© Jerry Finley Photography
Classical ballet’s roots are in 15th century Europe, when it was a popular art form for royalty. As the art spread throughout the world, it found a stronghold in Russia where strict discipline and dedicated training have produced many of the beloved classics such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Since its founding in 2003, International Ballet has sought to preserve the beauty of these classics and strives to replicate them and represent the original, bringing classical ballet to a modern world.
Lena Forster launched International Ballet in 2003 with her husband Jurgen Forster and Ukrainian dancers Vlada Kysselova and Hennadii Bespechnyi. Forster received her training at the prestigious School of American Ballet, official school of New York City Ballet under George Balanchine and was selected to join the inaugural class of dancers at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Bespechnyi studied under Juris Kapralis (an instructor of Mikhail Baryshnikov) at the Riga State College of Choreography, Latvia, and Kysselova received her training at the Kiev State College of Choreography, Ukraine – both having received Master’s degrees from the Ukrainian Academy of Dance, International Slavic University, as well as performing and touring extensively with companies such as the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet (Ukraine) and Ballet Classique de Paris (France).
With this introductory talent and continued adherence to traditional roots, International Ballet has grown in size, reputation, and scope of service. It is now known in the Upstate for performing many of the classics, bringing productions such as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Coppelia, and Don Quixote to the Greenville, South Carolina community as a Peace Center Resident Company. In 2018 the non-profit entity International Ballet acquired the affiliated school, International Ballet Academy, from Forster. International Ballet is a non-profit 501c3 organization.
Now led by Artistic Director Vlada Kysselova and Executive Director Sarah Shoemaker, International Ballet is active in the community, performing annually at events like Artisphere, as a guest company with The Greenville Symphony Orchestra, and in local schools and communities. International Ballet maintains several outreach programs including its Accessibility Class and Scholarship programs, and Storytime Ballet with the Greenville County Library.
In 2019 International Ballet opened the Somerville Center, a 10,000 square foot state of the art training and rehearsal space for the Upper Division of the Academy and Company. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held on October 25, 2019. The Somerville Center is named for two of IB’s most generous supporters, Graham and Greta Somerville. The 2,300 square foot rehearsal studio is named the Halsey Studio in thanks to a gift from Sandy and Jack Halsey. Additionally, in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Halsey family initiated a matching fund campaign to build the IB theatre, a black box performance space inside the Halsey studio.