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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Boston Ballet

Discover the latest updates on this important institution-wide work in progress.

Boston Ballet is deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of the organization in order to realize our vision of a company, school, and community that is truly welcoming to all.
 

Land Acknowledgement

Boston Ballet acknowledges that we gather on the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples, namely the Pawtucket. We give our gratitude to the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations. We acknowledge the painful history of genocide and forced removal from this territory, and we honor and respect the many diverse Indigenous peoples still connected to this land on which we gather. We recognize this as a part of our core belief in the transformative power of dance and our commitment to educating, enriching, and healing our community.

For information on resources and services provided by the Commission on Indian Affairs of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, please visit the Commission on Indian Affairs, State of MA.
 

Definition of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is central to realizing Boston Ballet’s mission to inspire, empower, and deepen community through dance. Our goal is to be relevant to and reflective of the community we serve; recognize value in all voices; create welcoming experiences that connect, inspire, and enrich our community; communicate with honesty, clarity and transparency; and listen carefully to one another in order to honor our varying perspectives and lived experiences. 

At Boston Ballet, diversity is respecting the intersection of varied differences and identities in our society, including but not limited to: race, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, religion, nationality, culture, socio-economic status, and parental status. We define equity as the quality of being just, impartial, transparent, and fair to ensure everyone has equal opportunity in all levels of the organization—on and off stage. Inclusion means building a culture of belonging by engaging all voices in our organization and community.
 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan

Boston Ballet is committed to creating internal organizational systems, processes, structures, and cultures that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive. We believe in taking intentional and actionable steps to address systemic racism, elitism, and exclusion in our organization, our industry, and our community.

Organizational change is ongoing and iterative. Following a ten-week period of organization-wide conversations and learnings, Boston Ballet is forming cross-functional teams who will help implement and sustain recommended actions as well as future iterations and improvements. Focusing on four critical areas, priorities include the following:

Employee Infrastructure

  • Develop a new, institution-wide DEI training plan in order to level-set all internal constituents.

  • Implement Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) assessments for all Senior Leaders.

  • Revise existing code of conduct and protocol for reporting breaches and deploy a new “Take 5” process for immediately and transparently addressing issues that arise in the rehearsal studio.


Communications and Engagement

  • Continue full-organization town halls as an ongoing opportunity for two-way dialogue and engagement. 

  • Determine opportunities for foreign language translation to support multi-lingual internal and external communications.


Governance

  • More clearly articulate role for all Board Committees in DEI ambitions and goals, including Trusteeship, which plays a critical role in recruiting leaders for Board service. 

  • Convene ad-hoc board committee to help develop a new, human capital dashboard for the organization.


Vision, Values, and Strategic Planning

  • Collect feedback, questions, and input on a new version of Boston Ballet’s Vision and Values Statement at all upcoming Board and organizational meetings. 

  • Develop strategic ways to make Education & Community Initiative programming more inclusive by more closely aligning with Artistic canon.


Implemented Actions

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee
In service of Boston Ballet’s mission, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Steering Committee was launched in 2020 to assist the full organization with meaningful, essential growth. 
 
The DEI Steering Committee is co-chaired by Board of Trustees Vice Chair Alison Quirk and BBS Managing Director Dave Czesniuk with Executive Sponsorship from Executive Director Max Hodges and Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. The committee includes members from across the organization’s staff, artists, faculty, orchestra, board, and senior leadership. 
 
The committee was charged with examining Boston Ballet’s mission, programs, and business to identify and implement improvements in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. If you have suggestions or feedback related to this work, please email dei@bostonballet.org.

The Equity Project
In 2018, Boston Ballet announced that it joined The Equity Project, a partnership program with Dance Theatre of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance, and Dance/USA. This project brought together a cohort of artistic and executive leaders from 21 professional ballet organizations across North America for in-person meetings and coaching, with the purpose of increasing diversity in all areas of ballet. As part of this project, Boston Ballet dedicated a cross-departmental senior team to examine all facets of hiring, training, audience engagement, and student experience. 

Dance Education for All
Established in 1991, Citydance annually provides up to 3,000 third grade students from more than 130 Boston Public School Classrooms with a tuition-free introduction to dance and ballet. Our approach cultivates an appreciation of movement, enhances cultural awareness, and fosters creativity and self-expression. 
 
ECI on Location partners with Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston and community centers to provide hundreds of students with tuition-free dance education. In addition, all ECI on Location students have opportunities during the year to attend free Boston Ballet performances at the Citizens Bank Opera House. 
 
Since 2002, the Adaptive Dance Program has provided creative movement instruction for individuals with disabilities ages 2 through adult. Classes are taught by expert faculty and supported by licensed physical therapists and professional musicians. Students can engage and explore in a safe and supported student environment as they develop movement, musicality, and personal growth. 

In 2019, in order to promote a more inclusive and student-centered school environment, Boston Ballet School revised its dress code to allow students to self-select a tight, slipper, and pointe shoe color that best matches their natural skin tone or in which they feel most comfortable. Learn more about changes specifically at Boston Ballet School from Director Margaret Tracey. 

ChoreograpHER Initiative
In 2018, Boston Ballet launched the ChoreograpHER Initiative, which creates opportunities for female students and professional dancers to develop their choreographic skills by investing in the creation and staging of new works by female artists.  

2020-2021 Season
Boston Ballet is committed to increasing historically underrepresented artistic voices on the main stage. This season, the ChoreograpHER program and Stephen Galloway’s world premiere as part of the Off the Chart program are highlights of that commitment.  

New England’s beloved holiday tradition, The Nutcracker, will be brought to more audiences of all ages than ever before through an exclusive broadcast partnership with NBC10 Boston, NECN, and Spanish-language Telemundo.  

Color Our Future Mentorship Program
Launched in November 2020, the Color Our Future Mentoring Program provides pre-professional ballet students a space to continue exploring conversations related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts. The goal for the program is to serve as a bridge between the professional and educational components of Boston Ballet and the performing arts world, empower our next generation to take actionable steps in their own environments, and help shape the future of the arts with an eye toward DEI. 

Institutional Language
Boston Ballet recognizes the ongoing need to reevaluate language through the lens of DEI. Considering the words’ historical connection to slavery, our “Board of Advisors” has been renamed to remove the term “Overseer,” and the role of “Rehearsal Director” has been renamed to remove the term “Master.”
 

Additional Resources

Boston Ballet’s Education and Community Initiatives (ECI) department has created the ECI Toolbox highlighting educational materials on racial equity and justice in dance and our communities. 

A collection compiled by Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (MOB Ballet) and The Equity Project is also available.

Our artist/athletes are always pushing themselves to the edge. That passion and energy is what makes watching them so exhilarating.

Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director
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