Grace & Grit: Ballet in Minnesota—A History

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by Georgia Finnegan

Publication Date: October 2022

About the Book:

Grace & Grit: Ballet in Minnesota—A History will trace when ballet, the classical dance of Europe, eventually made its foray into Minnesota. Differing opinions currently surround the questions of when and where ballet made its thriving presence here. This book intends to verify ballet’s first roots in Minnesota, the people and companies who were significant conduits for its growth, and what is ballet’s role in Minnesota’s twenty-first century dance scene.

Presently, ballet is one of many varying dance disciplines in Minnesota. Contemporary, modern, lyrical, hip hop, jazz, tap, ballroom, and ethnic dances have all found a valued place in the Minnesota dance scene. Ballet training, with its emphasis on core strength complemented by flexibility and the appearance of effortless movement, remains the hallmark of a classical foundation needed to become a technically strong and versatile dancer. The scope and focus of how ballet took root in Minnesota and grew beyond small studio spaces will be the dance schools and professional dance companies that incorporate a classical ballet foundation in their training and performances. By classical foundation, this book refers to ballet methods that are internationally recognized for excellent training and study. These methods are the Vaganova, French School, Cecchetti, Bournonville, Royal Academy, and Balanchine (American).

With such a defined focus and scope, there is an inherent challenge in its accurate and authentic portrayal of ballet’s inclusiveness in Minnesota. Georgia Finnegan, the author, will meet the challenge by detailing how from early Minnesota roots on the twenty-first century, ballet went beyond the studio walls and proscenium stages to include various performance venues and dancers of various ethnicities, socio-economic levels, abilities, and ages. In the twenty-first century, ballet no longer remains exclusively the realm of professional dancers. The last section of the research manuscript delves into the artistic energy that ushered ballet into Minnesota’s contemporary dance age.

About the Author:

Georgia Finnegan brings over thirty years of experience in Minnesota’s ballet scene. Through effort and determination, Finnegan acquired extensive artistic experience as a dancer, teacher, ballet school director, executive director, artistic partner, and director of advancement/development.

Finnegan, the founder of Saint Paul City Ballet (renamed St. Paul Ballet in 2014), continued its growth and development for sixteen years, garnering foundation and corporate support. With a commitment to making to making ballet accessible to a broad population, she developed two ballet outreach programs in Saint Paul, which are still active. One for adults and young adults at the north end of Saint Paul in 2005 and currently at the Germanic-American Institute on Summit Avenue. The other outreach program, “Ballet Tuesdays,” for children, families, and downtown employees and began in 2009 at the Landmark Center.

Finnegan was actively engaged in Saint Paul’s business community and president of the Grand Avenue Business Association for three years. She is a firm believer that the arts, in partnership with corporate, business, and community support, augment the economy of a city and increases the vitality and esthetic beauty of its community.

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