The History of the Ithaca Ballet

1958: Alice meets Vergiu.

1961: The Ithaca Civic Ballet makes its public debut with a full-length program at Kulp Auditorium on June 9, under the directorship of Vergiu Cornea of the Ithaca College Dance Department. Among the 12 dancers are Alice Reid, Bente King, and Daphne Sola. This evolves quickly into the Vergiu Cornea Ballet Company.

1965: The Ballet Guild of Ithaca, Inc., is chartered as the business and supporting body of the not-for-profit Ithaca Ballet.

1968: Alice Reid moves from the position of ballet mistress to artistic director, upon the retirement of Vergiu Cornea. The property on North Plain Street is purchased, providing the young company its permanent home.

1975: Under Alice Reid’s directorship the Ithaca Ballet, skipping the usual probationary year (an unprecedented event), is admitted as a performing member of the Northeast Regional Ballet Assocation (NERBA) — now Regional Dance America/Northeast (RDA/NE) — dancing Lavinia Reid’s Stratus.

1978: With Nan Reid’s architectural plans, the existing studio is added onto with another larger studio, office, dressing rooms, storage space, etc.

1983: Cindy and Lavinia Reid establish the first Ballet Guild of Ithaca Dance Camp, starting an annual program that has long-lasting benefits to the school and the training program of dancers. It draws 24 students.

1984: Cindy Reid returns to Ithaca after dancing with American Ballet Theatre II and three seasons with the Chicago Nutcracker of the Arie Crown Theatre, and becomes associate director. She becomes the first paid employee of the company. Elizabeth Van Vleck and Lawrence Brantley receive Monticello scholarships to NARB Craft of Choreography Conference for their ballet Promenade.

1985: Choreographer Joe Locarro wins the Astral Award to set his ballet Themes on a Cloth on a NERBA company, which becomes a ballet performed repeatedly over the years. After seeing the Company at the Dover, Del., NERBA Festival, he chooses the Ithaca Ballet. Alice Reid establishes the Ballet Center of Ithaca, the official school of the Ithaca Ballet.

1986: Barbara Hungerford is hired as general manager, a job that Larry Brantley succeeds to in 1989.

1989: The Children’s Matinee Series, our first subscription series, with a fall and spring program of fairy tale and children’s ballets and an annual Nutcracker production, is launched, which expands to general programming after eight years. The Ithaca Ballet logo is created by Bill Gallagher, using an image of 19-year-old Cindy Reid in attitude croisé derrière between the words “Ithaca” and “Ballet” in slanting print.

1990: The Ballet is awarded a New York State Arts Initiative Grant and develops an Arts-in-Education program bringing mini-performances and lecture-demonstrations to schools in nine contiguous counties. Part of the funds underwrite the making of a film on the process of choreography. Filmmaker Robert Lieberman bases the work on Lawrence Brantley’s nationally recognized Boyceball, which is also accepted into the National Choreography Plan.

1991: The Ithaca Ballet is awarded $25,000 from the New York State Arts Initiative Grant to bring Lavinia’s Babar the Elephant to schools in nine contiguous counties. Part of the funds underwrite a film documenting the creation of Larry’s Boyceball, which is later aired on WSKG.

1994: The RDA/NE adjudicator annually chooses one or more works for inclusion in the annual festival by Lavinia Reid, Brantley, or guest choreographers. This year a work by the Ballet’s own young dancers is also chosen. Reaching Moksha is featured on the Emerging Choreographers Showcase at the Glassboro, NJ, Festival.

1996: The Ithaca Ballet premiers Snow White, choreography and music by Lavinia Reid, accompanied by the Pro Musica Quartet. The company performs The Nutcracker with the Finger Lakes Symphony Orchestra at the Smith Opera House in Geneva, NY, a tradition that spreads to Ithaca in 2004. The first yearly playbill is produced.

1997: The Ithaca Ballet performs at the nationally-known Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg, NY.

1998: The Ithaca Ballet expands its touring schedule of The Nutcracker to include every weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

1999: Ballet Guild of Ithaca Summer Dance Camp has its largest enrollment in its 17-year history. The Company is featured in the Downtown Syracuse Association’s Candlelight Series at Armory Square. Longtime resident and principal company choreographer Lavinia Reid leaves to start her own program in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

2000: The Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County presents Alice Reid with the Clinton B. Ford Award for Excellence and Leadership in the Arts.

2001: Ithaca Ballet performs Nutcracker to record-breaking audiences in three performances as part of the grand re-opening of Historic Ithaca’s State Theatre in December.

2004: The Tompkins County Foundation, Inc. presents Alice Reid with the Award for Excellence for Outstanding Volunteer Service to the Community.

2005: The Ithaca Ballet premieres Rafael Grigorian’s full-length Romeo and Juliet at the State Theater. Lead roles in the production are danced by Principal Dancer Nadia Drake and Guest Artist Christopher Fellows.

2006: Larry Brantley — longtime general manager, dancer and choreographer par excellence — dies at the age of 59.

2008: Company Artistic Director Cindy Reid starts the staging of the full-length classics to the repertoire, beginning with Swan Lake.

2011: Co-founder of the Ithaca Ballet, Alice Reid, dies at the age of 88, after the curtain comes down on our premiere of four-act Sleeping Beauty.

2012: The Ithaca Ballet celebrates its 50th anniversary. The season is highlighted by three full-length ballets, and culminates in a spectacular 50th Anniversary Gala performance featuring many returning Ithaca Ballet alumni.

2013: We premiere a stunning Little Mermaid, a full evening production with choreography, costumes and score by Lavinia Reid.

2014: The Ballet reaches a new artistic pinnacle and moves the audience to tears with the full-length classic, Giselle. Ithaca Ballet alumni return to portray the two leads: Beth Mochizuki reprising the title role and Samantha Sprague as the forbidding Myrthe, Queen of the Wilis.

2016: The Ballet welcomes back to the company alumnus dancer and teacher Rachel Myers and premieres Lavinia Reid’s The Firebird with score by Igor Stravinsky. We begin a new tradition of performing WinterDance at the Hangar Theatre.