The Kennedy Center

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Th


American Ballet Theatre, America’s National Ballet Company™, is recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world. Few ballet companies equal ABT for its combination of size, scope, and outreach. Recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours the U.S., performing for more than 400,000 people, and is the only major cultural institution to do so. It has also made more than 15 international tours to 42 countries as perhaps the most representative American ballet company and has been sponsored by the U.S. Department of State on many of these engagements. The history of ABT’s training programs dates back almost 60 years. ABT’s original school was attached to the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School in 1950. The School was directed by one of ABT’s founding choreographers, Antony Tudor, in association with Margaret Craske, in hopes that ABT would develop a relationship with the Metropolitan Opera House similar to that enjoyed by European ballet companies. The relationship was short lived and that formula was never to be realized.In 1951, the official Ballet Theatre School was opened at 152 West 56th Street with the equally prestigious ABT founding choreographer Branislava Nijinska named as director. The following year, Lucia Chase assumed the Directorship, followed by Leon Danielian (Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo), and Patricia Wilde (New York City Ballet). Original faculty included Ludmila Schollar, James Welch, Alexandra Danilova, as well as Ballet Theatre stars including Alicia Alonso and Agnes DeMille.  In 1981, the School was discontinued but later briefly revived as an elite training program at 890 Broadway for a select group of dancers by then Artistic Director Mikhail Baryshnikov.
In January of 2004, Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie and Studio Company Artistic Director John Meehan revived the school, calling it the “Studio Company Associate Program.” At its inception, the program consisted of ten dancers, ranging in age from 15 to 19.  The School was eventually renamed in honor of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who was the Honorary Chairman of ABT for more than 25 years. In the fall of 2005, Franco De Vita joined the newly named Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (JKO) School as Principal. Under his direction, the Pre-Professional Division has grown to include over 70 gifted students, ranging in age from 10 to 18, from all over the world.
The faculty of the JKO School is made up of ABT alumni as well as current ABT artists. In addition, the JKO School follows the ABT National Training Curriculum, co-authored by Franco De Vita and Raymond Lukens, Artistic Associate for the ABT/ NYU Masters program and JKO School faculty member. Alumni of the JKO School have gone on to join many prestigious ballet companies including American Ballet Theatre, ABT II, BalletMet Columbus, Alberta Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Houston Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Richmond Ballet, The Juilliard School, and more.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre