New York City Ballet founder George Balanchine famously said, “But first, a school.” Those words have served as inspiration and advice for Victoria Lyras, who founded the Indianapolis School of Ballet in 2006 and this year is taking the final steps toward founding Indianapolis Ballet, a professional ballet company.
Lyras, a former Pennsylvania Ballet dancer who trained at School of American Ballet, told Dance Studio Life that a professional company was part of her design from day one. Her nonprofit school, which offers Balanchine-based curriculum to 230 students ages 4 to adult, is financially sound and supported by a fully committed board of directors. School productions, from an annual Nutcracker to Balanchine classics such as Concerto Barocco and Tarantella, have left Lyras with costumes, set pieces, and Balanchine-ready students and alumni.
By July, a capital campaign that began this May had raised $300,000 toward its goal of $1.2 million. Auditions were held in July, and the new organization was set to be fully functioning by January 2018. Indianapolis Ballet will include an apprentice program, 10 to 12 dancers receiving full pay and benefits, and an annual season of seven to eight productions.
The community’s last resident professional ballet company, Ballet Internationale, closed due to bankruptcy in 2005. Even when that company was active, there was little Balanchine presence in the area. Filling that void has been Lyras’ goal. “We will begin with a small company, and build incrementally on a solid foundation,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done for 11 years, and the time is right. As Mr. B used to say, ‘What are you waiting for? Now is all there is.’ ”