First State Ballet Theatre is a 501(c)(3) corporation, founded in 2000, whose mission is to bring the beauty and excitement of professional ballet performances to audiences throughout Delaware, to provide superb ballet training and performance opportunities to aspiring Delaware dancers and to educate the Delaware dance audience of the future.
The company has been highly successful artistically, educationally and financially and is Delaware’s busiest, most ubiquitous and most successful major performing arts company. Click here to learn more.
First State Ballet Theatre—A Brief History
First State Ballet Theatre—Delaware’s professional ballet company and the finest company in Delaware history—has written an unparalleled chapter of artistic, educational and financial achievement in Delaware dance history and is the only major Delaware performing arts company to present a statewide season with regular performances in theaters and schools in all three counties from Wilmington to the Beach.
In November 1999, two months after opening the Russian Ballet Centre in Newport’s Greystone Plaza, Pasha and Kristina Kambalov asked a group of friends to serve as the board of directors for a new 501 (c)(3) ballet company and asked Robert Grenfell to lead the company.
The fledgling board made two key decisions, which have guided the company to this day. They chose the name First State Ballet Theatre to signal that they intended to be a ballet company for the entire state and they adopted a family-friendly pricing policy to enable families to enjoy the beauty and excitement of their art form. They also defined a Delaware-centered mission to bring the beauty and excitement of ballet performances to audiences throughout Delaware, to provide superb ballet training and performance opportunities to aspiring Delaware dancers and to educate the Delaware dance audience of the future.
Key to the company’s growth and success from its earliest days has been annual pro bono professional support of up to $150,000 in disciplines including accounting, architecture, auditing, business management, construction management, costuming, engineering, fine arts, graphic design, legal services, marketing, medical services, photography, public relations, set construction, web design and others.
From its first performance of the beloved ballet Coppélia at the University of Delaware’s Mitchell Hall in May 2000, FSBT continued to mount stellar new productions and to seek new venues. The company began its statewide expansion in October 2002 with a mixed rep performance at Delaware Tech’s Georgetown campus followed months later by the Nutcracker. Now in its 13th year, FSBT’s Nutcracker is the longest running production in Sussex County.
In early 2003, the company was invited to relocate to Wilmington’s Grand Opera House. With funding from the City of Wilmington, the Longwood and Welfare Foundations and individuals, they designed and built beautiful, state-of-the-art studios. From their new home at the Grand, the company later expanded its performing presence throughout the state to venues in Arden, Talleyville, Greenville, Wilmington, Newark, Middletown, Smyrna, Dover, Georgetown, Lewes and Selbyville.
Careful financial management enabled FSBT to accumulate a nest egg to launch a professional company in September 2008. They began the 2008-09 season with 10 dancers and have grown the roster every year to the current 22 dancers.
From its earliest years, FSBT has initiated collaborations with other performing arts companies and individual artists including the Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Shakespeare Festival, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Shaun Dougherty, the Mastersingers of Wilmington, OperaDelaware, Charles Parks, 6ixwire Project, SPARX and the Wilmington Children’s Chorus. In its Kent and Sussex County performances, the company has partnered with the Dance Conservatory in Dover, Cheryl’s Dance Alley in Milford and the Sussex Dance Academy of Georgetown and Rehoboth Beach.
Its Delaware premieres have included Giselle, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. World premieres have included three major ballets by Viktor Plotnikov—Everlasting Arms, based on the sculpture of Charles Parks, Nonsense in the Sense of innocence and The Adventures of Pinocchio. In 2014 the company presented, Irene, an all-Delaware collaboration with Wilmington-based composer, guitarist and teacher Shaun Dougherty.
Mindful of the need to educate the Delaware dance audience of the future, FSBT inaugurated four educational outreach programs, which have introduced thousands of students to ballet. Its DanceWorks! partnership with the Grand provides free ballet instruction and a year-end performance to elementary and pre-school students in downtown Wilmington: its annual “Once Upon a Ballet” lecture demonstration and performance has become part of the Grand’s “Stages of Discovery” children’s matinee series; the company’s scholarship program serves beginning ballet students with talent and documented financial need and FSBT’s artistic residencies and performances have thrilled students at Albert Einstein Academy, St. Andrews School, Cab Calloway School for the Arts, Cape Henlopen H.S., the Tatnall School, Wilmington Friends School and Wilmington Montessori School.
The company’s many awards include a 2006 Wilmingtonian Award, given to FSBT’s leaders by Mayor James M. Baker.
In the future, First State Ballet Theatre’s will continue to:
Deliver a high quality artistic product
Increase the number of productions, performances and venues throughout Delaware
Increase its educational outreach work
Create and live within a realistic budget
Broaden financial support from corporations, foundations, government and individuals
Create a paid management staff
First State Ballet Theatre is proud of its artistic, educational and financial achievements and looks forward to bringing the beauty and excitement of this extraordinary art form to future generations of Delawareans.