The debut residency, and the ballet company behind it, is an outgrowth of the Indianapolis School of Ballet, housed at 502 N. Capitol Ave.
“From the very first day I started this school 12 years ago the vision has always been to have a professional ballet company,” says artistic director Victoria Lyras.''
And in her career, George Balanchine — frequently called the father of American ballet — is a figure who looms large. Lyras has, after all, danced in many of the ballets that are part of the Balanchine repertoire.
“The Balanchine vocabulary is really based on classical ballet technique,” says Lyras. “It’s just Balanchine in the way he puts steps together so divinely to music and then, depending on which ballet, he took it a little bit off the hip ... so it has a lot of jazz influence. Balanchine loved jazz and his favorite male dancer was Fred Astaire.”
“The timing had to be right,” Lyras says. “The funding had to be in place.”
Indianapolis Ballet was able to secure a substantial portion of that funding through a $500,000 grant from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation. This puts a dent in the Ballet’s $1.2 million Moving Forward Capital campaign, which was begun in May, 2017.
Managing a ballet company, says Lyras, is more than just tutus and ballet shoes.
“It depends who’s holding the budget,” says Lyras. “It depends who’s holding the purse strings. I know how to budget ... If any organization is mismanaged. It’s not going to survive.”
And she notes the shut-down of Indy-based Ballet Internationale back in 2005, which was perceived at the time — in the pages of NUVO and elsewhere — to have been caused by fiscal mismanagement.
“So I think that that gave the perception that the community did not support dance and that’s not true at all,” says Lyras.
Lyras certainly saves a bit of money by creating the Firebird’s red dress, something that might have cost upwards of $10,000 on the market. (Lyras’s 89-year old mother Loukia Finale, affectionately known as YiaYia, also stitches together many of the costumes.)
“For me having a professional ballet company and having been in several ballet companies and then as a freelance guest artist it was imperative to me to be able to hire the dancers contractually with a salary and medical benefits. That is essential.”
And so is finding the right dancers to hire for this full-time resident professional dance company.
Chris Lingner, one of the company’s two founding members — who will play Prince Ivan in The Firebird — has danced in 19 performance during his time as a student at the Jacobs School of Music at IU Bloomington.
His dancing has taken him to Denmark and Havana, Cuba but he has chosen to make his home with this company in Indianapolis, where he grew up.
“I miss the ocean but I can afford to live here,” she says.
“They are our future,” Lyras says about both her resident dancers and her students. “I can’t dance anymore but I can teach and I can choreograph. And I can stage ballets... I’ve had my career on stage."
Lyras says that for her it is about passing the torch.
“Yesterday I was rehearsing Firebird and I saw a couple of the little nine-year -olds in their little light blue leotards sitting on the floor right by the door watching,” she says. “And this is where it all begins. It’s not just about The Nutcracker. It’s what’s happening in the studio, day in day out and how these little ones look up to their idols..."