Final bow: Wilmington Ballet Company founder passes the torch after two decades

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 3:41 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Performances this weekend mark the end of an era for a Wilmington ballet icon.

Elizabeth Hester founded Wilmington Ballet Company in 1999, as well as US International Ballet, the Cape Fear Region’s only professional ballet company.

This weekend, Hester said she will pass the torch to Aunika Browne at the 2021 “Great Wilmington Nutcracker.” Performances are planned for Dec. 18 and 19 at the Wilson Center and they mark the twentieth anniversary of the “Great Wilmington Nutcracker.”

The performances will be Hester’s last. She said they will be special because she will play the role of the mother and her daughter is dancing as Clara.

The annual show became a tradition for many families. The performances feature professional dancers, special needs dancers and many community dancers.

Hester said she opened Wilmington Ballet Company, around the time when the only other ballet school at that time in the region closed.

For decades, Elizabeth worked with arts agencies and community groups to create and grow a professional ballet company.

In 2020, Browne accepted the position of Executive Director. Just a few weeks later, COVID restrictions put performances on hold. Browne led the filming of the first post pandemic production at the Wilson Center and produced and live streamed two full length productions on stage in the first 9 months of the pandemic.

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