The Atlanta Ballet, founded in 1929, has continuously operated for longer than any other ballet company in the United States. Responsible for training its own artists, the company offers a varied range of productions that span the history of ballet, and its performances include both original productions and such classics as the Nutcracker.
Founded by visionary dance instructor Dorothy Moses Alexander, the Atlanta Ballet began performing in 1929. Alexander's dream of bringing quality ballet to the Atlanta community resulted in the Dorothy Alexander Dance Art Group—the first regional ballet company in the United States. In 1941 Alexander's Dance Company changed its name to the Atlanta Civic Ballet to reflect its cultural contributions and ties to the city.
Alexander served as the company's artistic director until 1963, when Robert Barnett was appointed to the position. Barnett, formerly a soloist with the New York City Ballet, joined the Atlanta Ballet as a principal dancer in 1958. Upon gaining professional status in 1967, the company was renamed the Atlanta Ballet Inc., and in a 1973 resolution, the Georgia General Assembly declared the Atlanta Ballet to be the state's official ballet company.
In 1994 John McFall became the ballet's third artistic director, and he continues to lead the Atlanta Ballet in its mission to educate audiences about dance. Under McFall's direction, both contemporary and modern dance premieres, as well as many new full-length ballets and several world-premiere productions, have opened in Atlanta. He has also arranged collaborations between the Atlanta Ballet and such Atlanta-area musicians as the Indigo Girls and the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church Choir.
In early 2007 Barry Hughson was hired as the company's executive director. He and McFall now share the directorship of the ballet.
The Atlanta Ballet has attracted a global ensemble of professional dancers, hailing from such countries as Brazil, China, Korea, Mongolia, Russia, South Africa, and the United States. The Atlanta Ballet has also performed on stages around the world, including those in London, England; Seoul, Korea; and Taipei, Taiwan. The company's 1999 debut in London featured a performance of Peter Pan, adapted by McFall, during the Royal Festival Hall's Christmas dance season.
In 1996 the Atlanta Ballet opened the Centre for Dance Education, which offers dance instruction to both children and adults. One of the largest dance education programs in the United States, the center serves more than 1,700 students annually through a diverse selection of courses, including ballet, flamenco, hip-hop, and tap, and conducts other educational programs that reach more than 150,000 people in metropolitan Atlanta each year.
The Atlanta Ballet and the Centre for Dance Education have established numerous school and community outreach programs to promote dance education. In 2002 the center collaborated with Several Dancers Core, Moving in the Spirit, and Dance Educators of Georgia to create the Teachers Training Institute. The institute offers certification to teachers interested in using dance and kinetic learning techniques to work with children who experience difficulties in traditional classroom environments.