Ballet Teaches More Than Dance

New Haven Ballet offers various programs for dancers of all ages and backgrounds. The only prerequisite is a commitment to dance.

DanceAIR participants from New Haven Public Schools. Photo credit: Thomas Giroir / Courtesy of New Haven Ballet

As a nonprofit, community-based dance school, New Haven Ballet (NHB) offers classical ballet training to many throughout the City of New Haven.

"We provide the highest caliber of classical ballet training in the region," says Artistic Director Lisa Sanborn.

Boasting a roster of 500 students, from 3 – 18 years old, some of these students practice up to 6 days a week perfecting their skills.

"They are tremendous athletes. They cross-train, very seriously, but they're also artists," says Sanborn. "It's really something very special that we are looking for in these students."

While classical ballet training is at the core of the programs, "the training is augmented by a rich diversity of workshops and classes that range from character, contemporary, choreography, partnering, conditioning, and stretch, to nutrition for dancers, injury prevention, and Pilates," according to

The Children's Division offers classes to dancers, ages 3 to 7 years old, and the Student Division offers classes to those 8 – 18 years of age. In addition, there is an Adult Open Division offering classes, on a drop-in basis, to anyone age 12 and up. Currently, a 93-year-old woman takes classes twice a week.

Sanborn stresses that NHB works very hard to include everyone and anyone in the New Haven community that is interested and committed to working hard to learn classical ballet. With this in mind, they offer need-based scholarships to anyone interested in studying with them.

"Every school offers merit scholarships," says Sanborn. "What's different about New Haven Ballet is that we offer these financial aid scholarships.

"So anyone that comes to the school, in the student division, that says they are committed to ballet, they really want to come and study in our school, but they can't afford the tuition, we supplement it," she adds.

Over the years NHB has received funding from many sources, including The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven's Arts Fund established in 1980. Another support from The Foundation has come from sponsorship grants for events, The Great Give® 36-hr online giving event, and the David T. Langrock Old Masters Art Fund.

NHB also offers outreach programs that include DanceAIR and the Shared Ability program.

DanceAIR (see photo above) offers classical dance classes for students in grades 2, 3, and 4 at New Haven Public Schools, including Fair Haven School, Columbus Family Academy, John S. Martinez School, Lincoln Bassett School, Davis Elementary School, Roberto Clemente School, and Quinnipiac Elementary School.

Twice a week NHB faculty travel to the schools and teach the same curriculum and quality of dance offered to all students who train with NHB. The culmination of these classes is a performance at the Fair Haven School.

Complete financial aid packages are offered to these students that cover dancewear, travel stipends to cover bus passes, registration and performance fees, and tickets for families who wish to attend the performance.

"They have a chance, the following year, to become fully integrated into the school and train here at New Haven Ballet," says Sanborn.

The Shared Ability choreography project is available for differently abled children ages 10-21 years and is totally run by NHB students, who fit this in after their own personal training.

"They come in at 9 o'clock in the morning, on a Saturday, they take class, they rehearse all day long, and then the very last hour and half of their day they volunteer their time to spend with differently abled students to facilitate a dance program," explains Sanborn.

Offering ballet programs to all and any individuals who have an interest is extremely important to Sanborn.

"This has just been my lifelong passion," she says. "To have an opportunity to share my passion with as many people in the City of New Haven, as possible, it's beyond words.

"It feels like a huge responsibility, but I am so tremendously honored and just overwhelmed by the response that we get."

For more information about the New Haven Ballet, please visit their profile on®.

Did you know?

A 120 lb. professional female dancer who takes a 1 1/2 hour ballet class in the morning and rehearsals for 4-6 hours before an evening performance needs an estimated 2100-2500 calories depending on how strenuous the rehearsals and performance.


This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.