Innovation becomes tradition at West Hartord’s Ballet Theatre Company.
Submitted by Ballet Theatre Company
In 1999, Ballet Theatre Company (BTC) was a small ballet company putting on one spring performance per year. Within 25 years, it has grown exponentially to become Connecticut’s leading ballet organization.
BTC was founded to produce professional dance productions for public enjoyment. Since 1999, the organization has grown to become a community leader in making dance accessible. BTC has ensured that dance is accessible to children and their families who faced financial hardship by hosting free performances and after-school dance classes. This mission would later evolve into its Community Enrichment Program. BTC also trains the next generation of ballet dancers through its distinguished School of Ballet Theatre Company.
In 25 years, BTC has produced over 100 incredible live-action ballets; provided hundreds of jobs to dance, costume, backstage, and lighting professionals; trained thousands of aspiring dancers; and continues to enrich the community through several unique programs, making dance accessible to over 11,500 children in Greater Hartford and beyond.
Woven into BTC’s history is a rich tradition of artistic firsts, including pushing the boundaries of ballet to better serve the audiences and artists of today. Most recently, BTC committed to a bold reworking of The Nutcracker in 2022 to remove culturally insensitive tropes that dominate the Second Act of the production. In the same season, BTC began offering ballets that are fully dedicated to anyone with sensory sensitivities. The inclusive new Sensory-Friendly Ballet is offered at a discounted price and provides a relaxed and inviting theater environment with increased lighting in the audience and decreased music volume. Patrons with sensory sensitivities and their loved ones are encouraged to move around the theater as needed during the judgment-free production.
Driven to carve a path for equity in the Hartford arts scene, BTC launched a paid company of resident professional dancers in 2021. In 2023, BTC remains the first and only ballet company in Connecticut that contracts dancers and pays a bi-weekly wage for their work of training, rehearsing, and performance all season long. While BTC is proud to provide consistent wages to its dancers, its leadership aims to increase its efforts towards equitable compensation in the arts, with the ultimate goal of employing its dancers part-time with benefits in the coming years.
Ballet is a key part of the cultural scene in Connecticut, which is focusing on becoming a tourist destination for the arts. For the arts to be a draw, the ecosystem must be built with a thriving, diverse, and inclusive community. Paying artists for their labor is integral to that community.
Another type of community, the local one, was integral to the survival of BTC during the worst of the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, BTC staff pivoted to embrace “old-school” connections by hand-writing letters to students while duly utilizing the tech solutions to not only teach ballet classes but go on to film a full-length professional ballet outside.
Incredible patrons, parents, and dancers shined bright the darkest days to support everything involved with running the ballet – from a Board Director who hand-made micro floors and the Artistic Director who dropped them off at dancers’ homes, to volunteers who made over twenty 40-minute trips to an off-site filming location where the 2021 Snow White production was being filmed.
As a result of this community, BTC is thriving post-pandemic. The organization has strong staff leadership, additional staff, more dancers, and it now performs its main-stage productions at the prestigious Bushnell Performing Arts Center.
Celebrating 25 years is a great excuse to do some organizational self-reflection, and it turns out that innovation in art and strategy pairs well with tradition. The history of this growing organization suggests that innovation is not only complimentary to tradition, but in fact, requires it. After all, traditions have to start somewhere.
Engage with the Ballet
You are invited to engage with the ballet and celebrate this special 25th Anniversary Season by joining us at our Season Opener Party on Sept. 16 at Warehouse 635. Admission is free! RSVP here.
Your donation makes you a member of the BTC Encore Society and helps to expand our productions and community programming. And to learn more about our performances, programs, and school, visit dancebtc.org.
The full season includes the Up Close: Fall, The Nutcracker at The Bushnell, One Night in Paris, Up Close: Winter, Snow White at The Bushnell, and a special Prince-themed Soiree. Tickets are on sale to the public starting Sept. 1.
Peer arts organizations and Connecticut businesses are encouraged to say hello and explore collaboration by contacting BTC at [email protected].