After a five-month search, Pennsylvania Ballet has found its next executive director in Switzerland. Shelly Power, 61, artistic director and CEO of the Prix de Lausanne dance competition, will take over Philadelphia’s dance company and school full-time on Feb. 12, but is phasing in sooner.
“I like to build things, I like to develop things, whether it’s programs or strategic planning, and implementing and organizing strategically the path ahead,” she said.
Power knows a few dancers at Pennsylvania Ballet, “and I am very excited to reunite with them” — and to reunite with a working dance company and school. “There is so much inspiration that comes from being around dancers that are not only so talented but also so dedicated and passionate about what they do. It makes going to work every day fabulous. It’s part of what I miss in my current position. I’ve been around a ballet school for my whole life, it’s my family, and I really look forward to re-engaging in that atmosphere.”
A former dancer, Power spent a dozen years as the administrative and artistic director of the Houston Ballet Academy. She took over the annual international dance competition in Lausanne in September 2016 but worked for the organization six months earlier in an unofficial capacity.
Born in Tulsa, Power lived there until age 5, and then moved to Southbridge, Mass. She studied at the schools of Boston Ballet and Houston Ballet, and graduated from the University of Houston with a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies with specializations in psychology and business. She also studied non-profit management at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management.
In her first decade heading the Houston Ballet school, enrollment doubled to 600 year-round students, plus another 400 in summer, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Power will come into a company that experienced high turnover in the dancer ranks after the arrival of artistic director Angel Corella, and is now contemplating how to finish a North Broad Street facility that opened several years ago with studios and offices, but not enough of either.
“I certainly think the priority is to look at the funding sources and the funding potential as we go forward looking at planning the building,” she said. “I think there is going to be a period of time, it shouldn’t be too long, to assess what that [the potential] is and then we can step into the next phase in a reasonable and responsible way.”
Establishing an endowment in the long-term is important, she said. “We have the campaign to get the building built, but I think you have to do it all together as one [along with endowment] so the stability of the company has a foundation financially.”
One of the reasons she would like to see the building on North Broad completed is to get the artistic and administrative sides of the company together.
“For me that’s an absolute priority,” she said. “When you walk around and hear the music and see the dancers, you are reminded of why you do what you do and work so hard. As a dancer, when you see the hard work the staff does to make it possible for you to be on stage, there is an appreciation. I think that is going to be a really important game-changer for Pennsylvania Ballet.”