Ballet Theatre Of Maryland Receives Funding From The National Endowment For The Arts

This grant will support BTM's community outreach and arts education programs.

By: Jan. 25, 2023
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Ballet Theatre of Maryland has announced it has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to receive a Challenge America award of $10,000. This grant will support BTM's community outreach and arts education programs. This grant is one of 262 Challenge America awards totaling $2.62 million that were announced by the NEA as part of its first round of fiscal year 2023 grants.

"The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects in communities nationwide," said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD. "Projects such as this one with Ballet Theatre of Maryland strengthen arts and cultural ecosystems, provide equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, and contribute to the health of our communities and our economy."

According to BTM Artistic Director Nicole Kelsch, "This project represents our commitment as an arts institution to look outward toward the wellbeing of our community. Oftentimes, arts education can seem available only to the most privileged. To counteract this, we feel responsible for increasing access and inclusion for underserved communities in Anne Arundel County with lasting, long-term programs. As we know from our own experiences, involvement in pursuits like ballet can make a significant difference in children's social skills, physical fitness, and sense of self-expression."

The NEA award builds upon BTM's current community outreach programs, which provide under-resourced students with dance classes as well as necessary supplies such as shoes and ballet barres. Recent beneficiaries have participated in classes through Annapolis Boys and Girls Club, Gigi's Playhouse, and other local community centers. Additionally, students will receive tickets and transportation to attend performances by the professional company.

To learn more about BTM's performances, academy classes, and community outreach, visit balletmaryland.org. For more information on other projects included in the NEA's grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

Ballet Theatre of Maryland, founded in 1978, is designated as Maryland's premier professional ballet company and conservatory and has a long history performing at venues throughout the state. The company is comprised of 23 professional dancers, 15 apprentices, and 17 trainees. Professional faculty members of the Conservatory of Dance are current in their field, most with degrees or certifications in dance education. The conservatory offers a full curriculum of classes in ballet, jazz, modern, tap, partnering, and conditioning while providing students with professional performance opportunities. For more information about BTM, please visit www.balletmaryland.org or call (410) 224-5654.

Nicole Kelsch received her early training from Peter and Kristin Degnan at Ballet Northeast in Pennsylvania. She also received training from Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet Austin, Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts, and Princeton Ballet. Nicole graduated from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Ballet Performance in three years. Upon graduation, she danced professionally with Columbia City Ballet, Atlanta Festival Ballet, and Connecticut Ballet.

In 2006, Nicole joined The Ballet Theatre of Maryland as an apprentice under the direction of Dianna Cuatto. She was promoted to Principal Dancer in 2008 and throughout her career was featured as Clara and The Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the Firebird in The Firebird, Swanhilda in Coppelia, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, as a Principal in Antony Tudor's Continuo, the Principal Couple in Italian Symphonette, Titania and Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Magdalena in An American Southwest Carmen, Cinderella in Cinderella, Guinevere in Excalibur, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Pearl in The Little Mermaid, and has performed the Don Quixote Pas de Deux.

In 2008, after having served on the faculty for two years, Nicole became the School Principal for The Ballet Theatre of Maryland Conservatory. She was named the Ballet Mistress for the company in 2015. Nicole retired from performing in March 2020 and became the Artistic Director in July 2020. She successfully led the company through a full 2020-2021 performing season at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, staging performances of Edward Stewart's Dracula, Dianna Cuatto's The Nutcracker, An American Southwest Carmen, and The Little Mermaid.



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