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Boston Ballet School creates professional ballet academy at Walnut Hill School for the Arts

Boston Ballet School and Walnut Hill School for the Arts are partnering to give pre-professional ballet dancers a premier dance academy experience.
Boston Ballet School and Walnut Hill School for the Arts are partnering to give pre-professional ballet dancers a premier dance academy experience.Rosalie O'Connor/courtesy of Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet School and the Walnut Hill School for the Arts on Tuesday announced a partnership designed to create the nation’s premiere all-inclusive professional ballet academy. Launching in fall 2020 at Walnut Hill in Natick, the academy will tap Boston Ballet School’s top educators and enroll the school’s best students, offering access to Walnut Hill School’s academic curriculum, and housing.

A year and a half in the making, the new partnership focuses exclusively on Boston Ballet School’s pre-professional division, currently made up of 81 students — the school’s smallest branch. The BBS is the official school of the Boston Ballet company and is among the largest ballet schools in the United States, enrolling more than 4,000 students at locations in Boston, Newton, and Marblehead.

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Margaret Tracey, who has served as the Boston Ballet School’s director since 2007, said the program’s aim is to get students into the professional world as quickly as possible.

“We are preparing students to enter the profession after they leave high school, not after they leave college,” she said. “Our students will get the full package, with the world-renowned education, housing, and community of Walnut Hill.”

Students who participate in this program will become members of the Walnut Hill student body and be exposed to other forms of arts education, which have been offered at Walnut Hill for over a century. Head of school Antonio Viva said that the opportunity will benefit more than the BBS students.

“All of our students will reap the benefits of a new and improved dance program, one of the oldest programs we offer at Walnut Hill," Viva said. "We hope to provide the Boston Ballet School’s students with more than housing and college prep, we plan to give them life training, where we equip young students to be citizens of the world.”

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Along with Tracey and Viva, Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen will spearhead the program’s first chapter. In a statement, Nissinen touted the chance students will have to receive a fully-rounded education alongside their rigorous ballet training.

Students ages 13 to 19 are eligible for Boston Ballet School’s pre-professional program, and acceptance is by audition only. The program has connections to the company itself, with many former students joining upon graduation.