“My favorite place in the world is on stage,” says Kathleen Breen Combes, who has been a professional ballet dancer for the past two decades. Starting at the age of 18, Breen Combes has worked for productions like Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake etc. However, she is now retiring as a dancer to take the helm at Festival Ballet Providence, a professional ballet company in Rhode Island. She is doing it with the help of a bachelor’s degree in organisational communication and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Northeastern University. It is a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Boston Ballet and Northeastern University that helps professional ballet dancers earn college degrees to prepare them for careers after dancing. The program is flexible enough to work around the demanding schedule as a professional dancer, and offers opportunities to learn about topics one is interested in.
According to Breen Combes, as a dancer, you have to be focused on yourself. Every day she would go to work and worry about what she’d do with her body and how to prepare for a show. But, “Over the last few years I’ve gotten to see new perspectives. There’s so much more to these organisations and this art form than just an individual experience”, she says.
After her daughter was born, Breen Combes did an internship at the Boston Ballet. She didn’t expect to go back to school. That is, until a friend made a case for Northeastern University’s graduate certificate program. She thus signed up and thrived.
Breen Combes, co-chaired the Young Partners Council at the Boston Ballet. She’s now eager to develop programs at Festival Ballet Providence that is hoped to bring the community closer to the art form, and vice versa.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman