College education ahead of a dancer’s final curtain call

Note: The Boston Sunday Globe on August 4, 2013 reported on an innovative partnership between the Boston Ballet and Northeastern University. Read and watch video, “Boston Ballet, Northeastern prepares dancers for future,” and more below.

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the Boston Ballet have cre­ated a com­pre­hen­sive edu­ca­tional pro­gram to help pro­fes­sional ballet dancers earn col­lege degrees and to pre­pare them for careers after dancing.

The inno­v­a­tive part­ner­ship pro­vides flex­ible and cus­tomized oppor­tu­ni­ties for Boston Ballet dancers to earn under­grad­uate and grad­uate degrees and to take advan­tage of expe­ri­en­tial learning pro­grams, including Northeastern’s renowned co-​​op model. The uni­ver­sity will pro­vide access to its robust infra­struc­ture of aca­d­emic courses and career coaching resources and work with qual­i­fied can­di­dates to stream­line the admis­sions and enroll­ment processes.

The first-​​in-​​the-​​nation initiative—called the North­eastern University-​​Boston Ballet Edu­ca­tion Program—is backed by a com­bined gift from two Boston Ballet board mem­bers: chairman Jack R. Meyer and Henri Ter­meer. Meyer is the CEO Con­vexity Cap­ital Management. Ter­meer is the former CEO and chairman of Gen­zyme Cor­po­ra­tion and a pio­neer in devel­oping and deliv­ering treat­ments for rare genetic diseases.

“Henri, Jack, and our insti­tu­tions share a ded­i­ca­tion to excel­lence, cul­ture, edu­ca­tion, and the growth of the human spirit,” said Joseph E. Aoun, pres­i­dent of North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “This part­ner­ship is exem­plary of acad­emia and the arts advancing the future of human talent.”

Through the North­eastern University-​​Boston Ballet Edu­ca­tion Pro­gram pro­fes­sional dancers will earn under­grad­uate or grad­uate degrees through the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional Studies in dis­ci­plines of their choosing. A schol­ar­ship fund has been estab­lished to cover 80 per­cent of the tuition and costs for each of 16 com­pany dancers starting this month. Dancers will be able to com­plete their undergraduate degrees in roughly six years.

The pro­gram also cap­i­tal­izes on Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in devel­oping hybrid, flex­ible degree pro­grams designed to meet the individual needs and inter­ests of tal­ented pro­fes­sionals. Com­pany dancers will take courses on campus, at the Boston Ballet, and online. They will also receive a range of experiential-​​learning opportunities—including co-​​op and internships—that align with their career goals.

Since its founding in 1963, Boston Ballet has evolved into one of the world’s leading ballet com­pa­nies. It attracts dancers from around the globe–17 coun­tries are cur­rently represented.

While the dancers are at the very top of their pro­fes­sion, very few have col­lege degrees. Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to global education, research, and expe­ri­ences dove­tails with the Ballet’s mis­sion so the part­ner­ship between the two insti­tu­tions com­ple­ment each other well.

“The intense rehearsal and per­for­mance sched­ules of the dancers make it nearly impos­sible to earn a col­lege degree,” said Meyer. “The North­eastern pro­gram pro­vides the flex­i­bility and coaching that will allow them to earn a degree while still dancing.”

“North­eastern is the per­fect match for Boston’s Ballet,” said Ter­meer. “They are at the leading edge of flex­ible edu­ca­tion and have gone all out to make this pro­gram a suc­cess. We are opti­mistic that our part­ner­ship will expand as we get to know one another.”

Mikko Nissinen, artistic director of Boston Ballet, is equally excited about the part­ner­ship. “We are all thrilled about this new collaboration with North­eastern. The oppor­tu­nity is truly a dream come true for today’s pro­fes­sional dancer,” he said.

Boston Ballet exec­u­tive director, Barry Hughson, also sees the part­ner­ship as cru­cial to the evo­lu­tion of the dance busi­ness model, adding, “The future of our industry depends on the talent of our dancers. Our ability to attract, retain, and edu­cate a world-​​class dance force will ensure the sus­tain­ability of not only Boston Ballet—but the arts industry as a whole.”