THE STATE BALLET OF RHODE ISLANDOur History

The State Ballet of Rhode Island (SBRI) was founded in 1960. Through the efforts of Herci and Myles Marsden and a group of sixty enthusiastic Rhode Islanders, it has come to serve as a creative outlet for many composers, musicians, writers, painters, lighting technicians, costume designers, and choreographers, as well as dancers.

1960’s

  • November 19, 1960 - SBRI has its premiere performance in Rhode Island at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

  • Coppelia has its premiere in Rhode Island in 1962 before an enthusiastic crowd.

  • SBRI represents the State several times at the New York World’s Fair and Eastern States Expositions.

  • In the interest of cultural exchange, SBRI receives a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities to invite Croatian choreographer/dancer Oskar Harmos to assist SBRI in staging the first American production of Stranger (1968).

  • Isobel Harris Sheppard composes Ballet from Another Planet for SBRI. First performance is on the ocean rocks in Turnberry, Narragansett (August 1965).

  • George Hirst, a Rhode Island composer, writes Marche for Herci Marsden, SBRI.

  • SBRI dances at the State House’s annual observances of Lincoln’s Birthday in the 1960’s.

  • At the annual University of Rhode Island Arts Festival, SBRI performs Destiny on April 27, 1965 in Kingston, RI.

  • For the first time in Rhode Island, SBRI performs Giselle to an overflowing audience at Veterans Memorial Auditorium (1964). World-famous Anton Dolin is guest choreographer and also plays Hilarion in the production.

  • Capacity audiences see SBRI perform at the Diamond Hill Music Festivals, beginning in 1965.

  • SBRI performs Destiny at the first Performing Arts Festival with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in 1967.

  • SBRI performances are featured at many civic events, including the State House Rotunda and at the 325th Anniversary of the City of Providence at Brown Stadium.

  • In 1969, SBRI participates in the filming of a television show for Channel 36 at Rhode Island College.

1970’s

  • Over the decade, SBRI introduces to Rhode Islanders such giants in its traditional repertoire, such as GiselleCoppelia, Romeo and JulietCinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty. Guest choreographers Anton Dolin, Oskar Harmos, Joseph Levinhoff, and Mia Slavenska interpret their work, supervise rehearsals, and lend their presence on the stage. Harmos performs the role of the Stranger in his ballet Stranac, and Dolin appears as King Claudius in Hamlet and Hilarion in Giselle.

  • SBRI performs FaustAidaMerry WidowLa Traviata, and Carmen with Providence’s Opera Theatre and performs with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra in the production of Carmina Burana.

  • The Company of 57 packs its costumes, scenery, and equipment and travels to Croatia, by invitation from the Croatian government (1970).

  • Guest choreographer and Artistic Advisor for The State Ballet, Sir Anton Dolin, and John Gilpin, London Festival Ballet, choreograph the famous Pas de Quatre for SBRI. It premiered in 1978.

1980’s

  • The full-length story ballet Sylvia - The Nymph of Diana is performed for the first time in the United States, choreographed by SBRI’s Artistic Director, Herci Marsden.

  • In front of sold-out crowds, SBRI performs several short works at Bryant College’s 125th Anniversary Celebration.

  • As guests of RI School of Design in 1989, SBRI performs at the RISD Museum’s, An Informal History of Dance in Rhode Island, presenting several short ballet works with commendable performances.

1990’s

  • SBRI is commissioned by the South County Center for the Arts to perform the full length story ballet Coppelia at South Kingstown High School in February 1990. The performance is a sold-out crowd pleaser. The company is asked to return the following year for another successful performance.

  • Margaret Buechner, a composer from Michigan, commissions Herci Marsden to choreograph with SBRI the World Premiere Fairy Tale Ballet Phantomgreen, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, The Princess and the Pea. Ms. Buechner writes this original story, music, and libretto. A compact disc of Phantomgreen is currently available in the United States and Europe. Two of SBRI’s principal dancers appear on the cover of the compact disc. An insert that accompanies the disc states that choreographer, Herci Marsden, premiered Phantomgreen and it is performed by SBRI.

  • In November 1991, the Student Activities Office of the University of Rhode Island invites SBRI and Artistic Director, Herci Marsden, to perform the full length classic Giselle. The event was sold out.

  • On July 27, 1995, SBRI appointed Artistic Associate and member of the New York City Ballet, Richard Anton Marsden, to return to his hometown theater Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI, where he received standing ovations for his performance. This event, sponsored in part by SBRI, was a celebration of pride, support, and a Marsden Family success story.

  • On August 3, 1995, Ms. Marsden, along with other SBRI members appears on ABC’s Good Morning America.

  • On May 10, 1996, SBRI members perform the RI premiere of Two’s Company, a ballet directed and choreographed by Toni Pimble, Artistic Director of the Eugene Ballet Company, Oregon.

  • SBRI’s annually performs and visits at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, RI bringing well-known fairytale characters to life. The experiences are rewarding and meaningful for the dancers, the young patients and their families.

  • Citizen’s Bank proudly sponsors several of SBRI’s Project Ballet in Education Cultural Enrichment Performances children performances.

  • SBRI premieres of Ballet Ireland and La Esmeralda in spring of 1999.

2000’s

  • SBRI performs at annual Holiday events such as ‘The Festival of Giving,’ the Town of Lincoln’s ‘Festival of Lights,’ and The Lincoln Mall’s Holiday Celebrations.

  • SBRI Alumna Principal Dancer and Executive Director, Ana Marsden Fox, premieres her choreographed, eclectic ballet, “Les Pieds.”

  • SBRI is filmed by National Geographic for its TV series, Jellyfish, aired on PBS, 2001.

  • 41st Season of The State Ballet opens with premiere of Ballet Espagnol.

  • SBRI annually participates in the RI Health and Fitness Expo at the RI Convention Center, demonstrating healthy lifestyles and positive community involvement.

  • SBRI performs at the annual Robert Mondavi Festival of the Vine WaterFire events, On the Corner of Art and Vine, at WaterPlace Park.

  • In June 2003, SBRI hosts its first Partner with the Arts, an event which welcomes business and community leaders to explore opportunities to partner with SBRI.

  • SBRI performs at Trinity Repertory Company’s Holiday Open House in December of 2003.

  • Ballet West and Les Bras premiers in May of 2004, created by Ana Marsden Fox.

  • RI premieres of Cherokee, Boys Will Be Boys, and Goddesses of the Vine in May, 2005.

  • Summertime, a solo variation danced to music from the opera, Porgy and Bess, is premiered by resident choreographer and SBRI alumna, Shana Fox. The piece marked the choreographer’s official launch as a SBRI resident choreographer.

  • SBRI hosts its 5th annual “Partner with the Arts” event on the outdoor garden-surrounded stage at SBRI’s grounds, and performs with Mike Lyons and The Blue Moon Orchestra.

  • Coppelia is honored with a Motif Magazine Theatre Award – ‘Recognized for Excellence in the 2008 Motif Theatre Awards Reader’s Poll & Voted - Best Dance Production.’

  • In May 2008, Gansel and Hetal is premiered by Ana Marsden Fox, and a revival of Claire de Lune is created by Mia Nocera Godbout, both SBRI alumni principal dancers and resident choreographers.

  • The 2008-2009 season began with a revival of SBRI’s Project Ballet Coffee Hour From Studio to Stage, a four-series, family-friendly event of how a ballet is created including music, lecture and a visual performance.

  • Three of SBRI’s resident choreographers, Mark Marsden, Mia Nocera Godbout, and Shana Fox collaborate to produce an electrifying world premiere ballet, Gracefully Gershwin. The piece is funded partially by a RISCA grant.

  • For the second year in a row, Coppelia is named ‘The Professional Semi-Pro Best Dance Production’ during the 2009 Motif Theatre Awards readers’ poll.

2010’s

  • In May 2013, SBRI Resident Choreographer, Shana Fox, collaborates with Rhode Island composer, Noreen Inglesi, and creates the world premiere ballet, Dance of the Firefly which debuted on the Company’s outdoor stage during the annual Wine Tasting Soiree in front of a sold out crowd.

  • SBRI’s Principal Dancer, Mark Marsden, is voted RI’s 2013 ‘Principal Dancer of the Year’ by Motif Magazine. Also nominated in that category was his partner, Principal Dancer Peg Chobanian.

  • SBRI’s 2013 ballet premiere of Dance of the Firefly is voted 2013 Dance Production of the Year by Motif Magazine.

  • In March of 2014, SBRI premiered Mark Marsden’s ballet Train, and Ana Marsden’s Hegnar & Buck to the music of Rhode Island’s Noreen Inglesi.

  • SBRI celebrated its Emerald Season in 2014-2015, starting with the 9th Annual Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Research Foundation Flames of Hope Waterfire Event and followed by the Rhode Island tradition of Coppelia.

  • Spring 2015 brought with it the large-scale, full length production A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which later won Motif Magazine’s ‘Production of the Year’ Award.

  • On June 12th, 2015 SBRI also collaborated with Paul M. Cote and The Vernal Arts and Music Festival to produce Lest We Forget to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

  • On October 3rd, SBRI performed in the 10th Annual Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope Waterfire Event, choreographed by Shana Fox, closing with a firework display.