PROVIDENCE – With recent changes to leadership and its mission, Festival Ballet Providence had begun connecting with other audiences beyond the city’s borders through dance. Now, the local nonprofit dance trope has a new name to reflect those broader connections.
The 45-year-old organization has rebranded itself and is now known as Ballet Rhode Island – or Ballet RI. The name change became official May 5 a day after it was formally announced at the organization’s annual gala held at Roger Williams Park.
Ballet RI Executive Director Kathleen Breen Combes told Providence Business News on Monday that the organization has been reaching ballet supporters outside of Providence and wanted to open itself up to a larger audience throughout the state. Ballet RI has recently become the resident company at the United Theatre in Westerly and wanted the audiences in town to “feel connected,” Breen Combes said.
“It’s really looking at finding the voices of today, making sure we’re presenting art that is reflective of today’s society,” Breen Combes said. “Making sure that we’re making our community feel they’re welcome. It’s just reaching out to make the organization more accessible. When you’re down in Westerly, maybe they’re not feeling as connected where some may say ‘oh, you’re a Providence company.’ If you’re a Rhode Island company, they would feel more connected.”
Breen Combes also hopes that more arts and culture supporters can contribute financially to the organization with the new statewide direction that Ballet RI is taking. She said it’s important for donors to feel “a part” of the organization, hence the organization’s efforts to create stronger connections around Rhode Island.
Breen Combes also said Ballet RI is not trying to modernize ballet overall, but rather make changes to how the organization teaches, presents and talks about ballet. She said Ballet RI is “continually trying to find” new collaborators and local arts organizations across Rhode Island to bring performances to different locations within the state. Ballet RI is also partnering with StyleWeek Northeast, the large fashion event that will be held in mid-June.
The organization will this week hold its first performance, titled “Daybreak,” under the new Ballet RI name at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Pawtucket, Breen Combes said. She also said its 2023-24 season will be announced within the next two weeks, which will include “several new world premieres” that Ballet RI is currently creating. The organization is also creating an all-new “Cinderella” performance for The Vets as part of that schedule, as well, she said.
Bringing the organization’s signature annual holiday performance across Rhode Island is also an option for Ballet RI. Breen Combes said while “The Nutcracker” is scheduled to be held for two weeks at The Vets this year, she said she would “love to” in the future bring the holiday tradition to different locations. Breen Combes also said two more “Nutcracker” shows will be added to have a “longer [performance] run.”