More than 60 years after it was founded by Twin Cities legend Loyce Houlton, Minnesota Dance Theatre is pausing operations of its performance company in May.

The move follows the retirement of Lise Houlton, Loyce's daughter, in 2023. The longtime artistic director was in the role for nearly 30 years. Her daughter, Kaitlyn Gilliland, was named as interim artistic director last September, and in January she was replaced by Elayna Waxse. Neither Gilliland or Houlton could be reached for comment.

"We will not be contracting dancers for the 2024-25 season," Waxse said. "We're using that language in case the opportunity arises in the future, but we do not have any definitive timeline for when that might happen at this point."

Waxse was a company member with MDT from 2006 to 2009 and has choreographed shows numerous times in intervening years. For the last scheduled show, which is May 3-12 at the Southern Theater, MDT will perform a work by Waxse along with two world premieres by Javan Mngrezzo and Zachary Tuazon, and the Minnesota premiere of Nia-Amina Minor's "And Yet, Here We Are."

Waxse said financial difficulties was the reason for the decision to end the dance programming. Changes in foundational support and COVID-19 added strains to its budget.

Although ticket sales were up for last holiday season's "The Nutcracker" and "Carmina Burana" in January, the boosts weren't matched with the grants and charitable giving MDT needs to stay afloat.

"I'm heartbroken that this is where we're at," Waxse said. "That's really all I can say about that."

Philip Brunelle, who celebrated his 25th year conducting "Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantasy" with MDT, called the news "a major blow to the dance world in our community." Besides conducting the 44-player orchestra for "Nutcracker" performances, Brunelle also collaborated with Lise Houlton on productions with VocalEssence, where he's the artistic director. "What a joy it has been over these years collaborating with Lise Houlton and her daughter Kaitlyn," he said.

MDT will continue to operate its school, and the board is conducting a national search for a new school director.

Board chair Siri Kommedahl said the board, along with Gilliland, explored options for MDT to continue its dance training program. "Pausing operations on the company and focusing on creating the highest standards of excellence within MDT's school will allow for a new leader to build infrastructure and create a vision for the school," she said.

In 2019, Zenon Dance Company also ceased performances because of financial woes. Both companies have performed at the Cowles Center, which is going dark at the end of March.