Michael Pink, artistic director of the Milwaukee Ballet
Company address: 504 W. National Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53204
Industry: Performing Arts
Number of employees: 150
Family: Wife (Jayne) and three children (Chloe, Max and Georgina)
How does the Milwaukee Ballet set itself apart from other ballets across the country and world?
“Milwaukee Ballet leads the way with its development of new and innovative works, ranging from the full-length story ballets I’ve premiered here (including ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘La Bohème’ and this season’s ‘Mirror Mirror’) to the provocative and visionary new contemporary works created just for our Company by both respected and up-and-coming international choreographers. Milwaukee Ballet also pioneers a new collaborative standard in its work with arts groups both locally and internationally.”
How do you recruit world-class dancers and attract them to Milwaukee?
“Our reputation for high artistic quality and diversity of work attracts dancers and choreographers from around the world. We advertise for general and private auditions on our website and in the dancer periodicals. I like to invite prospective dancers to come to Milwaukee and spend a few days with us. This way I can assess their abilities and see them within our company environment. It is important that they have the aptitude to work well with the other dancers.”
What has kept you in Milwaukee for the past 11 years?
“I first came to Milwaukee because I was looking to work in America, and I found this city to have all the charm and passion for the arts as a European staple. I stay because the city has been so receptive to me and to all the new work I’ve premiered here. It’s so rewarding to see your passion projects embraced so enthusiastically. I’m also proud of the Milwaukee arts scene as a whole, and I’m honored to be among the great artistic minds in this city. Lastly, I’ve found Milwaukee to be a fantastic place to raise my family. My wife, Jayne, and my children have certainly made Milwaukee their home.”
What will be the Milwaukee Ballet’s main challenges in the next year?
“The single biggest challenge we face in the coming years is continuing to raise our profile nationally and internationally. Milwaukee Ballet has a compelling story to tell – we’re a cutting-edge, international company right here in the heart of the Midwest. We’ve become more fervent in sharing our story with the nation and the world. It’s also vital for Milwaukee Ballet to build strong, dependable relationships with major corporations for funding. Innovation requires support. While ticket sales have been strong for the new work we’ve created in Milwaukee, box office dollars only cover a portion of the expenses required to stage a world premiere. It is vital that we also have strong corporate partners.”
What kind of ongoing support do you look for from greater Milwaukee’s business community?
“Many in this town enjoy the performing arts as a way to spend time with family, to entertain clients, to recruit new employees, to attract new businesses, and to enhance the standard of living for the community. As such, businesses benefit from seeing Milwaukee Ballet succeed. Aside from financial support for stage productions, live music, scholarships and community outreach, we also need business leaders to advocate for the value of the arts and creativity. Think of Milwaukee like a garden…what a bore if the garden was nothing but rows of green hedges. You need some pops of color, texture, interest…some wonky vines, why not? We want to be a city alive with growth and movement and change. We need creative organizations to be that pop of color and for businesses to get excited about sending people to the Ballet for an infusion of creativity, so they can return to the office inspired and awakened.”
What’s the hottest trend in your industry?
“Communicating with our fans through social media is a very hot trend at the moment. For years, the audience enjoyed the surprise of seeing a live performance for the first time. Now, thanks to shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars’ fans are thirsty for that ‘peek behind the curtain’ where they learn more of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ behind the magic Milwaukee Ballet creates on stage. I embrace this, which is why Milwaukee Ballet is so active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms. The dancers are praised for making everything look effortless, but people should know how hard these artists are really working.”
Do you have a business mantra?
“There are no wrongs or rights. There are only choices.”
What was the best advice you ever received?
“Take the time to truly listen to what is said. Why let those who are against you waste your valuable emotions when you can kill them with kindness?”
What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?
“I'm not sure I really know. After four decades in the arts, it’s nearly impossible to choose one. I assure you, no two days are alike in this industry.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“That’s a trick question, right? While Milwaukee has all the dining, recreational and entertainment options one could dream of, I’ve found that when I have a few moments to myself, I like to be with my family and enjoy the silence!”