Dorothy Gunther Pugh

Women of Achievement

for a woman who seized the
opportunity to use her talents and created her own future:

Dorothy Gunther Pugh

In 1977 young dancers in Shelby County had almost no opportunities to perform. Luckily for them, a broadly trained dancer and highly talented instructor named Dorothy Gunther Pugh noticed.

She envisioned a professional ballet group created principally for young dancers whom she would instruct. She founded Memphis Youth Concert Ballet and gave the company’s first performance before a small audience at Hutchison School. From that first budget of about $4,700, Youth Concert Ballet has grown to an operation of $85,000 a year that performs original choreography regularly at The Orpheum. The company has performed at the Memphis in May International Sunset Symphony and on national television. Thousands of public and private school children are enriched by the young dancers’ performances.

To reach beyond ballet’s elitist image, Dorothy created a scholarship fund for minority dancers. Last year the company was judged to be an “intern company” by the prestigious Southeast Regional Ballet Association.

As she celebrates its 10th anniversary, Dorothy’s is the largest ballet company in town. The company’s new name — Memphis Concert Ballet — relinquishes the word “youth” and reflects her readiness to extend her work beyond the high school years.

Dorothy Pugh epitomizes the woman of initiative who seized the opportunity to use her talents and create her own future, and in so doing has provided creative stimulus, artistic quality and enrichment, not only for her dancers but also for the arts community of Memphis.