One of the world’s most preeminent and respected ballet companies, American Ballet Theatre is the only major cultural institution in the United States that tours nationally every year, performing for more than 450,000 people. The Company has also made more than 30 international tours to 50 countries and has been sponsored by the State Department of the United States on many of these engagements. To further express his support of American Ballet Theatre’s original and world-renowned programming, Henry would personally donate more than $100,000 to the company over his lifetime toward the advancement of their global presence.
Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ renowned International Dance Series has been the Center’s signature program since its first season in 1986. As part of this series, Henry Segerstrom and The Segerstrom Foundation Endowment for Great Performances enabled SCFTA to bring American Ballet Theatre’s brilliant dancers from their New York stage to the Segerstrom stage. For nearly every season since the Center’s inception, American Ballet Theatre has brought its most acclaimed productions to Orange County’s audiences at Segerstrom Hall whilst also partnering with SCFTA on numerous commissions and prestigious premieres.
Highlights in SCFTA’s long relationship with American Ballet
Theatre include such seminal moments as the 1988 world premiere of a newly envisaged Swan Lake by famed dancer and then Artistic Director of ABT, Mikhail Baryshnikov. Later, ABT’s 1999 production of Le Corsaire was taped in Segerstrom Hall for PBS’s renowned Dance In America program. The acclaimed performance would go on to win an Emmy Award later that same year. In 2003, The Dream was also taped at the Center for broadcast on PBS’s Dance In America. In 2008, SCFTA and ABT co-commissioned Twyla Tharp’s Rabbit and Rogue, receiving its world premiere in New York and West Coast premiere at SCFTA. Over the years that followed, famed choreographer Alexei Ratmansky would host the ABT world premieres of both Sleeping Beauty (2007) as well as his modern production of The Firebird (2012) on the SCFTA stage.
In 2017, Ratmansky would debut his original ballet Whipped Cream on the stage of Segerstrom Hall to wide acclaim. With costumes designed by world-renowned pop surrealist Mark Ryden and unique, unprecedented vision, Whipped Cream’s premiere represented a seminal moment in the course of Henry’s vision for Orange County: a dream that it would one day be an international port and harbinger for both the classical and modern arts. With Whipped Cream, this role had been solidified.
In 2015, SCFTA partnered again with American Ballet Theatre in establishing the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School. The School has an enrollment of more than 250 students, ages 3 to 18, who study under teachers utilizing the American Ballet Theatre National Training Curriculum. The ABT Gillespie School is the flagship program of SCFTA’s new Center for Dance and Innovation, bringing dancers from all around the world to Orange County to train, transforming SCFTA into both an arts entertainment and educational environment.