For 10 years, Toni Pimble has been splitting time between Eugene, Oregon, and Boise as artistic director for a small but masterful ballet company with talent from all over the world. An experienced ballerina and award-winning choreographer, Pimble now expresses her love of movement through the grace, strength and skill of her dancers.
BW: With a successful company in Eugene, what brought you to Boise?
TP: Everybody was hurting with funding drying up for the arts, and the then-executive director of Ballet Idaho, Betty Sinow, met with me at a booking conference to discuss the challenges of running a company in states with small populations. After talking for a while, she said, "We've got this great facility and not such a great company, you've got a great company and not such a great facility ...' and that's how it started, how the alliance was cemented. It was great for both communities and wonderful for the dancers.
What was it about this area that made for "not such a great company?"
It's always money. If you can offer dancers so many weeks of work and a better salary, they show up. If you can't, they don't.
Where do the current company members hail from?
Everywhere. We're lucky to have some really beautiful dancers from all over the world--Venezuela, Korea, Colombia, Germany, Russia, the U.S.--there are many languages being spoken in the studio.
Do you still dance?
It's a great high, but when I stopped, I stopped cold turkey. I couldn't balance being a dancer, which is all about self, and being a company director, which is all about other people. But when I choreograph, I get to move quite a bit.
How would you rank Ballet Idaho in the scheme of all the talent that's out there?
It's a very talented group, small like a little jewel, but you can't really rank a company because it's such an individual thing. We all try to separate ourselves from other companies and do unique work so we're not cookie cutter. This group has a high standard, way beyond what someone would expect from our budget.
Is funding a problem?
It's challenging when you have so many programs being cut on the federal level. Those programs that were being funded are now coming into the private sector and asking for money where arts organizations were anyway. We find ourselves competing not just on the corporate level, but also with individuals. Everybody is going out and campaigning for money from Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
To the people who may not understand ballet, how do you describe its value?
Ballet is the international language. It doesn't matter what language you speak, you will understand the beauty of it because the body tells the story through dance and through line. In this day and age with so much violence, arts really serve a purpose in shaping our understanding of life and humanity.