As a professional ballet dancer for the past two decades, Kathleen Breen Combes grew accustomed to changing directions on a dime. She did it since she was 18—floating across the stage during productions of Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake, among many others. Breen Combes ended her 16-year-old career at the Boston ballet with a final performance of ELA, Rhapsody in Blue on June 9, and is now retiring as a dancer to take the helm at Festival Ballet Providence, a professional ballet company in Rhode Island.
She will be doing this with the help of her bachelor’s degree in organisational communication and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Northeastern University. Breen Combes participated in a first of its kind partnership between the Boston Ballet and Northeastern that helps professional ballet dancers earn college degrees to prepare themselves for careers after dancing, a program she says equipped her to step into her new role. It will help ballet dancers have an alternate career after they retire from dancing.
When she heard about this program, she knew she was going to do it. The program was flexible enough to work around her professional career. The program offered her to study the subjects she always had an interest in.
Breen Combes joined the Boston Ballet in 2003. She became a principal dancer in 2009. She’s travelled and performed all over the world, including England, South Korea, and the historic Bolshoi Theatre in Russia. As a dancer, you have the entire stage to express yourself and this, she loves. Dancing is her way of meditating. As a ballet dancer, it consumes all of your energy and focus. Each day you wake up and you have got to practice and work. It makes you think on an individual level. Now, with the organisation, she is starting to see this art as more than an individual experience. After her daughter was born, Breen Combes did an internship at the Boston Ballet instead of taking a traditional parental leave. She worked with the company’s administrative staff to learn the inner-workings of the organisation. The experience she gained has been very critical for her new role.
It will be an exciting new chapter at Festival Ballet Providence with Breen Combes. She brings with her a new perspective and creativity to everything she will be doing. she’s eager to develop programs at Festival Ballet Providence that bring the community into the artform and vice versa.
“I want to make the arts more a part of our culture,” she says.