Amy and Jim Schwetz
Like so many families before them, Jim and Amy Schwetz came to appreciate the art of ballet when taking their young daughter to see the classic holiday favorite, The Nutcracker. After attending a number of Saint Louis Ballet’s annual Nutcracker productions at the Touhill Performing Arts Center, the Schwetz family was ‘hooked,’ and signed on as season ticket holders. Says Amy: “We were consistently impressed with the high quality of productions, and noticed that the company didn’t ‘rest on its laurels’ but continued to expand and improve each year.”
As time progressed, Amy and Jim’s daughter Ellie became a dedicated ballet student. “I was a complete novice to the world of ballet when we enrolled our daughter in dance classes,” says Jim. “Little did I know that ballet offers all the benefits that our son Jack receives from his involvement with sports - discipline, coordination, motivation and camaraderie that children can utilize in school, athletics and life - regardless of their desire to pursue ballet professionally.”
Ellie’s passion for ballet grew and the Schwetz’ found themselves at the Saint Louis Ballet studios many times a week. Notes Amy, “An incredible benefit of training at SLB school is the access that students have to the professional dancers in the company. They are wonderful role models and teachers. And as we became more involved, we learned that Saint Louis Ballet operates on an annual budget that is quite lean - substantially smaller than other performing arts groups like the opera and symphony. We realized we could make a real difference in helping Saint Louis Ballet thrive.”
In 2018, Amy joined Saint Louis Ballet’s Board of Directors. At the time, she was CFO at Peabody Energy, and offered much-appreciated guidance in the areas of finance and management. The skill and enthusiasm that Amy brings to the Board has made a tremendous impact – during periods of growth, as well as during the pandemic when the organization was faced with unprecedented financial challenges.
As is the case with many who care deeply about the health and vibrancy of the community, the Schwetz family is committed to a number of organizations doing good works. “In addition to supporting the Ballet, we gravitate towards children’s and heart-related charities,” says Amy. In the St. Louis area, that has involved the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation and American Heart Association where Amy served on the Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team and as Chair for the Go Red Goes STEM in 2019.
After serving on the SLB Board for two years, Amy accepted an invitation to serve as CFO at Flowserve, an industrial machine manufacturer and distributor. This required that the family relocate to Dallas, Texas. While thrilled for this opportunity for Amy, the Board, staff and faculty were sad to lose this talented, kind and generous family. Fortunately, Amy chose to remain on the Board, and the couple continues to be supportive of Saint Louis Ballet, even while becoming involved with organizations in their new hometown.
When asked why they continue to support the ballet company after leaving St. Louis, Jim explains that their roots are in the Midwest. He notes, “We believe in St. Louis! Having a thriving arts scene is critical to being viewed as a top tier metro area and a professional ballet company is an important part of that scene. Saint Louis Ballet contributes to the quality of life for thousands of St. Louisans. That in and of itself is a reason that we hope that more people will see the value of this wonderful organization and become involved.
Spring 2021 Gala Creative Team
A native St. Louisian and founder and owner of PLNK, Brooke Meek grew up attending the ballet every holiday season with her family. The tradition sparked a love of all things artistic, and she now sits on the Board of the St. Louis Art Museum and COCA's gala committee. She has provided leadership to the Saint Louis Ballet Gala committee for the past four years and is happy to take on an even more active role this year. Brooke is married to Dr. Brian Meek, a physician specializing in pain management, with practices in St. Peters and O'Fallon, MO. Together they have three children, whom Brooke brings to the ballet every chance she can.
"We are looking forward to the ballet's return to the stage. The Spring Gala will help make that happen. I hope everyone will join us on May 22!"
Ted and Justin Trabert
Tedd and Justin Trabert, simply known as “The Traberts” by family and friends, packed up their lives in South Florida in 2017 and decided to embark on a journey of discovery. After a 22 city road trip, The Traberts found St. Louis, a city that checked all the boxes to plant their feet and now call home.
During their 10 years in South Florida, The Traberts were avid supporters of Miami City Ballet, so it came as no surprise that they quickly jumped in to raise awareness and give their full support to Saint Louis Ballet.
Wanting to embrace this amazing city, rich in art and history, they burst onto the social scene with support for arts and community-focused organizations such as COCA, Tower Grove Park, Lift for Life, Fashion Fund, Saint Louis Ballet, and many others.
Justin is the Client Development Lead at Neiman Marcus Saint Louis, where he can be found identifying hot new trends and contributing to the rebirth of this city’s rich fashion history. Tedd is currently re-energizing the Human Resource department of one of the nation’s largest networks of Urgent Care facilities.
Vicki and Mike Kiefer
As longtime residents of St. Louis, Vicki and Mike Kiefer have found many ways to serve the community through their professional endeavors as well as their avocational and volunteer activities. Mike, CFO at Afinitas, currently sits on the Board of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri and has previously served on the Board of Circus Flora. Vicki works for Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, where she has served bereaved families since 2015. This is a couple that clearly has a commitment to bettering our region through community service and good works.
Vicki and Mike found their way to Saint Louis Ballet through their daughter, Maggie, who has studied at the school since 2014. Over the course of the last 6 years, they have watched as Maggie has grown as a dancer. They recognize the value - both for their own family and for the community - of having a professional ballet company in St. Louis that provides access to training and mentoring by accomplished dancers. Says Mike: “We are thankful for the top-notch dance education that our daughter is receiving at the school. It is a joy to see the Company dancers, many of whom are also teachers, lead by example through their dedication to the art form.”
The couple chooses to support Saint Louis Ballet financially because they feel strongly about the importance of accessibility of the performing arts. “I’m not sure that everyone in our town realizes how much Saint Louis Ballet impacts the region through quality performance, dance education, and community outreach, says Vicki. “We are grateful for the wide range of classical and contemporary performances that SLB offers, as well as the meaningful outreach programs provided to the community at large. We want to see this work continue!” Saint Louis Ballet is grateful to this family for their deeply rooted belief that the arts and culture are important elements of a a vibrant, healthy and caring community.
An Interview with Nilas Martins
Repetiteur for "Ash": Nilas Martins
“Ash is such a perfect ballet for right now,” said Nilas Martins, former New York City Ballet principal dancer, teacher and choreographer in anticipation of his work with Saint Louis Ballet. “It has been a difficult season and this ballet says “let’s move forward, let’s get going, let’s go into the next year.”
Martins returned to the Saint Louis Ballet studios March 22 for his third visit, this time to set the ballet Ash. Premiered by New York City Ballet in 1991, Martins first performed the piece with principal Wendy Whelan, along with four pairs of demi-soloists. It was created by his father, Ballet Master-In-Chief Peter Martins, to commissioned music by Michael Torke.
“It has energy, a vibrant score – it’s just what the dancers need,” Martins said. “I know many of the dancers having worked previously with them. Gen thought it would be a great choice for young dancers.”
Martins has known director SLB Gen Horiuchi since their time together at New York City Ballet. When Martins joined the famed company in 1986, Horiuchi was already there. They were friends and colleagues for many years and maintained a connection. Many years later, after a career on Broadway and some time with Saint Louis Ballet, Horiuchi reached out to Martins about setting George
Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco on the company. That experience was a positive one and Martins returned one more time to Saint Louis to set a version of Puccini Songs on the dancers. They loved it and it was a big success.
Horiuchi contacted Martins this season about a return visit and the possibility of choreographing Ash. “He remembered it from years ago at New York City Ballet and believed it would be a good fit,” Martins said. “Nobody leaves the stage for long."
Martins, who choreographs for the Balanchine Trust, his father’s ballets as well as other repertoire, witnessed the dramatic reduction of commissions from ballet companies during this past year. He spent considerable time teaching in person and via Zoom, at schools in California and with the trainee program at Santa Barbara’s State Street Ballet. He looks forward to his week in Saint Louis and re- connecting with Horiuchi and the dancers. The company will continue to rehearse Ash until his return in late May in advance of the Touhill performances.
“After a difficult year, the audience will be reminded of how different ballets can be from one another,“ Martins said. “There will be Balanchine’s Valse-Fantaisie, Ash, and then Gen’s new piece. A great deal of energy and emotions for the audience to be back in the theatre to see live performance. And in large scale.”