Connecticut Ballet was founded in 1981 by choreographers Brett Raphael and Luk de Layress. Its official debut took place (under the company’s former title, Ballet Today) at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. In her New York Times review, Anna Kisselgoff called it ‘a very promising troupe.’ The company became a resident performing company at Stamford Center for the Arts in 1986. In 2005, the company expanded performances to Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and now calls Hartford its home base. In 2008, the company initiated a popular annual BALLET UNDER THE STARS series, providing free performances across the state.
Striving for continuous artistic growth, Artistic Director Brett Raphael has made the commissioning of new works by today’s choreographers a hallmark of the company’s repertoire alongside stagings of the great story ballets. Now numbering 100+ works, the repertoire spans the gamut from masterworks by Bob Fosse to George Balanchine to commissioned works from Darrell Grand-Moultrie to Lila York and Joseph Locarro.
The company has performed at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors Festival, New York’s Riverside Dance Festival, Cape Cod Performing Arts Festival, Harbourfront Festival in Toronto, Grand Central Station in New York City, Goat Island Dance Festival in Newport, Rhode Island, and many other venues. The list of guest artists who have appeared with the company reads like an encyclopedia of dance luminaries.
Throughout its history, the organization has presented educational assembly programs, conducted residencies and outreach classes in public schools, community centers, and residential treatment centers. It is estimated that over 300,000 students have attended such performances since 1991. With the support of The Tow Foundation, the organization began offering programming at the state's five juvenile detention centers in 2004, resulting in a seven-year contract with the Judicial Branch's Court Support Services Division.
The company's professional dancers are under seasonal contracts as are the many teaching artists engaged in community-based programs. Professional and volunteer staff work year-round to promote and produce the educational programs and public performances. The Friends of Connecticut Ballet comprise dance lovers who support the organization via annual fund appeals and special events during the season.