Ballet Pensacola was founded in 1978 as Kaleidoscope Dance Theatre by Italian-trained dancer and teacher Gioia Michelotti. During its first season, Kaleidoscope attained 501(c)3 status and offered a number of performance opportunities for young dancers from across the community. Michelotti’s passion for integrated dance education and performance attracted young dancers and remained the guiding philosophy of the organization after she retired.
In 1980, Kaleidoscope’s Board of Directors furthered the organization’s contributions to the community by establishing an academy for dance training for children and teens. Judy Gomez, Nannette Grimm, Patsy Hill and Debbie Parrish shared the artistic and educational leadership.
The organization’s growth continued with the first production of The Nutcracker in 1989. Since then, The Nutcracker has become an annual favorite for Northwest Florida.
The following decade was one of considerable change for the organization, moving from the old Sacred Heart Hospital building to become one of the anchor tenants in the Pensacola Cultural Center.
In 2003, Artistic Director Bobby Ball implemented a more structured training curriculum and Dance Chance, a scholarship program. Providing more than $10,000 in assistance to deserving young dancers annually, the Dance Chance program is still available to dancers today. In 2005, the entire organization was renamed Ballet Pensacola. That same year, the position of Ballet Mistress was established to oversee performance preparation, and Christine Duhon joined the organization. In 2008, Artistic Director Richard Steinert joined the staff and established the professional performing company.
The professional company has continued to grow and in 2014, the dancers and choreographers embarked upon the organization’s first tour to Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Today, Ballet Pensacola, which has gained a strong national and international reputation, consists of a training academy that serves more than 300 students each season and a performing company of more than 40 dancers, including professionals from around the world.