Eve Schulte, a longtime dancer for James Sewell Ballet, assumes a new role as the company’s executive director.
Co-founder James Sewell remains as artistic director, while former executive director George Sutton remains on the company’s board.
“George has been mentoring me through this, as has Tom McNamee, our development director,” Schulte said. “I’ve just got a wonderful rapport built with both of them. And I think James and I have already been fostering that more partner relationship rather than a hierarchy situation the last few years. So it’s not such a new thing.”
Schulte joined JSB in 2009, and has served as artistic associate since 2017. She engaged in a series of interviews for the executive director’s post back in January and early February, but didn’t start her new position until a month ago because of COVID-19.
She continued to perform with the company as its artistic associate, but Schulte said she intends to take a break from dancing.
“I’m not saying I retired,” she said. “I’m taking a break, and really diving into the administrative side, including fundraising, for which I’m relatively new.”
Schulte said she’s excited to build on the headway the company has already made in its diversity efforts. “Especially for a ballet company, we’ve done OK, but of course, we can do better,” she said. “And I’m really energized about that and about creating opportunities on the dancer level, the board level, and then kind of segueing into the next thing, which is just really widening the circle and reaching all sorts of people wherever they are.”
Schulte said Sutton’s departure involves moving on to other opportunities, but also an understanding of the need to bring in a younger leader. Both he and Sewell “were recognizing that there’s a generational shift that needs to happen,” she said, “and wisely putting the time and effort into groom someone from within the company because that aligns with the company’s endeavor.”
Schulte will have her work cut out for her at a time when even putting on a show can be challenging as artists and venues navigate doing performance safely. First up is the company’s annual “Dancing Waters” event, put on in a hybrid distant/virtual capacity. The event will include invited guests at Cedar Lake, some floating in, with the whole thing streamed online. It takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20.
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis arts journalist and critic.