Northeastern gives retired dancers a future
By Miharu Sugie, News Staff
Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies recently partnered with the Boston Ballet Company, allowing professional dancers to pursue a degree at Northeastern, a jeté crucial for a career that often times ends when dancers hit their late 30s.
The Northeastern University-Boston Ballet Education Program will give dancers the flexibility to take class on campus, at the Boston Ballet’s headquarters at Clarendon Street or online for six weeks over a span of six years. Beyond classes, enrolled dancers will also be to participate in co-op that matches their career goal.
The program is backed financially by two board members of the Boston Ballet Company, Jack and Henri Meyer and a scholarship offered covers 80 percent of tuition.
“This partnership is exemplary of academia and the arts advancing the future of human talent,” President Joseph Aoun told the University in an article announcing the partnership last week.
Before the program’s existence, Kristen Batista was faced with the tough decision of earning a degree or pursuing a professional career in dancing.
“Sometimes dance careers end even earlier due to injuries that don’t or won’t allow a dancer to return to that career, often leaving them with the dreaded question of what to do next,” said Batista, a Northeastern alumna and former Boston Ballet Company dancer. “When I was dancing, no one ever talked or discussed the dreaded proposition of ‘what’s next?’”
That question hit Batista when she partially tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the age of 14. A year of rehabilitation at a clinic made her realize that she needed a backup plan for her dream of becoming a professional ballerina.
According to Batista, attaining a degree “will help the dancer feel self worth after their career is over,” as there are more options available. “Being able to identify only with dance and nothing else can often be terrifying when all of that has ended or been taken away.”
She decided to apply to Northeastern, inspired by the therapists and Northeastern co-op students at the clinic. After a year of dancing with Boston Ballet as a professional ballerina in 2001, Batista attended Northeastern and graduated with a doctorate in physical therapy in 2008. Today, she has a small dance studio at her clinic where she helps local dancers rehabilitate.
“I knew that at Northeastern, getting a physical therapy degree was going to take me six years and I also knew that I didn’t want to go to school for six years after having a full professional dance career and being in my late 30s,” said Batista, who in the end choose a degree over her dancing career.
“This program would have been perfect had it been established when I was dancing so I could have continued dancing professionally and gotten a college education,” she said.
Like Batista, Northeastern student Nicole Gentilella had to choose between education and dance. The junior political science major ended up choosing to study a pre-law track over pursuing a major or minor in dance.
Although Gentilella did not pursue a professional dance career immediately like Batista, she has not abandoned dance. Gentilella, who started dance at the age of two and eventually won two national championships with the Broadway Bound Company among many other accomplishments, is the co-captain of Northeastern University Dance Team.
“I do believe I have made the right choice because I am currently earning a degree, while continuing to dance everyday,” Gentilella said. “I would like to take off a year or so between undergraduate and law school to do something more with dance. I have always dreamed of dancing professionally and I do hope to have the opportunity some day.”
The new partnership between the Boston Ballet Company and the university would give such flexibility to dancers, something that did not exist for Batista and Gentilella.
It is “an amazing and rare opportunity for young dancers in Boston,” Gentilella said. “This program will allow dancers to pursue their dreams, without sacrificing their education.”
So far, the program is limited to Boston Ballet dancers.
For current Northeastern students, Gentilella suggested that Northeastern offers a minor in dance so students can “continue the dream of dance, while still pursuing an education,” and eventually enjoy the two passions like Batista does.