The non-profit entity of International Ballet acquired International Ballet Academy from Lena Forster on July 1, 2018. For Lena and the IB Board of Directors, this was clearly an important deal. But even for those of us who weren’t directly involved in the business transaction, the acquisition was significant because it means something important about the city in which we live. It means our city has been given a wonderful gift.
The press release and social media posts about the acquisition did not get tremendous fanfare at the time, so as the one year anniversary approaches, I thought I’d share my views on why this step, that happened quietly, matters so much.
When I moved to Greenville in 2014, I didn’t know much about the city; but, walking down Main Street, past the shops, the art, the restaurants, the Peace Center, Falls Park, and Fluor Field, I was sold. I shamelessly boasted to friends and family on social media that I had moved to the greatest small city in America. Since then, my love for Greenville has only grown stronger, and clearly, I am in good company. We are all proud of our city. It is growing, and that is good.
Greenville’s leaders, past and present, have demonstrated the understanding that great art matters. We have Artisphere, beautiful sculptures on almost every corner downtown, and Falls Park and Artists Row. We also have the Greenville Symphony Orchestra, The Greenville Chorale, the South Carolina Children’s Theatre, The Greenville Theatre, The Warehouse Theatre, the Governors School for the Arts & Humanities, and many other performing arts organizations that significantly add to Greenville’s vibrant culture. These features and organizations are not accidents, they are investments – investments made by people who had to make a tough choice, and they chose to invest in the city and its future. Now, we are all benefitting. When Lena Forster chose to sell the ballet Academy that she started in 2003 to the non-profit International Ballet Company, she too, was making the choice to invest in Greenville.
There are thousands of dance school in cities and towns across America. Many are successful businesses, operating to make a profit. But great classical ballet, like other classical arts, serves the purpose of preserving something beautiful, inspiring, and timeless - a culture that, distracted by latest trends, might easily move too quickly past. Throughout history, classical arts have resonated with the soul in a unique way, and they are important. But they are dependent on philanthropy, and they do not succeed without sponsors.
By turning her business over to a Board of Directors made up of generous, focused, intelligent, and talented individuals, Lena gave Greenville a classical ballet company and school of its own. Lena is not going anywhere, and she will be a guiding force, as founder, for years to come. But International Ballet – Company and Academy – is Greenville’s Premier Ballet organization, and its purpose is to serve.
When I fell in love with Greenville in 2014, I did not yet know that I was going to meet some of the greatest friends I have ever had, and International Ballet - a family that I am so proud to be affiliated with. I love Greenville now more than ever because of the kind and generous people I meet everywhere I go. Thank you, Lena, for the trust you are showing the city of Greenville to take what you started and build it to be even more accessible and impactful.