New Bedford Ballet School Springs Back To Its Feet

By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Ballet — where hundreds and hundreds of children and dozens of adults have practiced the art of dance — was homeless and near death last summer, but today will soar with a ribbon-cutting at its new home.
Children, parents, teachers and supporters will gather with Mayor Scott W. Lang to mark the school’s move to new quarters at 2343 Purchase St. A public open house is planned from 2 to 6 p.m., with the ribbon cutting at 2:30 p.m.
The school was saved from closing by the determination of Terri DeMedeiros of New Bedford, who heads the New Bedford Ballet Foundation. She found allies at the New Bedford Economic Development Council, specifically Angela Johnston and Matthew A. Morrissey. Parents of students and friends of ballet ranging from a real estate agent to an electrician and a plumber also helped out, as did property owner Henry Wainer from the family that operates Sid Wainer & Sons Specialty Produce on Purchase Street.
“We persevered; we provided connections. It is a little story that is really quite large because of what it does for the creative economy,” Ms. Johnston said.
Shirley Kayne, the New Bedford Ballet’s founder and artistic director, had operated the school for 11 years as a for-profit entity. Last August, the school found itself with a new landlord, a proposed dramatic rent increase for its former County Street quarters and what seemed the only option: closing.
“Shirley saw it was impossible to go on” in the circumstances she was facing, Ms. DeMedeiros said, and in August decided to close. “Stubborn as I am, I said I cannot close the foundation.” Ms. DeMedeiros said she had been involved with Ms. Kayne for 22 years, first meeting her when a stepdaughter took dancing lessons.
“Arts do not make much money. We were looking all over the place; it was hard to find something we could afford,” Ms. DeMedeiros said. One factor that made the search more complicated was the need for enough space to teach dance.
The school has about 120 students ages 3 to 17 along with a smattering of adults.
Ms. DeMedeiros said she was driven in part knowing the school had taught more than 2,000 students over the years, by her estimate, including students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. In addition, she said, the school provides training in “true classical ballet techniques” and free performances at a very high level.
Mr. Wainer, she said, provided a big boost with the space. Parents — including her husband, who did much of the construction work — also provided much volunteer work that kept the project on track at a low cost.
Although the for-profit school closed in August, Ms. DeMedeiros said the foundation stayed engaged and now will operate the school.
The ribbon cutting is open to the public.
Contact Joe Cohen at
January 31, 2009
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