Founded by Mary Day as the Washington School of Ballet in 1944, the company made its Pillow debut in 1960 and returned in 1980, both times still under the direction of its founder. At the time of its 1960 debut, the company was co-directed by Frederic Franklin, who also choreographed and performed on the program. Mary Day was renowned as a great teacher, and her protégés included Kevin McKenzie (now director of American Ballet Theatre) and former ABT principal Amanda McKerrow. Day formally professionalized the company in 1976, and set it on a path towards greater prominence by hiring a resident choreographer, Choo-San Goh, whose works were showcased in the company’s 1980 engagement. After nearly 20 years under the direction of Septime Webre, the Washington Ballet passed the reins to longtime ABT principal Julie Kent in 2016, ushering in a new era of national visiblity. One of the first dances she brought into the repertory was Seven Sonatas, a work in which she had created a role for its original ABT premiere.