Festival Ballet Providence Is Now Ballet Rhode Island
Festival Ballet Providence has announced a major rebranding effort, starting with a name change. As of today, the company is officially Ballet Rhode Island, or Ballet RI for short. The new name is part of a wider effort to build stronger ties across the state of Rhode Island and renew its artistic mission.
According to Ballet RI director Kathleen Breen Combes, a company rebrand has been discussed internally for years. “In some of my first meetings with the board, it was on the top of their priority list,” says Breen Combes, a former Boston Ballet principal who came on as executive director in 2019. (She took on dual executive and artistic leadership duties in 2021, when Mihailo Djuric, the company’s previous artistic director, retired.) A combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the company’s leadership changes put those rebranding ideas on hold, she adds. “Coming out of the pandemic, as we looked ahead at our strategic plan, the board and I felt that this was the right time to take the next step.”
The name change is in part to avoid confusion. “People kept asking us when the festival was,” Breen Combes says with a laugh. “Festival Ballet felt transient, and I don’t think people understood that we were a resident ballet company. They would get us confused with civic or nonprofessional companies in the area.”
She hopes the new name will also help extend Ballet RI’s reach beyond Providence. “Rhode Island is really interesting and quite small—it would be silly not to embrace the whole state,” she says. “We have cities like Newport and Westerly, and tourists who come in the summer who are interested in arts and culture.” Over the years, the company has made efforts to serve more communities across Rhode Island, including its establishment in 2022 as the resident company of Westerly’s United Theatre.
The company also released its 2023–24 season announcement today, which includes works by José Limón, Balanchine, Trey McIntyre, Katarzyna Kozielska, and world premieres by artistic curator Yury Yanowsky. Breen Combes says Ballet RI’s rebrand extends to its artistic mission, which includes bringing performances and educational programs to communities that have long faced barriers to access. “It’s really about how are we reimagining ballet,” says Breen Combes. “We want to keep the integrity of the art form but modernize how we’re approaching it and talking about it and presenting it.”