With the generous support of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Oregon Ballet Theatre will launch junior Company OBT2

Former American Ballet Theatre and Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Lisa Sundstrom has been named Program Director

Lisa Sundstrom
Lisa Sundstrom
July 14, 2015 – Oregon Ballet Theatre (OBT) is pleased to announce the launch of its junior company, OBT2, under the direction of former Pennsylvania Ballet and American Ballet Theatre dancer Lisa Sundstrom. The launch has been made possible by the generous support of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust which recently awarded a sizable grant to be invested over three years toward the development of the ensemble. This exciting project ushers in a new era for OBT which will broaden the company’s reach in the community, enhance programming, and ensure a vibrant future for students and company alike by investing in and making a deeper connection with the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre (SOBT).

Sundstrom’s impressive career took off when at the age of 15 she was accepted on full scholarship to the ABT School and was noticed by ballet icon Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then Artistic Director of the Company. A year later she joined ABT II where she gained extensive performance experience. Mr. Baryshnikov promoted her to the main company soon after. Sundstrom went on to dance with both Pennsylvania Ballet and ABT performing soloist and principal roles in many major works. After retiring from the stage she began coaching and teaching dancers at many prestigious schools including SOBT in her home state of Oregon. “I can’t tell you how pleased we are to have someone like Lisa on board to lead OBT2,” comments Artistic Director Kevin Irving. “Her years of experience dancing as a pre-professional with ABT II, and then at the highest levels in one of the world’s most acclaimed companies, as well as her considerable teaching experience make her the ideal coach to mentor and prepare young dancers for a professional career.”

Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancers Lisa Sundstrom and Alexei Borovik in George Balanchine's "Rubies." Photo by James B. Abbott.
Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancers Lisa Sundstrom and Alexei Borovik in George Balanchine’s “Rubies.” Photo by James B. Abbott.

OBT2’s inaugural 2015/2016 season will be a transition year during which the company will be comprised of OBT Apprentices and select dancers from SOBT’s Pre-Professional Division. In addition to local performances supporting OBT’s Education Outreach initiatives which include performances in schools and at senior and community centers in the Portland Metro Area, the ensemble will take part in the company’s season productions: Amore Italiano, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, and Romeo & Juliet. With these invaluable performance opportunities, OBT2 will provide a critical professional transition for the most gifted students at the top levels of SOBT.

Membership in OBT2 will be by audition, with a maximum of two years participation. Dancers must be no older than 21 when they are accepted ensuring that the focus of the junior company is on training up-and-coming artists for rewarding careers with OBT or other major ballet companies. “As a young dancer I was so fortunate to perform with ABT II,” observes Sundstrom. “I know firsthand the invaluable experience a dancer gains by being part of a junior company in terms of performance as well as self-confidence and artistic maturity.”

OBT2 will play a key role in OBT’s efforts to serve the community by bridging a critical gap between the professional company and its broader Education Outreach initiatives. To this end the ensemble will be limited to 10-12 dancers and build its own repertory suitable for performance in smaller, more intimate settings. All this will result in increased touring and community outreach and create an exciting juncture for the organization – one at which OBT can turn outward and forward, with a renewed focus on the artists and audiences of tomorrow.

In the coming months OBT2 will be announcing its touring schedule and repertory for this exciting first year. OBT is deeply grateful to the Murdock Charitable Trust for supporting its vision, and in helping secure a stronger foundation from which to strengthen its school, build its company, and enrich the community with its art form.