The Boston Ballet is an American professional classical ballet company based in Boston, Massachusetts. The company, founded in 1963 by E. Virginia Williams, and Sydney Leonard, was the first professional repertory ballet company in New England. Boston Ballet’s national and international reputation developed under the leadership of Artistic Directors Violette Verdy (1980–1984), Bruce Marks (1985–1997), and Anna-Marie Holmes (1997–2000). Today, Boston Ballet is one of the major ballet companies in North America and among the top companies in the world. Current Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen was selected to lead Boston Ballet in September 2001. Under his artistic direction, Boston Ballet maintains an internationally recognized repertoire of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works, ranging from full-length story ballets to masterworks by George Balanchine, to new works and world premieres by contemporary choreographers. Nissinen leads the company, and Boston Ballet School, the largest ballet school in North America, with Executive Director Meredith (Max) Hodges. In 1979, Boston Ballet opened the Nervi Festival in Italy, and in 1980 was the first American dance company to perform in the Peoples Republic of China. The Company made its London premiere in 1981, with a full-length production of Swan Lake. In 1983, Boston Ballet presented Don Quixote on Broadway with Rudolf Nureyev as special guest artist, after touring the United States, Mexico, France, and Italy. Boston Ballet collaborated with choreographer Mark Morris for the first time in 1986, performing his Mort Subite at the PepsiCo Festival in Purchase, New York. The following year Boston Ballet was the first ballet company to perform at the BESSIE Dance and Performance award ceremony at New York City Center. Boston Ballet was the first major dance company to commission works from contemporary choreographers Mark Morris, Susan Marshall, Ralph Lemon, Elisa Monte, and Helen Pickett. In May 1990, Natalia Dudinskaya and Konstantin Sergeyev, along with then-assistant artistic director Anna-Marie Holmes, staged a new production of Swan Lake featuring Boston Ballet dancers performing the leading roles with dancers from the Kirov Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. In recent years, the Company has added James Kudelka’s Cinderella, George Balanchine’s Coppélia, Jewels, and Midsummer Night’s Dream, the American premiere of Jirí Kylián’s Black and White and John Crankos Onegin, The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet to its repertoire.