Impact Stories 2020/21

2020/21 was the most challenging time in our organization’s history as our season began with canceled performances, empty stages, and shuttered studios. Like the rest of the world, we slowly and carefully navigated the unprecedented obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking steps to protect the health and safety of our dancers, staff, students, and patrons. With great care our school and academy reopened and we began performing once again.

The following stories share a bit about our journey through the 2020/21 Season and the impact our donors had through their unwavering generosity at our greatest time of need.

Reconnecting with the Community

After more than a year of virtual activities, this summer we held our first in-person Community Engagement activities since the beginning of the pandemic.  Students from across Milwaukee attended Summer Relevé camps at Baumgartner Center for Dance.  This free program is an extension of our school-year Relevé program, which provides free ballet classes to students from four Milwaukee schools.

In July, our dancers returned to the community in Ballet Beat.  Company and MBII dancers spent the month participating in workshops and other activities, while also preparing for two finale performances that were offered for free at the end of the month. We were thrilled to welcome hundreds of people to our events and performances! Ballet Beat is a truly impactful and important program as it brings Milwaukee Ballet to a variety of neighborhoods and areas in the greater Milwaukee area, providing many people’s first experience with our company.

Summer 2021

two people dancing on stage with a crowd watching

Getting us Back on Our Toes

Our dancers have taken their curtain calls for the most challenging year in our history. Being able to still perform this year has been an inspiration for our dancers, who pushed themselves to get back to peak condition for the 2021 Reimagined Season. They have fought through obstacles and disappointments, facing both mental and physical challenges, to return to the stage. After almost eight months off, only training at home or in small, distanced classes when able, the Company dancers of Milwaukee Ballet pushed themselves to return for a limited run of a special adaptation of The Nutcracker followed by To The Pointe, Re.Gen and Encore this winter and spring.

Your support has enabled us to bring our dancers back and perform despite the extreme loss of revenue last year. In a time filled with so much uncertainty, we have been able to look forward with hope and optimism, remaining focused on our mission to inspire and uplift through our performances.

Spring 2021

a group of women dancing on stage, in purple costumes
two dancers performing La Bayadere pas de deux, with face masks on
a group of women in white dresses dancing
a group of men wearing white leotards and masks

Taking Steps Forward

Our School & Academy has been a State and National leader in safely returning to our studios. Unlike other educational pursuits, ballet is not one that can be sustainably taught online. Our students highly value their space, their friends, and the freedom of movement. For many, ballet has been the only safe and enjoyable outlet for them since July 2020.  

We successfully hosted a modified Summer Intensive program for local students In July and reopened our doors for the school year in September. This February, our Academy and Pre-Professional students filmed their winter showcase, Fortitude, in our Baumgartner Center for Dance, truly showcasing the fortitude with which our students have approached the challenges of this past year. 

By supporting Milwaukee Ballet, you have kept ballet dreams vibrant for nearly 450 students, including Pre-Professionals who are pursuing a career in dance. Where so much loss has occurred, we have been able to keep providing safe, affordable and inspiring education with your help. 

Spring 2021

two students wearing white costumes, and performing in a black box theater
a group of people wearing masks and standing on a barre
a girl in a black dress and white mask, leaping in the air
a group of kids wearing masks and dancing

Making Dreams Come True

Annia Hidalgo is a Leading Artist living her dream to be a professional ballerina. Her dream was born in her home country of Cuba. At 14, she left her family in Holguín to study at the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana before earning a soloist role with the Cuban National Ballet Company.  

From there she began to build an impressive career, including dancing soloist and principal roles in works every ballerina dreams of: La Fille Mal GardéeDon QuixotePaquitaThe Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadère to name a few.

But her journey didn’t stop there. She yearned for the American dream. After joining Milwaukee Ballet in 2012, she achieved critical success with the role of Musetta, made for her by Michael Pink in his La Bohème

“If ‘La Boheme’ has one breakout star, Hidalgo is it. Her interpretation of Musetta is lusty and dynamic; her powerful, pointed movements made it impossible to watch anyone else while she was onstage.” –

Another dream came true when her mother, who had not seen her dance since she was 10 years old, flew from Cuba to see Annia in the spotlight.

Fall 2020

Annia Hidalgo
Annia Hidalgo and mom

“It felt more like my mother was with me on stage than in the audience; like I was dancing with her and telling her, ‘This is what I do. This is what I feel. This is my relationship with the audience and my partners on stage.'”

“I was so happy she could finally witness all the results of years and years of hard work and sacrifices and being apart. She cried when I left home so young, and I wanted to show her that it was all worth it.”

Milwaukee is now Annia’s home and she has proudly become a US citizen.  While dancing with her many partners onstage, she found her partner off stage and married her wife, Rachel, in a small, beautiful ceremony a few years ago. She has found a family at Milwaukee Ballet; one made of more people than her wife, fellow dancers or Company staff.

Annia feels connected to all who support Milwaukee Ballet, calling them her family.

“Thank you so much for bringing us to life, for allowing us to keep making art. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to to keep performing for the Milwaukee community. We need to keep the magic of art alive more than ever right now, and I’m grateful for your generosity that keeps us moving forward.”

Annia Hidalgo dancing on a stage with people around
Annia Hidalgo and Randy Crespo dancing the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier
Annia Hidalgo dancing on stage with a flowy dress, up in the air, as she spins

Inspiring the Next Generation

Mayte began studying ballet at age 7. In her five years of classes, she has learned more than just pliés and arabesques. “I’ve learned to never give up and to keep going when things are hard.” 

Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy (MBSA) provides education for all ages and levels – from preschoolers taking their first class to high school students training for a professional dance career. Ballet education teaches confidence, perseverance, discipline, and focus. Our students become stronger individuals as they gain skills to succeed in life beyond dance. 

MBSA students frequently go on to be successful in whatever fields they choose to pursue. Many are on their high school honor rolls, as well as in honor societies and community service groups at their schools. It is not uncommon for our high school dancers to be the valedictorians or salutatorians of their classes. Ballet has taught them discipline, time management, focus, and determination.

Fall 2020

Mayte sitting outside

Ballet also instills an appreciation for the arts and allows students to develop creatively. It provides an outlet and a safe place to grow. “My favorite thing about ballet class is how I can forget about everything else in the world and just do ballet.” MBSA is a place where Mayte feels safe to let out her frustrations in a healthy way, doing something she loves to do.

Being able to return to classes safely during the pandemic has provided a sense of reality and normalcy for Mayte during a time that is so challenging for adults and children alike. Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy has been able to provide safe, in-person instruction during the pandemic. In fact, we were one of the first organizations to re-open our doors in July. Since then we have safely provided weekly instruction to over 425 students throughout our three different branches, while making virtual instruction possible for students as well. This has given Mayte and her classmates the ability to continue to pursue their dreams and passions safely during the pandemic. “I am so thankful that I am still able to have ballet while everything else is paused.”

Your gift helps to provide scholarships and financial aid for students like Mayte and inspire the next generation of dancers. 

Mayte doing a barre exercise in a dance studio, while wearing a face mask
a child sitting on a rug with a violin
a child standing next to a nutcracker

Empowering Emerging Artists

Isaac Allen spent three seasons in our Milwaukee Ballet II (MBII) program. Aan MBII dancer, he had an opportunity to perform in roles alongside the professional Company in Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena. Beyond the studio and stage, Isaac spent many days on the road with the Community Engagement team, bringing ballet to schools, libraries, community centers, and more. 

Our community engagement programs introduce students to the arts, bring the magic of ballet to different neighborhoods, and make dance available and accessible to anyone who wants to participate. Isaac has helped inspire thousands of people, especially children. “There is nothing like watching a kid’s face light up when they see you jump or turn like they’ve never seen before. It definitely makes all the long hours worth it.” As a male dancer, Isaac feels a special responsibility to show boys that the artform has a place for them.  

Fall 2020

Isaac Allen's headshot
a group of people in a gym, pretending to be superheroes

While bringing the power of the arts to our community, Isaac is seeing his own dreams come to life. He performed as Prince Siegfried in Act II of Swan Lake as part of Milwaukee Ballet II’s MOMENTUM last March. Before the final performance, the gravity of the pandemic became clear and they were unable to finish their season finale. Days before he was scheduled to fly back home, Michael Pink offered Isaac a contract to join Milwaukee Ballet’s Company for the 2020-21 season.

“I’m thrilled I get to stay in Milwaukee for my professional career. I’ve loved performing in the wide range of dance styles and productions here.  The artists and staff feel like a big family.”

Your support allows Isaac to make his professional debut and help us continue our work in the community. 

two men dancing on a stage
Isaac Allen holding Eliza Schwartz in a press lift, in a street
Ayuko Ogino and Issac Allen performing Balanchine's Serenade

Make A Gift

The arts inspire and uplift, and your gift to Milwaukee Ballet does same for us. Be part of our story and help us make a difference.