Russian Seasons Ballet has the only American graduate of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, Dr. Michael E. Donnelly serving as its impresario in the United States. Dr. Donnelly has been to Russia numerous times, lived in Russia for 5 years, and has a very diverse background which includes a diploma from the American Command and General College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The son of a career Naval Officer, he served for more than twenty years in the United States Army. His passions include art, music, travel and ballet. After many visits to the Bolshoi and the Mariinski he felt that he had seen the best ballet in the world but the best was yet to come.
That occurred when he attended his first ballet performance at the Hermitage Theater. He fell in love with the theater and the quality of ballet that he found there. This was more than a decade ago. His dream to bring the ballet to the American South was born. The idea was to bring ballet to the Southeast and let Southerners share in the unbridled joy that the cast brings to every performance. The vision included providing free master classes to ballet students during the American tours and sending students and teachers to Russia to study ballet at the Vaganova School after every tour.
His friendship with the management of the theater led them to agree to come to America entirely devoid of sponsors and financial backing. The initial tour of the five southern states visited in 2008 was an artistic triumph. The Gala Concert was a hit wherever it appeared.
For the 2009 tour, Dr. Donnelly determined that more sponsors must be found and a traditional ballet should be next on the schedule. Under all circumstances the fan base established by the 2008 premier must be served by continued tours. Dr. Donnelly is proud to introduce another tour in 2009 and is sure that continued artistic brilliance will solve all other problems in such a major undertaking. His loyal cadre of Russian employees in America has made his work possible. It must be said that the foresight and courage of Ludmila Bragina and Lev Fogel of Saint Petersburg in risking everything to bring the ballet to America must be recognized and rewarded. Dr. Donnelly has known many proud moments in his life and has achieved, much but his association with the ballet that performs in the Palace of the Tsars ranks at the very top.