet dancers collaborated in a performance with The Dancing Wheels Company featuring Toledo Ballet alumna McKenzie Beaverson. In 2022, Eric Otto was appointed as Toledo Ballet’s Artistic Director & Head of Curriculum.