Southwest Virginia Ballet strives to bring quality pre-professional dance through artistic, instructional, and performance excellence providing opportunities to our youth and community and achieving regional, national, and international recognition.
Our mission is to make the performing arts experience available to all ages from all walks of life through full-length productions of varied repertoire including classical ballet, contemporary, and new works. Southwest Virginia Ballet provides, free of charge, the highest quality of pre-professional training possible to young dancers and promotes cultural enrichment and awareness of the art of dance. SVB is committed to offering outreach opportunities for under-served and at-risk children and adults from across Southwest Virginia.
HistorySouthwest Virginia Ballet (SVB) has been a part of the community for 25 years and serves over 10,000 children and adults annually. SVB began in 1990 by Founding Artistic Director Tess (Terri) Post. Sandra Smeltzer served for many years as Associate Director. Ms. Post’s vision was for Southwest Virginia to produce and support a regional ballet company that would provide pre-professional quality performances of varied repertoire including classical ballet, contemporary, and modern works.
The new company quickly became a part of the community experience and in its first year performed at Festival in the Park, with Opera Roanoke in Die Fledermaus, and had its premier Company performance at Virginia Western Community College. This was quickly followed up in 1991 by a production of The Nutcracker at Olin Hall, Roanoke College, the first locally produced full-length production of The Nutcracker in many years. By 1993, SVB was performing The Nutcracker at the Roanoke Civic Center accompanied by the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and continued to perform at Festival in the Park, Affair in the Square, as guests with the Rockbridge Ballet, and with Opera Roanoke in The Merry Widow and Rigoletto. SVB also performed two full-length productions annually. In order to expand training and performance opportunities for company dancers, in 1993 SVB applied for admission to the Southeast Regional Dance Association (SERBA), a division of Regional Dance America. Acceptance in this organization is based on a peer evaluation of the training and capability of the SVB company members by SERBA leadership. After its first SERBA performance as a Guest Company in 1994, SVB quickly moved up within SERBA to Intern Company and then full Performing Company and hosted the annual SERBA Festival in 2003.
In 2006, Pedro Szalay joined SVB as instructor, co-artistic director, and choreographer. In 2007, Mr. Szalay became the full-time Artistic Director when Ms. Post relocated to New York. Under Szalay’s direction, SVB company membership has doubled in size and has gained regional, national, and international acclaim.
Under the artistic leadership of Mr. Szalay, the annual production of The Nutcracker routinely brings together as many as 180 SVB Company and community members, both children and adults. In 2009, Mr. Szalay created his first original full-length ballet, TIES, in collaboration with musician David Austin, the O.Winston Link Museum, and the Virginia Museum of Transportation to bring the history of the railroad in Southwest Virginia to life on stage. He has also created full-length productions of Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. Additional productions include Coppelia, The Firebird, and Reencuentro (which included alumni), as well as original works by many innovative choreographers. In addition to full-length productions, SVB performs throughout the year at area festivals and events and has collaborated with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Opera Roanoke.
Southwest Virginia Ballet (SVB) has served the community for 25 years and serves over 10,000 children and adults annually. SVB continues to serve as a training ground for regional dancers possibly seeking a career in dance or dance related fields. In its 25-year history, SVB’s distinguishing characteristics continue to include professional instruction, free membership, free costumes, and regional participation, in that, many dance schools are represented in company membership.
SVB’s programs Minds and Motion (6 years) and Dance Espanol (3 years), created and instructed by Mr.Szalay, have brought dance and inspiration to youth in our schools. These programs have had a large impact reaching over 200 Roanoke City 4th graders each year and over 340 Martinsville City School students of all ages in Henry County.
Community outreach and collaborative endeavors have expanded to include performances at Dickens of a Christmas, Parks and Arts, Virginia Science Festival, O.Winston Link Museum, History Museum of Western Virginia, Science Museum of Western Virginia, and Taubman Museum of Art. Company dancers participate in readings at Barnes and Noble Bookstore in addition to local schools, and visit Carilion Clinic to perform and bring cheer to pediatric patients. Sowing Seeds, with local artist Anne Waldrop, was a production that reached regional communities with performances in Roanoke, Mary Baldwin University, Route 11 Festival in Lexington, and Washington and Lee University.
Southwest Virginia Ballet has awarded $8,000 through the Vaszary Scholarship Fund since 2009. An endowment fund, established in 2011, now exceeds $140,000. As part of the program, “Southwest Virginia Ballet Gives Back”, SVB has provided free tickets to over 1000 clients of area human services organizations to attend The Nutcracker and spring production.
The company, now with 49 members, has received regional recognition and in July 2011 received international recognition at the New Prague Dance Festival winning first place in classical dance and first place in costuming. Two SVB dancers were also recognized for individual talent at the New Prague Dance Festival in 2011. In 2013, SVB received the Grishko Award at the New Prague Dance Festival, the equivalent of second place in the overall festival. SVB was voted Roanoke’s Best Ballet Organization in 2003 and Roanoke’s Best Performing Arts Group in 2012 by the readers of Roanoke’s City Magazine. SVB received recognition as the City of Salem Best Performing Arts Group in 2008 and was the first organization to receive the Art Venture Award from the Taubman Museum of Art for extraordinary educational and collaborative programming in 2014.
In its 25 year history, SVB’s distinguishing characteristics continue to include professional instruction, free membership, free costumes, and open participation with many of the regions dance schools represented in company membership. Many SVB Alumni continue to dance, choreograph, and teach around the world. Others are leaders in areas of arts, science, engineering, and business. This program for young dancers instills the discipline, teamwork, and dedication necessary to be successful in all aspects of life and fields of study and work.