(BALLET MEMPHIS NEWS RELEASE) – Dorothy Gunther Pugh, CEO and Founding Artistic Director of Ballet Memphis, has announced her retirement effective June 30, 2020. Dorothy founded Ballet Memphis in 1986 with 2 dancers and a budget of $75,000. She has guided Ballet Memphis over 34 years with a tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit that has brought the organization to national prominence for the diversity of its company as well as its artistry, its thematic new work, and support of emerging choreographers.. Ballet Memphis, now a company of 21 dancers and a budget of $4 million, performs a full season in Memphis and tours nationally and internationally to critical acclaim.
Long before there was a national spotlight on the area of equity and inclusion, Dorothy was a champion in building a ballet company that is reflective of our city and nation. She has been a leader in modeling what American ballet companies should look like to advance the art form and engage more audiences through thoughtful work that advances human progress.
“We do not serve the ballet world or our personal careers. We must use our glorious art form to see and hear others, celebrate, and problem solve together. We must learn to live as one humanity, knowing there is enough love and its real power of kindness to carry forward for all.” – Dorothy Gunther Pugh, CEO and Founding Artistic Director of Ballet Memphis
“My hat is off to the amazing Dorothy Gunther Pugh”, said Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem. “Her prescient vision for a ballet company that reflects its community, honors tradition and invents a dynamic future continues to inspire. Through determination and love, she has created a model for companies across the country to emulate”.
Dorothy has continued to seek out and hire the most talented young choreographers to create meaningful work that was rooted in Ballet Memphis’ values, reflected the vast artistic and cultural landscape of the community, and gave hope for a future where the human experience is uplifted and people are celebrated. Dorothy sees the best in everyone and believes with her whole heart that we are better together than we are divided. She has built a ballet company where everyone matters and everyone is welcomed and heard.
“Dorothy’s passion for creating unsurpassed artistic work is matched by a very rare passion for helping every member of the Company become a force for good within the community. This unique leadership has made Ballet Memphis an internationally recognized leader in dance and a nationally admired leader in civic engagement. Dorothy has quite literally made the world a better place”, said Russell Willis Taylor, most recently the interim Vice President Arts and Leadership of the Banff Center for Arts and Culture.
In 2017, Ballet Memphis opened a new $22 million rehearsal, performance, and administrative headquarters in the heart of Memphis’ arts district. Ballet Memphis’s Midtown home has been the culmination of years of work to give Memphis a space where dance thrives and the community gathers to celebrate the joy of the human spirit. In May 2019, Dorothy named Steven McMahon as the Artistic Director and entrusted the future of the artistic vision for Ballet Memphis to his leadership. Steven began his career at Ballet Memphis in 2004 as a dancer and has advanced under Dorothy’s tutelage, creating more than 30 works on Ballet Memphis.
Carol Miraglia, the current Director of Finance and Administration, will take on the additional role of Interim Executive Director while the Board of Directors undergoes a national search for the permanent Executive Director.