Beyond a preschooler’s dance class, ballet can be inaccessible and stuffy. It’s a dance style steeped in tradition and rules, structure and decorum. Ballet INitiative is spinning away from that mindset and breathing new life into dance with their project-based dance collective.
Founded in 2020 by local professional dancers, the nonprofit group is seeking to modernize ballet to reflect the current social climate and public interests, by giving the dancers and artists more input into their art.
“We felt there was a need for a collective where our voices could be heard and we could all work together as an inclusive group to bring innovative, inspiring and inclusive dance performances to all within the community and beyond,” says executive director and co-founder Christina Voreis.
With a focus on innovation, inclusion and inspiration, Ballet INitiative is breaking the mold in Indianapolis. The company has envisioned updated versions of classic performances — like with their feminist 1920s Nutcracker — and is passionate about making ballet accessible to all, regardless of income or class, and building partnerships with local artists and organizations in Indy to broaden the artistic reach in our city.
Over the past three years, Ballet INitiative has launched several community programs aimed at making dance accessible and fun. They offer story time events, mini performances and master classes. As a nonprofit, this is one way they give back to the community. “Our dancers travel to various branches of the Indianapolis Public Library, as well as libraries in the surrounding areas, to read a dance book to the children and teach them a short dance lesson,” says Voreis, describing their story time events. They are also open to visiting schools, daycares and community centers.
In addition to their community programs, Ballet INitiative puts on several performances a year. “We hope that our audiences see and understand how putting in hard work can lead to something beautiful, and we hope the children in our audiences are inspired by this,” Voreis says.They recently wrapped Starry Nights, a retelling of fairy tales and myths told underneath the night sky.
The dance company will soon be casting for Nutcracker with a Twist, to be performed later this year. This hallmark ballet sets the classical Nutcracker story against the backdrop of Duke Ellington’s jazzy suite of Nutcracker music. “Our show incorporates all styles of dance, from classical ballet, to contemporary, hip-hop and even tap. You’ll enjoy tapping soldiers, whirling snowflakes and the Sugar Plum Fairy, along with Charlestons, flappers and, of course, jazz!” Voreis says. You can see Nutcracker with a Twist December 15-17, 2023, at The Basile Theatre at the historic Athenaeum in downtown Indianapolis.
Ballet INitiative isn’t just connecting with and inspiring children. The company has an ethos to nurture its performers, as well, whether they are balancing multiple jobs or multiple kids. The company prides itself on the fact that the performances always come together in the end, despite working around busy schedules, and even babies and children in the studio. Their support and flexibility make it possible for performers to stay engaged in ballet when otherwise hectic lives may have made that impossible. While they currently focus on adult performers, Ballet INitiative welcomes children to audition for Nutcracker with a Twist and are looking for more opportunities to include youth performers.
Ballet INitiative welcomes collaborators to support the group and are looking for dancers, teachers, choreographers, musicians, photographers, videographers and more. If you’re interested in learning more about their community programs or attending an upcoming performance, visit balletinitiative.org or follow them on social media.