Steven McMahon named Artistic Director of Ballet Memphis effective July 1

MEMPHIS, TENN. (May 7, 2019) – – – BALLET MEMPHIS, under the direction of Founding Artistic Director & CEO Dorothy Gunther Pugh, announced today that STEVEN MCMAHON will become Artistic Director effective July 1, 2019. McMahon will be only the second Artistic Director in Ballet Memphis’ nearly 33-year history; he currently serves as Associate Artistic Director. Pugh will remain CEO.

“I long ago recognized that I needed to groom the right person to guard what we have built and what we value at Ballet Memphis,” Pugh said. “Steven has come up through this organization and grown as a dancer and dance-maker; he’s the best choice as well as the right choice.

“He’s young–at 34, one of the youngest artistic directors in this country which is a strength for the future–but he’s a fellow disruptor, and I am confident that he’s the one to shepherd and build our artistic product.

“At Ballet Memphis, we believe our art form exists to serve others, not ourselves,” Pugh concluded. “To us, ballet is a language that uplifts, welcomes and serves the world in which we live. Steven is the keeper and carrier of that vision.”

McMahon, as Artistic Director, will direct all professional dancers, all artistic and production staff, as well as community and school programs.

“It is an honor and a privilege to take the artistic helm at Ballet Memphis,” McMahon said. “As a former dancer, there’s really no higher position to take within the art form. My goal is to keep doing the vital work that has been the hallmark of Ballet Memphis: not only creating original, meaningful dances but dismantling the barriers that have been inherent in classical ballet.

“This has always been at the forefront of Dorothy’s mission, and Ballet Memphis must remain vigilant, agile and authentic to do what we know to be right to continue to serve others.”

McMahon is a native of Glasgow, Scotland, where he did early dance training at the Dance School of Scotland. He finished his training at The Ailey School in New York City before joining Ballet Memphis as a Company dancer in 2004. He has served as the Company’s Associate Artistic Director since July 2016; prior to that he was Artistic Associate and Choreographic Associate. He retired from the stage after the 2015-2016 season. As a choreographer, McMahon has created more than 30 works for Ballet Memphis including the full-length Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, and Romeo and Juliet as well as the popular mixed-repertory works Confluence, I Am, and Being Here With Other People.

In 2016, he was one of five Memphians selected to attend the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in Salzburg, Austria; the fellowship was funded by The Kresge Foundation. He also was named a 2016 National Arts Strategies Senior Management Institute fellow, a program of 28 senior-level arts organization staff members from varied disciplines.

While McMahon was serving under Pugh as Associate Artistic Director, Ballet Memphis built a new $22 million rehearsal and technical space in the heart of Memphis’ arts district, as well as celebrated its 30th anniversary season.

“For over three decades Ballet Memphis has given the world not only extraordinary works of beauty, but also a set of artistic and ethical values around how a dance company creates opportunities for all and brings richness and diversity to its home community,” said Russell Willis Taylor, most recently the Vice President of the Banff Center for Arts and Culture (Scotland). “Year after year Ballet Memphis has demonstrated that artistic excellence and a passion for creative expression for all can–and do–coexist in this amazing Company.

“As Dorothy Gunther Pugh's role shifts to CEO, her artistic legacy for this unique Company will live on and be renewed and reinterpreted by Steven McMahon -- bringing his own vision to this national jewel in the world of dance. All of us who care about dance celebrate his appointment, and wish him every success.”

Taylor also has served as President and CEO of National Arts Strategies, as Executive Director of the English National Opera, and on the Board of Directors of the English National Ballet.

About Ballet Memphis ( Now in its 32nd season, Ballet Memphis’ mission is to understand and release the inspiring power found in ballet, dance, and movement, and to be a continuing creative force in the life of our community and our nation. We aspire to create the highest quality of thoughtful performance and meaningful education, engaging our community and celebrating the diversity of our nation, our community and the world we share. Founded by Dorothy Gunther Pugh in 1986, Ballet Memphis has a $4 million operating budget and has performed around the world to audience and critical acclaim. The combined programs of Ballet Memphis–professional Company, Ballet Memphis School, community dance programs, and Pilates Centre–serve more than 80,000 people each year.