Sarasota Professional Dancers take First Position as New Directors at Colorado Ballet Society
After 24 years of creating and leading Colorado Ballet Society, Founder and Director, Patricia Hoffman, announces her retirement as Director. As of August 2021, Southern Colorado’s Dance leader is under new Ownership and Direction. Matt and Lisa Walsh of Colorado Springs purchased both the Briargate and Falcon locations and established Dex Honea as Executive Director and School Principal and Kate Walsh Honea as Artistic Director and Manager of the Ballerina Boutique.
“I want to congratulate Patty Hoffman and her daughter Caitlin Hopwood,” says Matt Walsh, the new owner of Colorado Ballet Society. “They have built an amazing operation. In the 24 years of doing this, it is pretty amazing to think about the thousands of young kids whose lives they have touched and changed. They have built a great asset for Colorado Springs.”
Since 1997, Colorado Ballet Society has provided aspiring dancers with superior training in a teaching environment that challenges the individual to attain new levels of excellence. What first began as a studio with 26 students and two instructors in a one-room Black Forest Community Center has become the preeminent source of quality dance performance in Southern Colorado with two locations, including a state-of-the-art facility in Briargate with six full-sized teaching and rehearsal studios at 8570 Criterion Drive, Suite 154 (across from the Briargate Post Office in northeast C/S) and a Falcon Studio located in the Peak Gymnastics & Fitness facility on 10611 Maltese Point, Peyton, CO.
In 2009, Hopwood opened the Ballerina Boutique within the walls of Colorado Ballet Society. Dancers were guaranteed to receive the perfect fit in all their dancewear. By providing high-quality products at reasonable prices, the Ballerina Boutique assured that each dancer was able to achieve their goals.
The growth of the studio and its artistic achievements have been nothing short of astounding. Thousands of dancers have been part of Ballet Society's program. As a regional performing arts organization- whether in its own name or under the banner of the Colorado Youth Ballet (now in its 18th season)- it has become far and away one of the most successful dance organizations in Southern Colorado.
The studio has been voted ‘Best in the Springs’ for 8 years and received four Pikes Peak Arts Council Awards for a variety of productions and an Arts/Business/Education Consortium Arts Award for their Dancer for a Day program. Former students have gone on to dance with seventy-three world-renowned schools, trainee programs, and companies such as American Ballet Theatre, English National Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and The Czech National Ballet.
As Ballet Society grew, Hoffman added more performing companies and educational programs to the studio that afford additional performance and learning opportunities to dancers of different levels. Their educational programs include Sparkle Dance, Superheroes, the Teacher Assistant Program, and the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. Their resident companies include Colorado Youth Ballet, Connexus Dance Collective, Elevate Productions, and Praise Dance Ensemble. Over the years, Ballet Society engaged in artistic collaborations, performing with virtually every musical organization in the Pikes Peak region. Hoffman has set and produced over 134 productions, including numerous full-length ballets. While growing her production of The Nutcracker each year, she also created A Colorado Nutcracker, an original rendition highlighting the fascinating local history surrounding the founding families of Colorado Springs and the area’s breathtaking nature.
“It has been one of my life’s highest honors serving our dance community,” shares Caitlin Hopwood, Founder of the Ballerina Boutique. “I had no idea how fun and rewarding this venture would be. Yet, my heart’s utmost desire is to spend more time with my young family. My mom and I have worked so hard for this moment and to be able to complete this journey together means the world to us.”
“I want to thank Patty and Caitlin for giving our family the opportunity to do this,” adds Mr. Walsh. “For Kate and Dex, this is another one of their dreams that is coming true. We can’t tell you how excited we are for them and for Colorado Ballet Society.”
“Ballet Society has always been a studio that is about family,” explains Patricia Hoffman, Founder and Director Emeritus. “We’ve welcomed mothers, fathers, grandparents, guardians, and siblings into our comfortable surroundings to join in the process of making superior dancers and well-rounded human beings. I think it’s wonderful that as I transition into my new position as Director Emeritus, Colorado Ballet Society will be family-owned and operated.”
Matt and Lisa Walsh have owned and operated their Florida-based media company, The Observer Media Group, Inc., for 25 years and have twelve newspapers throughout the state.
“We have two passions in our family: newspapers and dance,” claims Mr. Walsh. “It is ingrained in our family, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be involved with Colorado Ballet Society and the Ballerina Boutique.”
The Walsh family’s dance roots do run deep. Mr. Walsh’s sister began her dance education at a young age and ended up performing on Broadway. She heavily influenced his two daughters, Emily Walsh and Kate Walsh Honea, who both danced professionally with The Sarasota Ballet. Mrs. Walsh served as President of the oldest youth ballet company in St. Petersburg, Florida. While on the organization’s Board of Directors for many years, she took the organization to new heights. Now, the Walsh family have purchased both Colorado Ballet Society and the Ballerina Boutique.
“In December of 2016, as a family, we came to Colorado and were walking in downtown Colorado Springs when I saw a Nutcracker poster for Colorado Ballet Society,” shares Kate Walsh Honea, Artistic Director. “I was very intrigued, and I reached out to the studio and said that Dex and I would love to come and teach during the summer; we have a family house here in the Springs, and we would love to be a part of this studio. Patty took a leap of faith on us then, and now she’s taking another one. I couldn’t be happier!”
Mr. Honea and Ms. Walsh Honea have become familiar faces in Colorado Springs over the past several years, performing at the Pikes Peak Center in the roles of Nikola Tesla and the Sugar Plum Fairy with Colorado Youth Ballet’s A Colorado Nutcracker. Local dancers may also recognize them as instructors for Master Classes and summer programs at Colorado Ballet Society.
“I remember coming into the studio and just being blown away by the students, the talent base, the discipline, the dedication, the faculty, and how Patty and her team ran the place,” explains Walsh Honea. “I knew right away that this was a special place and that I wanted to be in the special Society.”
“I have great confidence in Dex and Kate,” says Hoffman. “In the summer of 2017, they arrived as guest instructors and fell in love with the studio and our students, and in turn, they instantly became beloved members of the CBS family. They are deeply committed to CBS, the students, and the Colorado Springs community. I can’t imagine a more perfect team to take over our young dancers’ training. Their combined experiences will allow the studio to excel as they help the dancers flourish.”
Mr. Honea danced professionally for fifteen years with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Eugene Ballet Company, and The Sarasota Ballet. He worked with many renowned choreographers and performed numerous roles, from classical ballet to contemporary works, and performed as a guest artist in many ballet companies. He began teaching in 2002, specializing in ballet technique, partnering, and character classes and served as the Director of Education for the Sarasota Ballet School for five years. During this time, Mr. Honea ran The Sarasota Ballet School and Dance, The Next Generation outreach program for at-risk youth. He also started an entirely new program for the Sarasota Ballet School called The Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance, a program for pre-professional students who want to pursue a career in classical dance while still focusing on their academics. He directed numerous successful summer intensives and produced and directed all the shows, workshops, end-of-the-year performances, outreach and master classes, adult program, and the school's curriculum and syllabus.
Mr. Honea is looking forward to bringing three decades of experience in this industry to take Colorado Ballet Society to the next level and to serve the community of Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado. As Executive Director and School Principal of Colorado Ballet Society, he will be in charge of running the daily operations of the studio and overseeing all performances, special programs, and summer dance programs.
“I love teaching,” shares Honea. “I try to make my classes fun but I do set expectations for the students to instill the standard for high-quality dance education. I do plan to develop a men’s program at Colorado Ballet Society, starting with a pas de deux class. Partnering classes are tremendously beneficial for all students, but they especially build our female dancers’ confidence which transfers into other aspects in their dance education--they tend to trust themselves more when balancing and executing steps on their own.”
Ms. Walsh Honea danced with The Sarasota Ballet for 19 seasons and currently holds the titles of Principal dancer and Assistant Ballet Mistress. She performed lead and feature roles in ballets, had roles created on her, and toured internationally. She has been an instructor with the Sarasota Ballet School and Dance, The Next Generation, for 12 years. She specializes in youth pre-professional levels, and professional and adult classes, including ballet technique, pointe, variations, and dance conditioning. She has choreographed four works for The Sarasota Ballet and has choreographed for the Sarasota Ballet School summer workshops and end-of-the-year performances, including co-directing and producing full-length productions.
Ms. Walsh Honea earned her training certificate through Mark Morris Dance Group to teach dance to people with Parkinson's Disease and collaborated with Neuro Challenge Foundation and The Sarasota Ballet to teach dance classes for the Parkinson’s community in a program called Joyful Movement. She was nominated for Young Professional of the Year by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and was Co-chair for the Sarasota Ballet’s 2020 Gala.
As Artistic Director for Colorado Ballet Society, Ms. Walsh Honea will be responsible for the Artistic direction of the school syllabus and all performances with the final decision of student casting for performances and student’s level advancement. She will arrange guest teachers and choreographers throughout the year and summer, as well as, guest artists for performances.
“I am thrilled for Kate that this opportunity has presented itself for her, and I wish her great success in this next phase of her ballet career,” says Margaret Barbieri, Assistant Director of The Sarasota Ballet. “I’ve always felt that Kate was a member of our family, and her wonderful personality and friendship will be missed greatly. I will of course also miss Kate tremendously as both a dancer and as Assistant Ballet Mistress. She has consistently demonstrated a wonderful work ethic and love of dance, and I will always remember her many remarkable performances.”
“It’s hard to believe that Kate has been with the Company for 19 years; while this is a marvelous opportunity for Kate, we will all certainly miss her dearly,” shares Iain Webb, Director of The Sarasota Ballet. “She has been not only a vital member of our Company as a dancer, but also as an ambassador for The Sarasota Ballet. Together with Margaret, one of the highlights of my time as Director has been nurturing and guiding Kate into the Principal dancer she became. She has brought to life so many incredible roles in such an extraordinary variety of works and styles, but perhaps the performance memory of Kate that will always be strongest for me, is that of her role of Lise in Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée.”
“I’m overjoyed,” admits Walsh Honea. “I’m so blessed that my career gave me so many incredible opportunities that helped prepare me for this moment. I also feel lucky that we built a relationship with Patty, Caitlin, and the students. I can’t wait to keep building upon that relationship with the Colorado Springs community.”
“What we try to do, what we want to do is elevate all of our associates in our company,” explains Mr. Walsh. “We want to help elevate them personally and professionally. And we want to help elevate this company to make it even better than it is right now. And when we do that, we’re going to elevate Colorado Springs and make it an even better place to live. That’s what we live by in our company in Florida, and we hope to bring that here as well.”
“We’re so honored to be here,” adds Honea. “We’re super excited to move forward. We plan to learn from the teachers and carry out the existing vision of the dance studio--Patty set a very high bar.”
Colorado Ballet Society’s success is a tribute to Hoffman’s formulated approach to teaching the art form of dance. Her education tenets include building supportive relationships and community while instilling a focused work ethic and promoting the health of the dancer to avoid recurring injuries. Instructors get to know each student personally, helping them develop their gifts and grow in confidence. Excellent training includes attention to every aspect of the students including, their health, appearance, and attitude. Students show respect to all teachers by being neat in appearance, polite, and eager to learn.
“We’re going to carry on Patty’s legacy,” assures Honea. “We’re going to maintain the high standard of dance education and make sure Colorado Ballet Society is a great place to work and a good place for students and parents. We’re determined to continue that tradition. That’s what the community will experience here.”
“We hope...we know that we are going to make Patty incredibly proud,” proclaims Mr. Walsh.
“Since I opened Ballet Society in the fall of 1997, I have been blessed many times over with amazing families, students, teachers, and memories,” shares Hoffman. “It has been an absolute pleasure serving the Colorado Springs community as a studio owner and Artistic Director.”
Even though Hoffman will be stepping down as owner and director right away, she will be present at the studio consulting to provide a seamless transition to the new owners and directors. She will invest her energy in training new teachers to ensure CBS’s continued integrity, and she is on the 2021-2022 schedule as an instructor -- allowing her to spend time with students and do what she loves most -- teach.
“I know that the best days are ahead,” declares Hoffman. “It is going to be wonderful.”
Figure 1: Dex Honea, Kate Walsh Honea, Matt Walsh, Lisa Walsh, Patricia Hoffman, Caitlin
Hopwood | PC: Dex Honea
Figure 2: Patricia Hoffman | PC: CBS
Figure 3: Isabel Harris dancing at CBS | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 4: Caitlin Hopwood and Kate Walsh Honea | PC: Dex Honea
Figure 5: Kate Walsh Honea | PC: Matthew Holler
Figure 6: Kate Walsh Honea with Sugar Babes at CBS Nutcracker | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 7: Dex Honea teaching at CBS | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 8: Dex Honea teaching at CBS| PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 9: Kate Walsh Honea & Luke Schaufuss in Sir Frederick Ashton's Romeo & Juliet| PC: Frank Atura
Figure 10: Kate Walsh Honea teaching at CBS| PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 11: Kate Walsh Honea in Sir Anthony Tudor’s Gala Performance | PC: Gene Schiavone
Figure 12: Daniel Brown dancing at CBS | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 13: Ellie Chandanais -- CBS Contemporary | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 14: Patricia Hoffman with Young Dancers | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 15: Isabel Harris and Gabriella Vidano dancing at CBS | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 16: Kate Walsh Honea teaching at CBS | PC: Kayla Coburn
Figure 17: CBS Children’s Division Tap | PC: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography