Karen Russo Burke is the artistic director of Dayton Ballet.

Daytonian of the Week: Karen Russo Burke

Generations of Daytonians have adored "The Nutcracker." 

What's not to love? There are the little kids dressed up as mice, the incredible talent of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Neal Gittleman, the spectacular costumes, and of course, the amazing dancers.

Karen Russo Burke (far right), the artistic director of the Dayton Ballet, poses with the organization's dancers.


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In the middle of it all is Karen Russo Burke. We recently caught up with her to find out more about her exciting job.

We are pleased to present her as our Daytonian of the Week.

Q: What do you do?

A: I am the Artistic Director of the Dayton Ballet. My job entails hiring 19 dancers each year to the professional company, teaching company ballet class, choreographing for Dayton Ballet performances as well as any Dayton Opera or Dayton Performing Arts performance where dance is needed. I decide what the season will look like in terms of what ballets we will be putting on the stage for that season. I also oversee the two schools that we have and conduct auditions for the Dayton Ballet II companies.


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Q: How did you get into ballet?

A: I got into ballet as a child starting at the age of 5. 

Q: What are the arts important to a community?

A: The arts are vital to a community because they stir our emotions, bring beauty and challenge our imagination. 

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra joins Dayton Ballet for “The Nutcracker,” which will be presented in the Schuster Center’s Mead Theatre in December. CONTRIBUTED

Q: The Nutcracker is coming up. What’s it like to prepare for this beloved holiday show?

A: Preparing for the Nutcracker is actually a love/hate relationship for me. I have now been involved in Nutcracker is some manner, shape or form for 50 years. I love the joy it brings to others. I love the tradition it stands for. I dread the long weeks of rehearsal and all the casting it takes to put it on year after year! 

Q: The ballet does a lot more than perform The Nutcracker. What are a few things you have in store for 2017?

A: In 2017 we have a very new twist on our repertory performance in February. We will be featuring duets and pas de deuxs. There will be a film shown of the dancers learning the the duet, talking about their experiences and meeting the choreographer. Then the screen will go up and we will witness the finished product. Seeing the behind-the-scenes progressing into the finished product is quite interesting. 

Q: What inspires you about Dayton and the area?

A: Dayton inspires me because of all the very talented and artistic people that live in this community. I have had the great pleasure to work with local set designers and composers and I am in constant awe of the capacity of their talent. 

Q: What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?

A: I am hoping that in 10-15 years, Dayton will have more people living downtown. I would love to see the city streets bustle with evening theater-goers and people enjoying new restaurants and shopping that might be available. To have the city thrive well into the evening hours would be wonderful.


What: The Nutcracker  

Where: Schuster Performing Arts Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton

When: Friday, Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 17, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 18, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Dec. 20, and Wednesday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 22, 2:30 p.m. and 730 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 23, 4:30 p.m.

Info and tickets: TicketCenterStage.com or 937-228-3630