As it reaches the close of its 25th season, OBT is stronger than ever and laying a solid foundation for its future.

A Letter from Kevin Irving and Dennis Buehler


Dear Friends,

These are exciting times for Oregon Ballet Theatre and the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. As new leaders to Portland, we have felt embraced by the community and we look forward to working with you, our extended OBT/SOBT family, to realize our tremendous potential.

Xuan Cheng (as Cinderella) and Brian Simcoe (as the Prince) in the company premiere of Ben Stevenson's
Xuan Cheng (as Cinderella) and Brian Simcoe (as the Prince) in the company premiere of Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella. Photo by James McGrew.

It is no secret that OBT, like so many arts organizations of similar size, has faced its share of challenging times over the years. But we believe it is the response, not the situation itself, that defines you. Our trustees’ response was to search for and retain strong leadership, starting with the hiring of Kevin as Artistic Director in July 2013. The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new director Tony Jones arrived later that same year and the team was complete with the arrival of Dennis in September of 2014. With these important steps complete our Trustees tasked us, as leaders, with the development of a dynamic program that connects our company and school even deeper with our community. While we still have a long way to go our early results are encouraging:

  • OBT introduced more than a half dozen new works to its repertoire over the last 2 years while launching exciting new initiatives such as CREATE, staged at BodyVox in 2014, and a collaboration with Pink Martini to kick off our 25th anniversary season.
  • We committed to more audience interaction through post show Q&A’s and open rehearsal programs.
  • OBT will draw more than 65,000 to performances in 2014/15 a 17% increase and record number for the company.
  • The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre has grown by more than 25% over the past 2 years.
  • OBT’s Education Outreach programs now span the region reaching more than 34,000 people across the region.
School Director Anthony Jones. Photo by Bill Purcell.
School Director Anthony Jones. Photo by Bill Purcell.

“OBT is clearly reaching out, taking steps to appeal to a wider audience, and taking the risks necessary to make itself relevant in the turbid waters of cultural criticism. ….It also shows the audience that ballet can productively straddle the line between tradition and the more personal visions that sometimes challenge it. Here’s to 25 more years.” ~ Portland Monthly Magazine

Education Outreach Director Kasandra Gruener
Education Outreach Director Kasandra Gruener

As leaders of this organization, we are fundamentally committed to improving our infrastructure in a manner that facilitates both the growing demands of our programming and greater financial health for Oregon Ballet Theatre. That commitment includes bold moves that will shape the next 25 years. Many of you are aware, for example, that we entered into an agreement to sell our studio location at 818 SE 6th for future development. The main drivers that led to this decision are:

  • The renewed vibrancy of our school, and the limitations on rehearsal space for our company, make it nearly impossible for us to continue meeting program needs within the current studio.
  • The skyrocketing demand for the parcel of land we own offered OBT a once in a life time opportunity to not only further improve our institutional health but to develop a smart studio solution that will help drive new earned revenues.

We want you to know that the sale is not expected to close until near the end of 2015 which means that all school and company operations will continue at 818 this fall until a move date has been established. Furthermore, it is OBT’s central priority to place the proceeds of this transaction into a protected fund separate from our operations, in line with the organization’s long term strategic goals.

Ansa Deguchi and Avery Reiners in rehearsal for the company premiere of Nicolo Fonte's
Ansa Deguchi and Avery Reiners in rehearsal for the company premiere of Nicolo Fonte’s “Presto.” Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

We know that ease of access, expanded studio space, and support for both artists and students have to remain top priorities for us in this transition. We currently have a large team of real estate professionals working to secure a great new space for us and we hope to announce the location along with a move schedule soon. Oregon Ballet Theatre continues to celebrate 25 years of beauty and innovation while laying a foundation that will be stronger than ever. We are happy to count on your continued support as we move ever closer towards our ambitious goals. Sincerely, Dennis_Kevin_Signature

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