Setting the Stage

Back in 1997, Raleigh and the Triangle were primarily synonymous with athletics, higher education and high tech. The population was booming, and the arts community was ripe for expansion. Ward Purrington, an area attorney and native North Carolinian, saw a gap in the cultural landscape as an opportunity to build a world-class ballet company in the Triangle.

Looking for advice, Mr. Purrington reached out to Robert Lindgren, founder of the North Carolina Dance Theatre in Winston-Salem that had recently moved to Charlotte. By then retired and living back in Winston-Salem, Mr. Lindgren agreed to lend Mr. Purrington his advice and counsel.

Mr. Lindgren’s first bit of advice was to find an artistic director. After an exhaustive search, they found Robert Weiss. He had been the artistic director of the Pennsylvania Ballet and was a former principal dancer at New York City Ballet under the direction of ballet icon George Balanchine.

Together, Mr. Purrington and Mr. Weiss began working on their shared vision of a world-class professional ballet company, performing a repertoire of original works, contemporary classics and important ballets from the 19th century. That vision has guided the company since its founding, shaping it into one of the nation’s premier arts organizations.


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