Oakland Ballet History

For more than 50 years, Oakland Ballet Company has served Oakland and the East Bay by keeping the tradition of ballet exciting, vibrant, and accessible. Founded in 1965 by Oakland native Ronn Guidi, and currently under the direction of Graham Lustig, Oakland Ballet Company celebrates half a century of beautiful dancing, dedicated training, and an enduring commitment to arts education in the East Bay!

OBC’s Founding Years: Inspired by the Ballets Russes

Ronn Guidi founded Oakland Ballet Company on the same the principles that inspired the legendary dance troupe of Ballets Russes. Formed in Paris in the early 20th century under impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes went on to redefine the art of ballet.

OBC's "Afternoon of a Faun"
Ethan White and Jenna McClintock in “Afternoon of a Faun.”

Guidi studied under Raoul Pausé for many years, and thus inherited the Ballet Russes tradition of fusing classical training with unrestrained choreographic possibilities.

Oakland Ballet gained international recognition with its historical reconstruction of Ballets Russes works from the Sergei Diaghilev repertoire. Among Oakland Ballet’s noted revivals are the first re stagings of ballets by Bronislava Nijinska in the United States.

As part of the company’s dedication to representing the full breadth of modern masterpieces, Oakland Ballet also turned its attention to reviving iconic ballets by such renowned choreographers as Kurt Jooss, Michel Fokine, Charles Weidman, and Antony Tudor. Always a champion of American masterpieces, OBC has presented Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid, Ruthanna Boris’s Cakewalk, and Agnes de Mille’s Fall River Legend. The company continues its collaborations with local choreographers, staging celebrated works by Val Caniparoli, Carlos Carvajal, Sonya Delwaide, Margaret Jenkins, Alonzo King, Michael Lowe, Robert Moses, and Amy Seiwert.

1970’s Photo 2


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Nijinska Photo 15

Oakland Ballet in the 2000s and Beyond

Oakland Ballet Company dancers in Michael Lowe’s “Bamboo.”


In 2000,Oakland Ballet ushered in a new era with a new Artist Director, celebrated Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer, Karen Brown. Brown brought a renewed focus to the production of ballets by local and contemporary choreographers while continuing the company’s commitment to performing great classical works. In 2007 OBC celebrated the return of founding Artistic Director, Ronn Guidi. Mr. Guidi retired for the final time in 2008 and Oakland Ballet continued to present productions under the direction of guest Artistic Directors through the spring of 2010.


In 2010, the company welcomed internationally acclaimed choreographer and director Graham Lustig as Artistic Director. Lustig’s career as a dancer, artistic director, and choreographer parallels OBC’s tradition of presenting historically vibrant work while championing new choreography.

Under Lustig’s leadership, Oakland Ballet Company has rekindled its commitment to serving the local community by producing ballet that is vibrant in its artistic vision and draws on the Bay Area’s great talent.

Since his appointment as Artistic Director of Oakland Ballet Company in 2010, Lustig has presented six seasons of his Nutcracker and several spring repertory productions, Forwards! (2011), Diaghilev Imagery (2013), and Oakland-esque (2014), Five Decades of Dance (2015), and A Cappella – Our Bodies Sing (2016) with a focus on commissioned works by esteemed Bay Area choreographers. Lustig has also established Oakland Ballet Company’s annual summer program, Ballet Boot Camp, a dance and choreography workshop for student and pre-professional dancers, now in its sixth year, as well as ongoing ballet training opportunities at The Academy at Oakland Ballet. Lustig also been instrumental in reviving Oakland Ballet’s role in arts education in the East Bay, establishing OBC’s current “Discover Dance” community outreach program.

Vincent Chavez, Rayshawn “Looney” Thompson (of the Turffeinz) and Alysia Chang in Oakland Ballet Company's Spring Repertory performance, "Oakland-esque." Photo by Davide DeSilva.
Vincent Chavez, Rayshawn “Looney” Thompson (of the Turffeinz) and Alysia Chang in Graham Lustig’s “Turf-land.” Photo by David DeSilva.