Though there are many student dance groups at Brown, there has not been a club solely focused on ballet in the spotlight in the University’s performing arts scene. This semester, the newly formed Brown Ballet Company hopes to fill this vacancy.
Founded by dancers and ballet enthusiasts Sydney LeSon GS, Quynh Mai ’25 and Claudia Spelman ’24, the Brown Ballet Company aims to be an accessible outlet for eager beginners and experienced dancers alike. The club provides members with opportunities to learn classical ballet through technique classes all while choreographing and collaborating with their peers, according to the Company’s mission statement.
“There are a lot of students who want to do ballet, but either the classes don’t fit into their schedules or they just want to do more ballet than the classes offer,” Spelman said. She helped form the Company in hopes of creating more opportunities for students to learn ballet.
The Company held auditions recently and is currently in the process of creating a rehearsal schedule. They also hope to host monthly workshops open to anybody in the Brown community. These workshops will be targeted particularly toward beginners.
“A big part (of the club) is increasing accessibility to ballet … with our workshops throughout the semester, we hope to give people chances to take a casual class where it’s not super stressful or formal for them,” Mai added.
Even just “bringing a friend” to open workshops will help “bring more exposure to ballet,” Mai said. Spelman, LeSon and Mai anticipate that the company’s various sessions will help them evaluate where each member stands in terms of ballet experience and ensure that they are incorporating choreography and repertoire for all skill levels.
Hoping to become a campus staple for new and experienced dancers
The Company founders also hope to arrange their own shows, particularly a winter performance of The Nutcracker. The founders said that they want the event to become a seasonal tradition within the dance scene at Brown. Expected to be the Company’s main showcase, The Nutcracker will likely be cast through open auditions, inviting dancers outside the group to try out.
“We really wanted to … have it be a campus-wide showcase of dance tradition,” said Spelman.
Camille Donoho ’24, a prospective member of the Company and a long-time ballet dancer who has choreographed several Brown musicals, said she is grateful for the space to share her love for ballet and continue to learn the craft.
“There’s so much to learn in ballet … I’ve done it for years and I still feel like a beginner,” Donoho said. In addition to practicing and performing pieces regularly, she looks forward to “forming and introducing choreography.”
While she hopes to perform classical ballet, Donoho said she is also eager to try out more contemporary, unconventional styles and would like to push for more ballet-appropriate studio spaces on campus.
Smita Rajan ’24, another prospective member, shared that the audition she attended for the Company was quite welcoming, with the leaders going over combinations multiple times and encouraging auditionees to ask as many questions as they needed.
Despite several experienced dancers auditioning, Rajan felt that the Company avoided “a super competitive environment within the club.”
LeSon and Mai explained that ballet auditions are often stressful. They emphasized that the Company sought to minimize this pressure by being transparent about their expectations as well as encouraging auditionees to wear whatever they felt most comfortable in.
Potential for collaboration, future growth
Brown Ballet Company has made it a goal to work with other groups. LeSon felt that through several collaborative showcases, they would be able to “compliment other dancers … and not step on anyone’s toes by doing a similar style” of dance.
“I think it’s nice that some dancers took the initiative to start something where they noticed it was missing,” said Claire Yang ’25, a member of Fusion Dance Company and Ground Breakin’, a hip-hop dance club. “A lot of the groups now do kind of intersect or come close to ballet … if there’s an actual ballet group, that’ll be a more official thing and people will know where to look.”
Yang has had experience dancing in combined performances with groups, such as Mezcla and Daebak, and believes that “there is a lot of intersection” in Brown’s “super collaborative” dance space.
With Brown Ballet Company still growing and establishing its place on campus, dancers are hopeful about the group’s potential to bring its unique stylistic specialty to the performing arts community at Brown.
“I think it’s really great that we are such a niche part of the dance community, just because we are the only ballet-focused group (at Brown). Everyone who auditioned … really loves ballet,” Mai said. “They want to continue doing it (and it’s) an incredible privilege to be able to dance with people like that.”