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Kathleen Breen Combes to retire from Boston Ballet, become executive director of Festival Ballet Providence

Kathleen Breen Combes of Boston Ballet in George Balanchine’s “Serenade.”Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy of Boston Ballet

Kathleen Breen Combes, a star of Boston Ballet who has earned acclaim everywhere from Boston to New York and London, is retiring from the company after 16 years to become the new executive director of Festival Ballet Providence.

The principal dancer’s final performance — in Paulo Arrais’s “ELA, Rhapsody in Blue” — is scheduled for June 9.

“This job was kind of a catalyst, and I was waiting for something that I felt really passionate about, and it came about and it just felt like the perfect time,” Breen Combes, 37, told the Globe on Monday. “This is a good reason to end, and I feel really good about where my career is right now. It just really worked out perfectly.”


During her tenure at Boston Ballet, Breen Combes received a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from Northeastern University. She had always been interested in the organizational and administrative side of Boston Ballet, she said, and while on maternity leave in 2015-16 she began to work with the company’s artistic administrative staff.

“This is an exciting new chapter for all of us and I’m delighted to welcome Kathleen to this role,” Festival Ballet Providence artistic director Mihailo Djuric said in a statement. “I have known her for many years, both on and off stage, and I admire the intelligence, creativity, and charm she brings to everything she does.”

“I’m grateful for the experience she was able to gain at Boston Ballet both on and off stage and I know she will use her many talents to bring a fresh energy and enthusiasm to this role,” Djuric added.

As a dancer, Breen Combes has been hailed by critics for her brilliant technique, expressivity, and flair — “a ballerina of colossal scale and boldness,” wrote New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay.


Breen Combes said her long-term experience as a ballerina with one company will help give perspective and insight to her work in a leadership position.

“As much as my education is really important, I think that I have learned so much as a ballet dancer that is transferable to this new role,” Breen Combes said. “I’ve spent so many years performing under pressure. I’ve had to make split-second decisions onstage. I’ve learned about dedication, resiliency, working in a team, being a leader, and also getting feedback and applying that immediately.”

She said her enthusiasm for her new role is bolstered by “the fact that I absolutely love this art form.”

“It’s not just a job for me,” she said. “This has been my life’s passion.”

Lillian Brown can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lilliangbrown.