When Rachel Moore was dancing with the American Ballet Theatre, she would have never imagined that one day she would be running it.
A California native, she spent her summers in Manhattan studying dance, and in 1984 joined ABT’s corps de ballet at 18 years old. After six years with the company, her career aspirations were shattered after she sustained a foot injury. In a cast for three months, she had to make a decision to endure more surgery without a guarantee she would dance again, or pursue a college education. At 24, she took the SATs and was accepted into Brown University.
“Dance is a very short career anyway, so I was very fortunate to be able to go to Brown,” Moore said. “I was one of the rare birds who was a lot older. It was a wonderful experience and allowed me to step back from my dancing career.” During her summer breaks, she worked for the National Endowment for the Arts, and, as fate would have it, her first assignment included their dance program.
Upon college graduation, she began to look for jobs advocating for first amendment rights for artists. That’s when her friend told her, “If you really want to help artists, you should make sure that the organization they work for represents them.” This led to her earning a master’s in Arts Administration from Columbia University, which taught her how to run a nonprofit.
With her firsthand knowledge of the art and the company itself, Moore brings a special insight and passion to her job at ABT. “I see myself as a bridge between the business and artistic communities,” she said. She was hired as executive director in April of 2004 and became CEO in June of 2011. In this position, Moore presides over all the business aspects of the company, which include financial, marketing, publicity, fundraising and educational efforts.
Another connection to her past is working with artistic director Kevin McKenzie. The pair have a special connection since they danced together with ABT in their former lives as professional dancers. Their decision- making process is strengthened through what Moore says is “a lot of shared history and trust.”
This year marks a milestone in the history of the organization, as it will now be represented on the West Coast as well. Since Congress named ABT “America’s National Ballet Company” in 2006, they are embracing the honor with the creation of a school there. Moore is overseeing the opening of the ABT William J. Gillespie School at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Southern California, which is slated for September. “With this school, ABT will be establishing a year-round presence on the West Coast and will truly become a bi-coastal organization. As America’s National Ballet Company, part of our mission seeks to serve a national audience and by having a school and performing regularly in California, we have realized this commitment in very important ways,” she said.
As for her long-term goals, one of them is to “see more diversity in the audience and on stage.” To accomplish this, she helped launch Project Plié in September of 2013, a nationwide initiative to diversify ballet companies. “Not just ABT, but the whole field needs to be more attentive to this problem,” she said.
When asked about the best part of her job, she answered that seeing the dancers perform makes it all worthwhile. She attends two-thirds of the company’s 200 performances a year and considers La Bayadère her favorite full length ballet.