Our Mission

To Engender the Art of Dance and Dance Education

The Ashland Youth Ballet’s mission statement is and has always been to engender the art of dance and dance education in the Tri-State region. We have done that by sending nearly two dozen of our alumni on to careers in professional dance, including performing with the Rockettes, “Wicked” and on Broadway. The AYB is a non-profit civic organization that serves the Tri-State by maintaining and preserving the technical and artistic elements of dance training and performance. We are the resident company of the historic Paramount Arts Center, our next-door neighbor in the Ashland Arts District.

SUPPORT THE MISSION

Location

IN THE HEART OF ASHLAND, KY’S DOWNTOWN ARTS DISTRICT

Ashland Youth Ballet | (606) 324-5434

336 13th St, Ashland, KY 41101 | MAP / DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Ashland Youth Ballet
(606) 324-5434

336 13th St, Ashland, KY 41101
MAP / DRIVING DIRECTIONS

From the Director

In 1989, a small group of arts advocates met to discuss the future of the cultural arts in Ashland and its surrounding region. Little did I know what that lunch meeting at the Chimney Corner Tea Room would mean for the art of dance in the Tri-State Region, and for me personally.

With backing from the Foundation for the Tri-State Community, the Paramount Women’s Association, the Ashland Foundation, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, Ashland Bank Clearinghouse, Ashland Car Dealers Association and a host of volunteers, the Ashland Youth Ballet was born. We produced our first show on Christmas of 1989, the Paramount Arts Center had a holiday dance concert, and our dancers have enjoyed master classes and enhanced learning opportunities throughout the process. “A Christmas Fantasy” was scheduled, which included excerpts from “The Nutcracker,” as well as a rendering of “The Night Before Christmas” entitled “T’was the Night” and “The Ice Maiden.”

Ninety-eight dancers from Grayson, Kentucky, to Charleston, West Virginia, to Gallipolis, Ohio showed up to audition for this ground-breaking event, and 52 were selected. We were on our way to a premiere concert.

Mother Nature had other plans. A massive winter storm closed roads on the day of our show, and for the safety of our dancers and audience, the decision was made to postpone until the next day. Many were disappointed, many were upset, many were thankful, but when the curtain went up the next day, all were elated, supportive and proud of what had been accomplished for our first endeavor.

That first year defined us: through hard work, dedication and difficult decisions, the Ashland Youth Ballet would stand firm in its commitment “to engender the art of dance and dance education in the Tri-State region.”

As director, I embrace this mission and vision. As director, it is my job to remind dancers, parents, and audiences of the importance of the art of dance and the arts in general. Our history, our cultural treasures, and our very lives are chronicled through dance and the arts. The arts fill our lives with purpose and vibrancy, providing structure to daily life while teaching life skills necessary for becoming well-rounded, caring and responsible adults.

Dance allows expression of our deepest feelings and emotions in a safe, controlled environment. Dance teaches self-discipline, self-mastery, self-confidence and selflessness. Ashland Youth Ballet alumni have achieved incredible successes in and out of the dance world. I feel proud that dance enlivened these young dancers to encounter our world as dance professors, ballerinas, dance instructors, actors/actresses, physical therapists, broadcast journalists, physicians, teachers, business owners, and the list goes on.

In short, I’ve seen how dance enriches our lives, helps us engage the world around us, and makes the world a better place today than it was yesterday. For me, every dancer, every staff member and every volunteer has touched my life and the life of our community. That is what the Ashland Youth Ballet family does.
Our past, present and future dancers know that becoming an Ashland Youth Ballet member means that through our commitment to dance and the arts, that which lies beyond the self allows the cultural life of our community to flourish.
Come celebrate the dance with us this season!

—Maria Whaley, Director

Our History

Visual Timeline

Scroll below to experience the rich history of the Ashland Youth Ballet, beginning with the organization’s establishment in 1989.

ASHLAND YOUTH BALLET BEGINS

1989

Ashland Youth Ballet founded “to engender the art of dance and performance to the Tri-State area through education and outreach for dancers, school students and the community at large.” Ninety-eight dancers registered to audition for the first holiday show in December, “A Christmas Fantasy.”

Residency with Martynuk-McAdams Dance was planned with the Russell Independent School District. Carter McAdams worked in the school system teaching video and movement; his wife, Nusha Martynuk, taught and choreographed “Moments Alone, Moments Together” for the Senior Company Members.

Photo: The first cast of “A Christmas Fantasy.”  Picture is from “The Nutcracker,” Act II.

WALTZ OF THE FLOWERS

1989

Photo: First group dance of the “Waltz of the Flowers.”

THE LITTLE SNOW CHILD

1991-92

Photo: The cast of “The Little Snow Child.”

CLARA AND THE CAVALIER

1991-92

Photo: Niki Milleson and Nathan Andary as Clara and the Cavalier.

STAROBOSANKO KOLO

1994

Photo: “Starobosanko Kolo,” a traditional folk dance from the former Yugoslavian states.

FIRST COMMISSIONED WORK

1994

“Dancing Through Time,” a lecture demonstration, was set on the Senior Company of the AYB by freelance choreographer Larry Jones. The performance highlights included “Pas de Quatre” and Haydn, Symphony No. 88. The Senior and Junior Company worked with Zivili to learn traditional Bosnian and Serbian folk dances. Senior company dancers also worked with American Dance Ensemble Funding provided by the Kentucky Arts Council, Foundation for the Tri-State Community, the Ashland Oil Foundation and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

Photo: The first cast of “Pas de Quatre,” the AYB’s first commissioned work.

THE NUTCRACKER

1995

Ron Coulton of the Augusta Ballet and Cynthia Bronner of the University of Louisville Dance Theater evaluated the AYB’s “The Nutcracker” for acceptance to the Southeast Regional Dance Association. “Graduation Ball” was presented as a spring concert.

REGIONAL DANCE FESTIVAL

1996

Members of the AYB represented Ashland at Southeast Regional Dance Association Festival in Greenville, South Carolina. The company performed “The Nutcracker” on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8.

PRESENTATIONS

1997

“Les Danses du Printemps” was presented on Sunday, April 20 featuring “Green Eggs and Ham” with the Junior Company; Senior Company dancers performed “Melic,” “Ashed Sketches,” “Caravan on Land” and excerpts from “Giselle.” Partnership with Lexington Ballet presented “Peter and the Wolf” and Act II of “Swan Lake.” Junior and Senior Company members performed “Heritage,” a collection of Jesse Stuart stories.

Photos: Below – Company members pose for a group photo in 1997. Bottom-left – Post performance smiles of relief from Maria Whaley, director, and Amanda Dunlap, dancer,  after “The Nutcracker” in 1997. Bottom-right – Buses line up to experience a 1997 performance.

COLLECTION OF DANCES

1998

Area schools joined with the AYB to perform “Circles,” a collection of dances based on multicultural themes — the circle binds us together in one human family. For its 10th anniversary, the AYB performed “Dances Revisited,” featuring many of its first commissioned works. Senior Company members traveled to Houston, Texas to represent the company at the Regional Dance America Festival.

Photo: The 1998-99 cast of “The Nutcracker.”

RIVER AND RAILS FESTIVAL

1999

The Boyd County Arts Council sponsored the “River and Rails Festival.” The AYB performed “River n’ Rails,” which celebrated the shaping of our Tri-State culture by the work and life on the river and on the railroad. The AYB danced for the groundbreaking of the Paramount Arts Center stage addition.

CONSTRUCTION PHASE

2000

The Paramount stage was closed for the construction of the stage house, orchestra pit, loading dock, dressing rooms, rehearsal hall and storage space. The AYB performed in area schools throughout the season.

THE GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER

2001

The Paramount Arts Center and the AYB co-sponsored the Moscow Ballet’s “The Great Russian Nutcracker” to celebrate the completion of the capital improvements. Two sold-out performances began a tradition of this collaboration which has continued every two to three years since.

GROWING TREE

2005

Meehan Steel and Great Lakes Minerals assisted in constructing the AYB 20-foot growing tree.

PROFESSIONAL COMPANY

2007

AYB alumnus Nathan Andary brought his professional company to Ashland in collaboration with the AYB.

THE NUTCRACKER

2008-09

Photo: The cast of the “The Nutcracker.”

CASTS

2010

Photos: Cast of “The Nutcracker” (below). Cast of “The Little Snow Child” (middle). Cast of “Twas the Night” (bottom).

THE WIZARD OF OZ

2011

Junior Company members danced with theater touring company Wizard of Oz Company, LLC, to present “The Wizard of Oz.”

NEW STUDIOS

2012

AYB moved to new studios at 13th Street and Carter Avenue behind the Paramount Arts Center, at the “gateway” of the Ashland Arts District. “Good Grief, It’s Christmas” was added to the AYB repertoire as a holiday show. The performance was accompanied by Three-0 with musical arrangements by Ritch Collins.

HIP-HOP BALLET

2013

AYB performed “The Funkikrakr,” a hip-hop ballet, to an adapted musical score by Ritch Collins.

25TH ANNIVERSARY

2014-16

AYB celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014. AYB alumnus Nathan Andary returned with students from the Ohio University Department of Dance Senior Concert Tour. The OU students choreographed for the Senior and Junior group of dancers. In 2016, members of the AYB performed with the Paramount Players in “Peter Pan.”

CO-SPONSORED

2017

The Paramount Arts Center and the AYB co-sponsored Moscow Ballet in “The Great Russian Nutcracker.” “Peter and the Wolf” was presented by the company, accompanied by the Appalachian Regional Orchestra under the direction of Bob Turizziani and narrated by Grant Cooper.

30TH ANNIVERSARY

2018

AYB celebrated its 30th anniversary. “The Nutcracker” was accompanied by The Ashland Youth Ballet Orchestra under the direction of Dr. Scott Woodard, a first in ballet company history.

Photo: Performance of “The Nutcracker.”