Amelia Thompson has joined Ballet Memphis as development associate. In her new role, she works on the administrative side of the organization to generate and secure funding for Ballet Memphis’ daily annual operating budget as well as its capital campaigns.
Experience: I am a loyal and active Notre Dame alumna who served as communications director for the Black Alumni Board of Notre Dame for five years. I spent four years in the development office at St. Albans, a private all-boys school in Washington, D.C., and then another three in Macy’s New York City buying office at the iconic Herald Square. I returned to the development world as a member of the annual giving team at Rhodes College.
What talent do you wish you had? As a reformed New Yorker, I always wish for more patience. It’s hard to adjust to a slower pace of life when in Manhattan every second seemed to matter both in and out of the office.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and why? My greatest influence has been my family, without question. I am so lucky to come from a family of hard-working, fun-loving forward-thinkers. My maternal grandparents were a huge part of my childhood and made me confident that any dream I had was well within reach. I lost them within a year and a half of each other, but every decision I make is with John and Charlie Mae Ware in mind.
What attracted you to Ballet Memphis? My love for dance exploded during my time in New York, so when I had the opportunity to talk with CEO/founding artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh about how Ballet Memphis was rocking the dance world both locally and nationally, I took it without hesitation. I am so fortunate to have joined the team during this pivotal moment to contribute to the physical and cultural landscape of my beloved hometown.
How does Ballet Memphis use the gifts it receives, both through the annual fund and the $31 million capital campaign that’s underway? Ballet shoes alone come with an annual cost of $30,000, so every penny we generate is put to use to prepare for and command excellence for our community. The Ballet Memphis artistic and administrative team works year-round to offer a full mainstage season of professional dance, creation of new work that is very often based on Memphis music and themes, as well as free community-based dance education programs that are changing lives with the power of art. We couldn’t do it without the generosity of our community. A significant portion of the $31 million capital campaign is ensuring the endowment is able to continue the 30-year legacy of this special company.
What’s the biggest misconception the people you deal with have about ballet? A lot of people have the impression that in order to enjoy the ballet you have to be an expert in the art form. I think you simply have be open to experiencing your emotions in a way that is outside the norm of everyday. I encourage people not to be intimidated by a lack of ballet knowledge – let your emotions inform you. The first time I saw Alvin Ailey perform at New York City Center I knew I didn’t need a background in dance to feel what I did on that level.
Any updates on the new headquarters? We will be hitting the Square in mid-July and celebrating a few weeks later with a grand opening weekend for the entire community!
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? One of my greatest accomplishments was my time spent working in one of the most volatile, high-risk/high-reward industries in a similarly crazy but fulfilling city. Being a New Yorker, if even for three years, taught me the value of doing more with much less.
What do you most enjoy about your work? Beyond the specifics of my position I most enjoy being able to take a moment from my desk to walk down the hallway and see and interact with the dancers, whether our spectacular company dancers or our budding school ballerinas. That proximity to the most significant members of Ballet Memphis – the dancers – electrifies my passion for the work we do on the administrative side.
If you could give one piece of advice to young people, what would it be? My advice to young people is to not always be seduced by the next big idea. Take a moment to consider the richness of experience versus the thrill of constant innovation. I am one of those older millennials so I am a little more throwback than some of my peers. I still rely on old bosses and mentors who have taught me invaluable lessons with their 20-plus years in the game. In short, take a break from emailing and try picking up the phone.
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Under the Direction of Dorothy Gunther Pugh
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