Branislav Henselmann

Forty Under 40 winner 2014:  Executive director, Ballet BC

As a child, Branislav Henselmann excelled at math and science and dreamed of becoming a scientist or doctor. 

But along the way, he discovered a passion that overwhelmed everything else: dance.

“All along, I was dancing on the side. It was sort of a hobby,” said Henselmann, who grew up in Belgrade and Munich. 

“I started studying biology after high school, but I realized I quite liked dancing – maybe a little more than biology or mathematics.”

Being accepted into the prestigious Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London sealed the deal. He went on to have a career as a dancer, choreographer and producer with several companies in England and New York. 

Along the way, he furthered his education with a master of fine arts degree in dance and business administration.

In 2012, Henselmann learned that the executive director position was open at Ballet BC. The dance company was recovering financially after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in 2008 and 2009. Henselmann had never even set foot in Canada, let alone Vancouver. 

Nevertheless, he jumped at the chance.

“Ballet BC does incredible work,” Henselmann said. “There are a handful of companies around the world that do it at that level.”

Henselmann is now focused on making the company financially sustainable through increasing ticket sales as well as corporate sponsorships and donations. Ballet BC’s season subscriptions over the past year rose by 25%, at a time when subscriptions for performing arts companies have largely been falling.

“We know that [our product] needs to be excellent, we know that it needs to be desirable, we know that it needs to be inviting, we know that it needs to communicate to our audience,” he said. 

“But at the end of the day, we also knew that the landscape around us is changing so rapidly that we need to constantly adapt to it.”