Butlers contribute to Ballet Austin

Joan Vinson

To help remove boundaries that prevent aspiring dancers from continuing their training, patrons of UT’s Sarah & Ernest Butler School of Music donated $250,000 to Ballet Austin’s Trainee Program.

Ballet Austin announced the donation from Dr. Ernest and Sarah Butler on Wednesday. Sarah Butler is the chairwoman of the Ballet Austin Foundation, created in 1998 to benefit Ballet Austin. The Butlers donated $55 million to the music school in 2008.

“I am grateful for this wonderful donation and for the Butlers’ ongoing generosity. This gift helps remove barriers that could potentially deny some exceptional young people the chance to continue their training,” Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills said in a press release. “The Butlers understand the importance of the opportunity for focused and intensive study in order for a young dancer to be ready to enter a highly competitive artistic discipline.”

Ballet Austin named its downtown headquarters the Butler Dance Education Center after the Butlers when they donated $3.5 million to the organization.

With more than 800 students enrolled, Ballet Austin is one of the nation’s largest classical ballet academies. The Academy is split into five areas of study and the Trainee Program is the most senior level of the Academy. The intensive professional-track program allows students to practice up to 17 hours per week.

The program offers trainees instruction in classical ballet and more contemporary forms of dance. Ballet Austin selects trainees through a nationwide audition and the trainees have the opportunity to rehearse and perform with Ballet Austin in selected performances. Although most of the training occurs in the studio, the program provides opportunities for trainees to attend educational workshops, lectures and meetings with dance professionals from related industries.

Tuition for one trainee for 35 weeks is $5,500. Thirty percent of Ballet Austin’s main company roster graduated from the Trainee Program, according to Ballet Austin’s website.

UT’s Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music was renamed in honor of the Butlers following their donation, the largest single gift to a music school at a public university, according to an article in the Austin Business Journal.

Psychology sophomore Mike Leberknight, who takes classes in the Butler School of Music, said the building is well equipped with instruments and spaces for students to practice music.

“The school is great. There are two floors full of music practice rooms and most include pianos. It is one of my favorite places on campus because of its modern architecture,” Leberknight said. “I am happy to see the Butlers continue to donate to the Austin community.” 

Printed on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 as: Butlers give $250,000 to Ballet Austin program