History, Mission & Values

Organizational Vision

To entertain, educate, and inspire New Jersey and beyond with the beauty and passion of dance.

Organizational Mission

To bring the joy, beauty, artistry and discipline of classical and contemporary dance to New Jersey and beyond through artistic and educational programs, presented by a financially responsible organization.

About the Organization

American Repertory Ballet’s mission is to bring the joy, beauty, artistry and discipline of classical and contemporary dance to New Jersey and nationwide audiences and to dance students through artistic and educational programs. The organization comprises: the preeminent professional classical and contemporary ballet company in the state; Princeton Ballet School, one of the largest and most respected non-profit dance schools in the nation; and ARB’s Access & Enrichment initiatives, including the acclaimed DANCE POWER program, the longest continuously running community and arts partnership in New Jersey. The performing company is a classical and contemporary ballet company committed to presenting ballets from the 19th and 20th centuries alongside new and existing works by choreographers from today. Founded in 1963, the company is currently under the artistic leadership of Douglas Martin, former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet. Its rich history of repertory includes established masterpieces by distinguished American choreographers such as George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp; cutting edge works by choreographers such as Val Caniparoli, Kirk Peterson, Dominique Dumais, Harrison McEldowney, Amy Seiwert, Susan Shields, Melissa Barak, Patrick Corbin, Trinette Singleton, and ARB Resident Choreographer Mary Barton; and former Artistic Directors Dermot Burke, Marjorie Mussman, Septime Webre and Graham Lustig. ARB has been designated a “Major Arts Institution” by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts consistently for the past two decades, and has repeatedly been awarded a Citation of Excellence by the Council. ARB was voted the Jersey Arts People’s Choice for “Favorite Dance Company” in 2008, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Princeton Ballet School has gained a national reputation for its excellent dance training since its founding in 1954 by Audrée Estey. Under the direction of Pamela Levy, Princeton Ballet School currently serves approximately 1,200 students, starting at age three, and includes a large open enrollment division for adults. Princeton Ballet School has studios in Cranbury, New Brunswick, and Princeton and offers classes in ballet, modern dance, jazz, hip-hop, CardioBallet, and CoMBo – Conditioning for the Mind and Body. Students from the school have gone on to dance in professional ballet and contemporary dance companies in the US and abroad. Graduates have danced with such diverse organizations as New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Miami City Ballet, Complexions, Mark Morris Dance Company, Twyla Tharp, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Ballet West and on Broadway.

The Access & Enrichment wing of American Repertory Ballet reaches out to the community not only through its DANCE POWER program and signature On Pointe series, but also with free programming, master classes, residencies, lecture demonstrations and School Time Matinees throughout the state. In 1985, American Repertory Ballet partnered with the New Brunswick Board of Education to create DANCE POWER. Today, it’s the longest-running uninterrupted arts/community partnership in New Jersey. The legendary Gregory Hines was DANCE POWER’s Honorary Chair for 18 years before his untimely passing in 2003. In 2001, Mr. Hines endowed a scholarship at Rutgers University that earmarks annual funds for a DANCE POWER student to attend the university.

Accessibility

American Repertory Ballet strives to ensure that all aspects of our programs and services are accessible to people with disabilities. Our Princeton, New Brunswick and Cranbury school facilities are state-of-the-art and barrier-free. Large print programs and audio-assist devices are available at our home theater, all of which are handicapped accessible. For audience members who are hearing impaired, a sign language interpreter and/or audio devices are made available at designated performances.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR CURRENT ADA PLAN

History

The Organization’s Artistic History

The organization was founded by Audrée Estey in 1954 as the Princeton Ballet Society. At the time, it was only a school — Princeton Ballet School.

In 1963, Ms. Estey established the Princeton Regional Ballet Company. The company became the professional Princeton Ballet Company in 1978 and quickly grew into a vital company.

In 1982, upon Audrée Estey’s retirement, Judith Leviton was named Director of Princeton Ballet, with Dermot Burke serving as Assistant Director, Ballet Master and Resident Choreographer. In 1986, Burke was named Artistic Director of Princeton Ballet Company and Mary Pat Robertson was named School Director. Robertson served as Director of Princeton Ballet School until June 2016. During these years, inaugurated the Professional Training Program and PLUS programs, oversaw the moves into the school’s current Princeton and Cranbury locations and worked with faculty to create a syllabus. In 2007, the United States Congress cited Ms. Robertson for her 20 plus years of leadership of Princeton Ballet School, and for its evolution into “one of the most acclaimed (dance schools) in the country.”

In 1990, the company was renamed American Repertory Ballet, a name more clearly reflecting its artistic image and status as a nationally recognized ballet company, and in 1995-1996, the Garden State Ballet was merged into the organization.

Marjorie Mussman served as Artistic Director of the Company in 1992 before Septime Webre was named to the position in 1993. During Webre’s tenure, he created many new works including a full-length Swan Lake, Where the Wild Things Are (in collaboration with author/illustrator Maurice Sendak) and Romeo & Juliet, which the company toured to Portugal. From 1999-2010, the company was under the artistic direction of Graham Lustig, who created original works for the company including: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Silkscreens and Graham Lustig’s The Nutcracker.

In May 2010, Douglas Martin was named Director of the Company. A former principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet, Mr. Martin brings a deep and rich history with American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School as a Company Dancer, Ballet Master (for ARB and the pre-professional division of the School) and beloved faculty member.

About Founder Audrée Estey

Audrée Phipps Estey (founder and director of the Princeton Ballet Society) was born in Winnipeg, Canada and studied ballet with Madame Zink, who inspired in her a love of dance. After moving to Hollywood, California, in the late 1920’s, Estey became a member of the Ernest Belcher Ballet Company, where she studied and taught in his school. Ms. Estey danced classical ballet for Fanchon and Marco’s touring vaudeville company and was a contract actress-dancer-model for Fox Studios. In 1933, she married L. Wendell “Bud” Estey, a teacher at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

After marrying, Estey moved to New Jersey and began teaching in the Princeton area. Her students included Meredith Monk, Douglas Dunn, Bebe Neuwirth, Diane Partington, and Jennifer Dunning. She founded Princeton Ballet Society in 1956 and the Princeton Regional Ballet Company in 1963. She served as president and executive vice president of the Northeast Regional Ballet Association from 1967 to 1971 and headed the dance department at Les Chalets Francais, a French camp for girls in Deer Isle, Maine.

In 1978, Estey turned the Princeton Regional Ballet into the professional Princeton Ballet Company (which was renamed the American Repertory Ballet in 1991). Estey retired as director in 1982 and moved to Florida, but she continued her involvement with the company as a consultant and advisor until her passing in 2002.