The Orlando Ballet has named Shane Jewell as their new executive director. The company has faced significant changes on the operational side, having six executive directors before Jewell in just the last couple of years. Their current goal is to expand and show the community that Orlando Ballet is here to stay. “I wanted to be a part of that positive change. Orlando Ballet is perfectly poised for significant growth,” says Jewell.
Officially beginning the position in June, he brings to the table an ample amount of prior experience. Born and raised in Oklahoma, he grew up in the arts, performing in musical theater. He then went to a company that presented national touring Broadway shows right out of college. He started at the box office and worked his way up to touring with the show as a company manager and stage manager. After some time, he moved on to become the executive director of a music festival called OK Mozart in Bartlesville, Okla. After a little over three years, he then joined the Oklahoma City Ballet as their executive director.
According to Jewell, Oklahoma City Ballet faced similar consequences as the Orlando Ballet. Oklahoma had almost closed their doors about three years before he arrived on their team, and Orlando nearly closed their doors two years ago. The focus in Oklahoma’s case was to rebuild the trust within the community to show that they were a sustainable company. Orlando now has the same agenda under the lead of their new director. Orlando Ballet is currently a $6.5 million company, and Jewell’s objective is to boost it to a $9-10 million company.
“How that company looks is going to be based on the community response to us,” states Jewell. He goes on to say that when they almost closed down two years ago, they were saved by the community. The city answered “yes” to wanting a professional ballet company in Orlando. Gauging what the locals want is not only done by tracking ticket sales of shows, but it is also done by surveys, town hall meetings, and small group meetings. It is all a matter of getting out there and getting people’s opinions.
The company is breaking ground on a new facility this September. It will be named the Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Center. The building will be a 38,000-square-foot facility undergoing a 12-month construction process. Jewell comments that currently, the company operates out of five different buildings, which can be challenging communication-wise between administration and dancers. They intend to place everyone under one roof except for a south satellite campus.
Some features the new structure will have include two studios that can be transformed into one ballroom. It can fit about 400 guests for dinner and can also be turned into a smaller theater space that can seat about 200.
The director also states his opinion on working with Orlando Ballet’s artistic director, Robert Hill. This is Hill’s 10th year working with the Orlando Ballet, and Jewell could not be more honored to work with someone like him. Jewell says he has a healthy rapport and a great line of communication with Hill. He hopes Orlando knows how lucky they are to have someone of his stature running the company. He adds, “I can honestly not just call him a colleague but a friend in a very short amount of time. I’m incredibly excited about working with him.”
Jewell also pays attribution to the board of directors in the past, saying that the company would not be where they are today without their efforts. Jewell’s closing remarks were, “What we create with this company is going to be our legacy, and it’s a very gratifying thing to take this company and we can grow so much. And we can always look back in our lives when we see where the Orlando Ballet has ended up in 15 years down the road, we can say, ‘I was a part of that.’”