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First State Ballet Theatre expands in Middletown

Katie Tabeling
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First State Ballet Theatre will be opening its first satellite office this fall. | PHOTO COURTESY FSBT

MIDDLETOWN — The First State Ballet Theatre (FSBT) is forging on with building its first satellite school in Middletown’s growing community of Whitehall.

Delaware’s only professional ballet company in the First State plans to open the school in fall 2024 to expand its programs to southern New Castle County and grow its programing. The satellite school will offer a wide range of dance and specialty classes for ages 16 months to seniors, with an emphasis on ballet instruction that First State Ballet is known for.

“We are thrilled and grateful for this incredible opportunity to expand our reach and make our programming even more accessible,” FSBT Executive Director Kristina Kambalov said. “FSBT is grateful for the support of EDiS, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation, that have made this expansion possible.”

Founded in 1999 by Russian dancers Pasha and Kristina Kambalov as a nonprofit school, and later made a professional company in 2008, the FSBT now features a troupe of 21 paid professional dancers from all over the world.

FSBT first opened in Newport and later moved to the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, but has long hoped to open a secondary location to boost enrollment and increase awareness of its programs.

In 2018, the nonprofit ran a pilot program for 3 to 6 year olds at the Dupont Country Club in North Wilmington. But Middletown’s growing population – and dreams to build Whitehall as the state’s first town in more than a century – make it an ideal market.

“We believe that the school at Whitehall will, over time, be the cornerstone of sustainability,” FSBT Director of Advancement Joan Beatson told the Delaware Business Times. “Though we continue seeking funds from new sources and national organizations that support dance, we know that if those requests are successful, it will not be at a level that would have a huge impact on our operating budget without increases in other revenue streams.”

Whitehall, situated between Middletown and the C&D Canal, was designed by its founders as a mixed-use, walkable community. The wellness center and school will sit in the middle of the town to help promote its planning philosophy. Designed by EDiS, the community has already added a Lorewood Grove Elementary School, ChristianaCare primary care office, a daycare center among other offerings.

“We could not be more thrilled,” EDiS CEO and Whitehall town founder Brian DiSabatino said. “From the very beginning of Whitehall, we were committed to the arts. We know that no great community thrives without them. And with the arts in our core, we know that the Whitehall community and the communities surrounding Whitehall will benefit for generations to come.” 

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