Major arts philanthropists Sarah and Ernest Butler have donated $1.5 million to Ballet Austin’s foundation to permanently endow an advanced level of Ballet Austin’s professional training, ballet officials announced today. The donation brings the Butler’s total investment in the program to $1.85 million.
The endowment will provide up to 15 fellowships of $5,000 for aspiring professional dancers to engage in advanced intensive training. Students selected from a national audition process receive instruction in ballet technique, variations, partnering, men’s technique, modern, jazz, Pilates, body conditioning and repertoire. Many go on to Ballet Austin’s apprentice company, Ballet Austin II, or gone on to other professional companies.
Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills said in a statement: "I am grateful for the extraordinary vision that is implicit in this gift that ensures that young people on the cusp of entering careers as professional dancers are afforded this important opportunity to complete their training. Many are forced to abandon their dreams of attaining a professional career at precisely this point in the process, and the Butler’s gift is intended to remove the financial barrier, providing an important and missing bridge between Academy training and the opportunity to train at a level and duration necessary to be competitive in a professional career in dance. Our dream will be to see 15 Butler Fellows each year attain professional careers in dance."
Long-time major supporters of Ballet Austin, the Butlers donated $3.5 million towards the company’s downtown headquarters, opened in 2007, which is named in their honor as the Butler Dance Education Center.