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Montana Ballet: Mixing Athleticism with Art

Although not traditionally considered a sport, ballet does require a certain sense of athleticism from its top performers. Stamina, hard work, energy, training, and all the other skills associated with today’s most popular sports are necessary components in presenting a graceful and artistic ballet performance. Despite its distance from major ballet centers and a reluctant first acceptance, Montana is now home to a thriving ballet scene.

In the late 70s and early 80s, ballet wasnt taken very seriously in Montana. Ann Bates, Artistic Director of Montana Ballet, appealed to state legislators for a portion of the state coal-tax arts money to no avail. She finally persuaded Rep. Francis Bardanouve that it was unfair to ignore dance while supporting other arts and athletics. Lawmakers subsequently awarded her a $10,000 grant. She sent the venerable Bardanouve a tutu which he gamely wore on his head.

Today Montana Ballet is the only small dance company in the rural west with big company goals: 1) To educate the youth of the Gallatin Valley in dance at the professional level; 2) To present a season of international dance companies, world-known ballet stars, and local talent of amazingly high caliber; and 3) To offer a variety of outreach opportunities to schools as far as 100 miles away from Bozeman. Comments about productions reflect astonishment that the Bozeman area could be the home to a ballet company equal to comparable companies in much larger communities.

The motivation for this excellence stems from the pride Montana Ballet staff and Board of Directors take in making art that surprises and delights. Visiting companies for each Fall’s international performance have included Woofa from New Guinea, Tangokinesis from Buenos Aires, Jose Greco from Madrid, and the Dance Masters of Bali. The full season of Montana Ballet Company’s performances also includes the much-anticipated and usually sold-out holiday Nutcracker extravaganza presented the first weekend of every December, coinciding with Bozeman’s Christmas Stroll. Another favorite of the community is the New York Connection production presented as part of the two-week New York Connection workshop offered each August in association with Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture. Professional dance teachers offer classes in a variety of subjects and join the dancers in the two culminating productions performing works by Balanchine as well as classical repertoire. More information about Montana Ballet Company and its affiliate, the privately owned Montana Ballet School, is available at

Partially reprinted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas & Travel Encyclopedia”

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