Dancers Rehearse for Their Second Act

Dancers know a thing or two about precision and persistence—and for Boston Ballet dancers studying at Northeastern University, they are remarkable experts in balance. Their vocation demands relentless discipline, and these artists apply the same focus to their educational pursuits as they do onstage, whether completing a co-op or executing a plié.

Since 2013, the Northeastern University-Boston Ballet Education Program has enabled full-time dancers to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees amid grueling schedules crowded with training, rehearsals, and performances. In planning for careers beyond their final curtain call, the dancers graduate ready to take their next steps.

“When I heard about the program, I was like, ‘I’m doing this,’” recalls Kathleen Breen Combes, CPS’16, a former Boston Ballet principal dancer. Northeastern’s program was flexible enough to work around her taxing days and offered opportunities to learn about topics she’d had a nascent interest in, such as collective bargaining. After retiring from the ballet, Breen Combes—who was the first graduate of the initiative—became director of Festival Ballet Providence in Rhode Island.

Launched with a philanthropic gift from the late Henri Termeer, H’11, and Jack Meyer, the first-of its-kind partnership enrolls nearly 20 student dancers each year. Scholarship funds cover the greater part of tuition and costs, and most undergraduates earn their degrees in roughly six years. In blending the arts with academia, the program is making a lifelong impact on dancers committed to their craft.

“I gained resources that helped me convey ideas on stage,” says former Boston Ballet dancer Boyko Dossev, CPS’16, now assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma School of Dance. “I didn’t know much about the field of organizational communication when I started, but quickly fell in love with it,” he shares. “The teachers were accomplished, inspiring professionals who taught us not just theory but also how to apply what we were learning to the real world.”