Popular Choice: Colin Oraskovich,
CBS 3 Duluth Morning Meteorologist
Judges’ Choice: Mel Winkler, Director of Corporate & Therapeutic Foster Care,
Northwood Children’s Services
To see who won what other awards, click on Performances/Celebrity Dance Challenge.
Thursday, April 26
5:30 – 8 p.m.
Depot Great Hall
$45 presale/$50 at door
Sample wines and craft-brewed beers, nibble on hors d’oeuvres provided by some of the area’s finest restaurants, and in the silent and live auctions bid on all sorts of merchandise, special opportunities, and gift baskets.Read More
Robert Gardner—Artistic Executive Director
Allen Fields—Artistic Director Emeritus
Kenneth Pogin—Technical Director/Tour Manager
Sandra Ehle—Costume Designer/Wardrobe Supervisor
Cheryl Podtburg—Stage Manager
Elena Knezevich—Company Pianist
Minnesota Ballet Orchestra with conductor Mark Whitlock
Minnesota Ballet Photography courtesy of Jeff Frey Photography
A native Virginian, Mr. Gardner began his studies with Mavis Ray of the Royal Ballet and studied on scholarship to the North Carolina School of the Arts and the School of American Ballet in New York. He spent a dance career performing with such companies as the Joffrey II Dancers, Joffrey Ballet, Cleveland San Jose Ballet, and Eglevsky Ballet, dancing in works by renowned choreographers including Antony Tudor, Sir Frederick Ashton, Robert Joffrey, Choo-San Goh, George Balanchine, Lar Lubovitch, Agnes de Mille, David Lichine, José Limón, Léonide Massine. Mr. Gardner danced with such luminaries as Rudolf Nureyev in the Edinburgh Festival, Cynthia Gregory when she was a guest artist in the Cleveland Ballet’s Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and in a special gala hosted by Beverly Sills at Alice Tully Hall in New York. He appeared a guest artist with the Houston Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera in New York.
Mr. Gardner came to the Minnesota Ballet in 1992 and became Artistic Director in 2007. In addition to staging the major classical ballets and pas de deux, he has choreographed such acclaimed works as Sleeping Beauty, which the News Tribune declared, “further entrenches the Minnesota Ballet as a national source for repertory that is faithful to tradition.” His Carnival of the Animals was pronounced “delightful” and “simply grand fun,” his A Midsummer Night’s Dream “luscious and utterly charming,” and his Dracula “a bloody good time.” His visceral contemporary ballet Recurrent Stages, set to an original score by Ryan Homsey played live by the “Music to You” String Quartet of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, was featured in a documentary on The PlayList on WDSE•WRPT Channel 8.
In the Northland he has choreographed for the Festival Opera, Lyric Opera of the North, Rite of Spring and Scheherazade in collaboration with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, Pirates of Penzance in collaboration with UMD’s School of Fine Arts and the Duluth Playhouse for the 2010 Tall Ships Festival, Into the Woods for the Duluth Playhouse, and Les Misérables in collaboration with the Playhouse and the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra. In summer 2016 he choreographed for Steerage Song, produced by the Duluth Playhouse and presented at Big Top Chautauqua.
He has taught master classes at the University of Minnesota; UMD: Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana; Park Point University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and at Yale University for A Different Drum Dance Company. He has choreographed for the Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet; for the Columbus Youth Ballet, who presented his works three times at the Youth America Grand Prix in New York City; and for Ball State Dance Theatre, who presented his work at the American College Dance Festival, among other venues.
Mr. Gardner has received an Excellence in the Arts & Sciences Award from the Saint Louis County Board of Commissioners and the Lifetime Artist Award from the Depot Foundation. He has served on the State Arts Board Panel for the Arts in Education Roster of Artists and the Panel for Arts Learning.
Artistic Director Emeritus
Mr. Fields served fifteen years as Artistic Director of the Minnesota Ballet, 1992–2007, bringing the company into national prominence. The Ballet continues to perform works he created during his tenure.
In December 2009, Mr. Fields premiered his production of The Nutcracker set in Manhattan, where he had trained as a dancer. Since his tenure at the Minnesota Ballet, Mr. Fields has taken on many dance projects. He completed a national commercial for Make Visual Minneapolis for the Lung Cancer Foundation of America, produced several full-length shows for Children’s Dance Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota, including the multi-media Alice in Wonderland; traveled to China as casting dance director for Broadway Asia; established Allen Fields Classical Ballet & Training for elite ballet students in Rochester. He is now on staff at Ballet Academy East in Manhattan, one of the finest ballet academies in New York City.
Among Mr. Fields’ many honors are the Lifetime Artist Award from the Depot Foundation and the George Morrison Artist Award from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.
Artistic Technical Staff
Kenneth Pogin – Technical Director /Tour Manager
Since joining the Minnesota Ballet in 1997 in his role of Production Manager and Lighting Designer Ken has garnered high praise for his lighting. The Duluth News Tribune applauded him for his “blue velvet lighting” and more recently for his lighting in Madame Butterfly: “The lights even have their big number at the end of Act Two…The sun sets, the moon rises, the stars come out and slowly start to fade — a veritable dance of lights.” Ken’s highest praise comes from the Minnesota Ballet’s Northern Lights that attracted attention from Alaska to come produce the Northern Lights for a tourist attraction. “In all our search, your lighting was the closest we’ve ever seen to reproducing the real Northern Lights,” they said. Ken’s set construction blueprints for the 2001 production of Three Virgins and a Devil are on permanent record with the Agnes de Mille Estate in New York. Ken’s pyrotechnic career has allowed him to work with David Copperfield, Carrot Top, Toby Keith, Godsmack, Poison, and Quiet Riot among others. Ken also has enjoyed being the Technical Director and Lighting Designer for the Duluth Festival Opera, as well as with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra for its Pops Concerts. Other companies he has worked with are the New York City Opera, The Acting Company, and Ballet Oklahoma. Ken was nominated for an Upper Midwest Emmy in Lighting Design in 2014.
Sandra Ehle – Costume Designer/Wardrobe Supervisor
Sandra has served as the Ballet’s Costume Designer/Wardrobe Supervisor since 1998. In 2009, she designed more than 100 costumes for the Minnesota Ballet’s Manhattan Nutcracker. She has designed for George Balanchine’s Apollo, Who Cares? and Tarantella. Other designs include Rough Cut Swing, Flying Over Greenland, Dracula, Firebird, Clowns & Others and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has worked with movie costume designers in Walt Disney Productions’ Iron Will and Twentieth Century Fox’s Good Son and designed for Baltimore Opera’s production of Die Fledermaus. Locally Sandra has designed for the Duluth Festival Opera’s Madame Butterfly and UMD’s production of L’Elisir d’Amore.
The title of “Sensei” was given to Sandra in the Fall of 2016 when a disaster struck the Minnesota Ballet, leaving 250 costumes and hundreds of accessory pieces under a pile of bricks and soot. In the rubble included costumes for last season’s Dracula, Nutcracker and Firebird. She wishes to give a heartfelt thanks to the ladies who helped her tirelessly in the daunting task of sorting, taking inventory, cleaning and mending of the damaged costumes. Thanks to Cheryl Davis, Sue Fuchs, Renee Heytens, Carole Turner and Mary Jo White.
Cheryl Podtburg – Stage Manager/Projects Coordinator
Cheryl has served as Stage Manager for the Minnesota Ballet since 2005. She holds technical theater degrees from Cottey College in Missouri and the University of Minnesota Duluth. Before coming to the Minnesota Ballet, Cheryl toured with the Italian American Festival’s production of Guys and Dolls in Italy. Other groups she has worked with are Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, The Spencers Theatre of Illusion, Riders in the Sky, and the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America. Cheryl has created masks and props for the Minnesota Ballet, including masks for the Mice and the Nutcracker in The Nutcracker, Puck’s tree and Bottom’s donkey mask for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the masks for the Monsters in Firebird.
The position of Projects Coordinator was established in part by the Community Opportunity Fund of the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation.