50 Years of History

From its beginnings in Dinkytown to its reach across stages worldwide, MDT has been a force in the arts world.

MDT Timeline Highlights

History timeline1926: Loyce Houlton, founder of MDT, is born to Norwegian parents in Proctor, Minnesota. As a young child, she immerses herself in music and dance lessons.

1946: Loyce moves to New York City where she studies in the studios of pioneering dance makers including Martha Graham, Jose Limon, and George Balanchine. She earns her Master’s Degree in Dance Education at NYU.

1959: Loyce returns to Minnesota and marries Carleton classmate, William Houlton. They have four children.

1961: Loyce begins teaching at the University of Minnesota.

1964: MDT performs its first Nutcracker Fantasy at the Moppet Playhouse (precursor to Children’s Theatre Company). The performance was visited by Dick Cisek which leads to a partnership with Minnesota Orchestra (then Minneapolis Symphony).

1965: Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy performs at Northrop, this continues for over 20 years.

1969: MDT signs a lease for the Cedar Village Theatre (now Cedar Cultural Center). Leo Kottke often plays in the space at midnight. Free “People’s Concerts” are offered to the community. [Photo Available]

1971: MDT is invited to perform at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

1971: MDT performs a Repertory Concert including Glen Tetley’s Mythical Hunters in the Teatro Nuovo in Spoleto, Italy.

1971: MDT performs Loyce Houlton’s Wingborne to music by Dvorak. This piece remains in the repertories of several companies including Dance Theatre of Harlem.

1971: MDT performs Loyce Houlton’s The Killing of Susie Cream Cheese at the People’s Park in Dinkytown as an anti-war protest with a strong community orientation (the U of M students protested plans to tear down local businesses to put in a fast food restaurant, The Red Barn). [Photo Available]

1978: MDT premieres Loyce’s Carmina Burana. Future actor, Lea Thompson, dances in MDT’s production. [Photo Available]

1978: After dancing with Stuttgart Ballet, Lise Houlton gets a call to step in for the inured injured Martine van Hamel at American Ballet Theatre’s New York City premier of Glen Tetley’s Sphinx. She does, and gets offered a contract, dancing with ABT for eight years with dancers including Mikhail Baryshnikov.

1979: Jack Anderson of The New York Times names Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy “One of America’s 10 Best Nutcrackers” [Photo Available]

1983: Prince premiers Purple Rain at First Avenue as a fundraiser for MDT. [Photo 1 Available] [Photo 2 Available]

1983: MDT dances in Joseph Papp’s television movie “Swan Lake, Minnesota” choreographed by Loyce Houlton. [Photo 1 Available] [Photo 2 Available]

1987: After studying at MDT since age 5, Charles Askegard departs to start his career with American Ballet Theatre and become a principal dancer with New York City Ballet.

1991: Horst sponsors Loyce Houlton’s The Skimp Nutcracker at the Aveda Institute’s Grand Atelier.

1992: Loyce Houlton’ Nutcracker Fantasy performs for the first time at the State Theater.

1994: The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul declare December 16, 1994 to be Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy Day in honor of the 28th year of the collaboration between MDT and the Minnesota Orchestra – it recognized as the longest known collaboration of its kind in the United States.

1995: Lise Houlton is named Artistic Director of MDT after Loyce’s death. The company’s reputation for blending classical ballet with contemporary dance continues to grow, eventually going on to performing works from choreographers ranging from Antony Tudor, George Balanchine, Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Glen Tetley.

2000: MDT debuts Lise Houlton’s critically acclaimed Rumblings. The piece is described as “as sensual exploration of the emotional blues”.

2006: Minnesota Dance Theatre’s school and Ballet Arts Minnesota merge to form the Dance Institute. Two years later, Gloria Govrin (who was invited to join New York City Ballet when she was 16 by George Balanchine) joins MDT’s Dance Institute faculty. [Photo Available]

2009: Former Bolshoi Theatre member and first soloist of the Kiev State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Lirena Branitski, becomes the Dance Institute’s School Principal. [Photo Available]

2012: MDT performs Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy during the inaugural year of The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts – selling out all of the performances.

April 2012: MDT celebrates its 50th Anniversary with four performances of Carmina Burana (with Bradley Greenwald, Justin Madel and Jennifer Baldwin Peden, plus a 30-member chorus) and a Golden Gala on April 28, 2012.