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Small Ballet Companies: Uncovering Hidden Gems of the Dance World

Robert Fulton - Feb. 21, 2024, 2:41 a.m.

In the vast landscape of the ballet industry, where the limelight often shines on the largest and most prestigious companies, small ballet companies emerge as hidden gems offering rich, diverse, and intimate dance experiences. Not every dancer will find their place in the top 50 renowned companies, but the United States alone is home to around 800 dance companies, each with unique opportunities for growth, performance, and artistic exploration.

Small ballet companies, typically consisting of under 25 dancers, provide a nurturing environment where emerging professional and pre-professional dancers can thrive. These companies stand out not only for their size but for the unique opportunities they offer. Dancers may find themselves performing more frequently, tackling featured roles, exploring a variety of movement styles, and participating in exciting, innovative projects that might not be available in larger settings.  They are excellent additions to your audition season.

Why Small Companies Matter

Small companies like Avant Chamber Ballet, New Orleans Ballet Theatre, and Festival Ballet Providence are making significant impacts in their communities and the dance world at large. They're praised for their dynamic repertoires that range from contemporary choreography to classical ballets with a modern twist. For instance, Festival Ballet Providence, with its core company of under 20 artists, recently wowed audiences with "Pure Dance," a performance that included world premieres and technically challenging pieces.

Unionization and Growth

Interestingly, some small companies have recently unionized, adding a layer of security and professionalism for their dancers. St. Louis Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Ballet Idaho, and even the larger Texas Ballet Theater have joined the ranks of unionized companies, signaling a shift towards better conditions and recognition for dancers at all levels.

The Importance of Being Informed

For dancers and their families plotting a career path, understanding the landscape of small ballet companies is invaluable. These companies not only offer a chance to perform and grow but also contribute to a dancer's career longevity by providing diverse experiences and roles. Websites like the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) offer resources to see which companies are unionized, helping dancers make informed decisions about their future.

Global Perspectives

Looking beyond the U.S., companies like Ballet do Douro in Portugal show that innovation and excellence in ballet are not confined to major global cities. These companies are redefining classical ballets with local flair and bringing fresh perspectives to the stage.

A Community Effort

The discussion around small ballet companies is vibrant and ongoing, with dancers and enthusiasts eagerly sharing their finds and experiences. From American Repertory Ballet's leadership to the community-supported Sarasota Ballet, it's clear that these organizations offer more than just dance performances; they're integral parts of their communities, providing cultural enrichment and artistic innovation.

In conclusion, small ballet companies offer a world of opportunities for dancers and audiences alike. They are pivotal in shaping the careers of emerging dancers, offering them the stage to hone their craft, perform varied repertoires, and step into roles that challenge and inspire. As the ballet world continues to evolve, these companies prove that size does not define the quality or impact of a ballet company. Instead, it's the passion, creativity, and community engagement that truly make a company stand out.  Make sure to give yourself options this audition season and don't count out the small companies!