Champaign Urbana Ballet is one of the foremost pre-professional dance companies in Illinois. Drawing artists from the 45-mile radius surrounding Champaign-Urbana, the CU Ballet performance season showcases talent that represents the most promising young performers downstate. CU Ballet has actively collaborated with local choreographers, Illinois artists, and other youth arts organizations to produce classical ballet performances, as well as original works.
The Champaign-Urbana community has a very strong interest in the performing arts. CU Ballet emerged from a group of local enthusiasts with a vision of talented area dancers contributing to truly outstanding, local productions of classical ballet, rather than commuting to distant metropolitan areas to appear in large-scale productions. The area between Danville, Peoria, Charleston, and Kankakee includes nearly 1.8 million people, more than 20 colleges and universities, and some 80 dance academies and studios: a regional resource base capable of nurturing sophisticated artistic centers and cultivating an accomplished talent pool.
Recognizing this potential, Deanna Doty Warfel, Donna Warwick and Bonnie Ziegler founded CU Ballet in August of 1998. CU Ballet's first performance was in October 1998 at The Taste of the Arts in the Studio Playhouse at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA). The performance included selections from La Bayadére and Paquita.
By 1999, CU Ballet had incorporated The Nutcracker into its annual repertoire and continued to partner with other area arts organizations to build a community event. CU Ballet presented the Nutcracker Suite with free performances for children from public schools in Champaign County. Free educational curriculum packets were provided by CU Ballet and the Youth Orchestra, which were distributed to teachers by the Krannert Audience Education Department.
Through community support and volunteerism, CU Ballet had firmly established itself by 2001 with a full repertoire of ballet events and programs, including a full-length version of The Nutcracker, classical ballet performances in the spring, educational programming for school children, and outreach programs for underprivileged families. The company has also amassed a collection of priceless costumes that rival any professional company's and has dedicated a costume shop for their proper care and construction.
The quality of training for dancers, coupled with the benefit of frequent exceptional performance opportunities, is evident in national audition results. CU Ballet dancers have been accepted into prestigious dance programs including: American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet School of Canada, North Carolina School of the Arts, Boston Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and many others.
Today, Champaign Urbana Ballet continues to grow with the support of the community and generous corporations who share the mission of bringing knowledge and opportunity in the art of dance to area youth. CU Ballet remains a not-for-profit organization, serving the needs of Central Illinois.