Tai Pauls’ interest in the Milwaukee Ballet started as an audience member. Drawn to the dance company’s captivating performances, she sought out volunteer opportunities to get involved. Pauls, who led the Milwaukee Brewers’ hospitality department, furthered her involvement by joining the Ballet’s board in 2018. In 2020, she was offered the position of director of development and gladly took the job – just one week before the pandemic shut the Ballet down. In the face of that crisis, creative solutions took center stage: dancers rehearsed in their living rooms, programs went virtual, safety protocols were put in place. Over the following two years, Pauls helped shepherd the Ballet through the unprecedented time, co-leading the organization as interim managing director. Her work is paying off, as the Ballet successfully presented a complete season of performances and programming last year, and is now kicking off a new season with positive momentum. And in August, Pauls was named the Ballet’s managing director and chief advancement officer. “I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished,” she says. “I love being a part of something that is so important for the culture of our community.”
“Dance is for everybody.”
You started at the Milwaukee Ballet just a week before COVID shut it down. What are some things you learned during that challenging time?
I really saw how important performance and the arts and dance are to people and to the community. Especially in a time like that, people need to be artistically inspired. People need escape and imagination and joy. Participating in performing arts is a balm to get through challenges, even if it’s just for a few hours for a show. To come back after the shutdown has been amazing. We have such an exceptional, world-class company, and I’m so proud of what we’ve done. Ballet and the performing arts are paramount to our city’s cultural vibrancy—it brings people together, opens minds, and we’re really proud of contributing to that.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
When I get to see somebody new to ballet experience it for the first time. You can tell that it’s something more than they imagined it would be, or that it’s touched them in a way they didn’t expect. We see that with our students. We see that with people who participate in our community programs. It’s a different experience for every single person. Everybody takes something different away, or connects with ballet in their own personal way. And I think that’s really beautiful.