At the age of thirteen, Ron Colton entered his first dance class in Detroit – that led him to a lifelong career in dance. Ron moved to New York City, dancing in musicals on Broadway, before joining the Slavenska-Franklin Company touring Japan and the United States. He joined the New York City Ballet in 1953 and toured Europe with the Company. In 1958, Ron taught his first dance class in Chicago and knew immediately that he had found his calling. Drawing from his own impeccable dance training, Ron’s move to Augusta in 1964 clearly changed the face of the arts in Augusta. Whether being in his class or watching his dancers perform, you knew you were in the presence of a master. As a Dance Magazine critic noted, “Whenever the director of a resident company complains that his community is too small to yield good material for him to train, I cannot help but think of Ron Colton…He doesn’t ‘find’ material. He makes it.”
Ron was on the advisory panel for the Governor’s School for the Arts in South Carolina and served as a panelist for the South Carolina Arts Commission. He was a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts and, at the request of the Governor of Georgia, was for twelve years on the Dance Panel of the Georgia Council for the Arts. In 1981, he received the Governor’s Award for Achievement in the Arts. Ron was a member of the Greater Augusta Arts Council and the Board of Directors of Regional Dance America/Southeastern Regional Ballet Association. On four occasions, Ron was host director to the Regional Dance America/Southeastern Regional Ballet Association Festival in Augusta. He has twice served as Chairman of the National Choreographer’s Conference.
With talent, insight, faith and good humor, Ron Colton has had an immense impact on dance in the Southeast as a teacher and director. He created and grew the Augusta Ballet for thirty years taking it from a fledgling civic troupe to a professional company. His legacy of dance in Augusta continues to flourish in Colton Ballet Company.
There is no substitute for the maturity, artistry and skilled focus that a seasoned performer brings to a role. During her 15 year history dancing professionally in Augusta, Bon Ellis was truly such a dancer. She represented the very essence of a romantic dancer with her exquisite classical line and ethereal style. She illustrated both on-stage and off the beauty and discipline inherent in the highest standards of dance.
Bon began her dance training with Sallie Carlson, founder of the Augusta Civic Ballet, as one of the Company’s youngest members. Continuing her studies with Ron Colton, she became known as a lyrical and poignant performer receiving national critical notice as a soloist in Augusta’s first SERBA Gala performance of Duncan Noble’s Symphony 13. While attending the North Carolina School of the Arts as a merit scholarship student, Bon spent her summers studying with the School of American Ballet, the Joffrey School, the Atlanta Ballet and the Twyla Tharp Workshop. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Bon opened her own dance studio in Albany, NY where she performed with a theater/jazz group.
Several of her most notable roles include Myrta in Giselle, Incident at Blackbriar, Hearth of Embers, Cranes, the Dewdrop Fairy in The Nutcracker and Carmen in Peter Powlus’ Carmen. Bon originated the role of the ill-fated Lucy in Peter Powlus’ Dracula and Lady de Winter in The Three Musketeers. She also appeared in Augusta Opera productions of The King and I, My Fair Lady, Carousel, and The Merry Widow. Since 1985, Bon has been a teacher and the business administrator of the Colton Ballet School. She also serves as Business Administrator and Ballet Mistress for Colton Ballet Company.
The mission of Dance Augusta is to provide professional quality dance performances for the community, encouraging and enhancing a greater public awareness and appreciation for dance as an art form.
Dance Augusta is the official company of the Augusta Ballet School. Dance Augusta and the Augusta Ballet School are no longer affiliated with Augusta Ballet, Inc.
Zanne Colton’s influence is felt by every dancer, professional or amateur, that comes within her sphere. Audiences have clearly seen her impeccable direction and taste on the Augusta Ballet stage where she served as Artistic Director for fourteen years. With her associate and long-time colleague, Peter Powlus, the vision of a fully professional company was realized through the Augusta Ballet. Zanne and Peter produced and directed ten full evening productions as well as a host of acclaimed repertory works for Augusta audiences.
Beginning her studies at the age of six, her first instructors were Alexis Dolinof and Sallie Carlson. When Ron Colton arrived in Augusta, Zanne began four years of intensive study culminating in a Ford Foundation scholarship with Balanchine’s School of American Ballet – one of only ten students in the country to receive such an honor.
Zanne danced professionally as a principal soloist with the Atlanta Ballet and was one of only six women in the Atlanta Ballet’s original touring ensemble; however, the preponderance of her dancing career was spent in Augusta where she was a principal dancer with the Augusta Ballet from 1970-1985. She has danced many of the major roles in the classical repertory such as Odette in Swan Lake, Giselle in Giselle, and Swanilda in Coppelia. It was her uniqueness that prompted the creation of ballets especially for her. Duncan Noble’s Symphony 13 and Episode as well as Tom Pazik’s Mandolina are a few of the works she inspired. She has set ballets throughout the Southeast and was selected to perform professionally at several nationally sponsored choreographers’ conferences. She has served as a panelist for the Artists-in-the-Schools, the Artists Initiated Programs, and on the Dance Panel of the Georgia Council for the Arts.
Zanne’s newest vision is Colton Ballet Company and she is excited to continue to produce dance for her home – Augusta.
Russell Joel Brown
Director & Educator, Russell Joel Brown Foundation
Office Manager, Colton Ballet School
Jackie Crute, CBC Founding Member
Dr. Denise Evans
Gregory Negas Pierce, CBC Founding Member
Atlanta Visitors Bureau
Tammy Adams Westafer, M.Ed., M.N.M.
School Counselor, Jefferson Elementary