College education ahead of a dancer’s final curtain call

Northeastern University and the Boston Ballet have created a comprehensive educational program to help professional ballet dancers earn college degrees and to prepare them for careers after dancing.

The innovative partnership, which was profiled by The Boston Globe, provides flexible and customized opportunities for Boston Ballet dancers to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees and to take advantage of experiential learning programs, including Northeastern’s renowned co-op model. The university will provide access to its robust infrastructure of academic courses and career coaching resources and work with qualified candidates to streamline the admissions and enrollment processes.

The first-in-the-nation initiative—called the Northeastern University-Boston Ballet Education Program—is backed by a combined gift from two Boston Ballet board members: chairman Jack R. Meyer and Henri Termeer. Meyer is the CEO Convexity Capital Management. Termeer is the former CEO and chairman of Genzyme Corporation and a pioneer in developing and delivering treatments for rare genetic diseases.

“Henri, Jack, and our institutions share a dedication to excellence, culture, education, and the growth of the human spirit,” said Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University. “This partnership is exemplary of academia and the arts advancing the future of human talent.”

Through the Northeastern University-Boston Ballet Education Program professional dancers will earn undergraduate or graduate degrees through the College of Professional Studies in disciplines of their choosing. A scholarship fund has been established to cover 80 percent of the tuition and costs for each of 16 company dancers starting this month. Dancers will be able to complete their undergraduate degrees in roughly six years.

The program also capitalizes on Northeastern’s leadership in developing hybrid, flexible degree programs designed to meet the individual needs and interests of talented professionals. Company dancers will take courses on campus, at the Boston Ballet, and online. They will also receive a range of experiential-learning opportunities—including co-op and internships—that align with their career goals.

Since its founding in 1963, Boston Ballet has evolved into one of the world’s leading ballet companies. It attracts dancers from around the globe–17 countries are currently represented.

While the dancers are at the very top of their profession, very few have college degrees. Northeastern’s commitment to global education, research, and experiences dovetails with the Ballet’s mission so the partnership between the two institutions complement each other well.

“The intense rehearsal and performance schedules of the dancers make it nearly impossible to earn a college degree,” said Meyer. “The Northeastern program provides the flexibility and coaching that will allow them to earn a degree while still dancing.”

“Northeastern is the perfect match for Boston’s Ballet,” said Termeer. “They are at the leading edge of flexible education and have gone all out to make this program a success. We are optimistic that our partnership will expand as we get to know one another.”

Mikko Nissinen, artistic director of Boston Ballet, is equally excited about the partnership. “We are all thrilled about this new collaboration with Northeastern. The opportunity is truly a dream come true for today’s professional dancer,” he said.

Boston Ballet executive director, Barry Hughson, also sees the partnership as crucial to the evolution of the dance business model, adding, “The future of our industry depends on the talent of our dancers. Our ability to attract, retain, and educate a world-class dance force will ensure the sustainability of not only Boston Ballet—but the arts industry as a whole.”