Dancing with an Equity Lens: A Letter from New BalletRox Executive Director Ellice Patterson

Ellice Patterson, founder and director of Abilities Dance, to lead BalletRox as new executive director. (Photo Credit: Robert Torres, Celebrity Series of Boston, Abilities Dance Boston)

My name is Ellice Patterson, the new executive director of BalletRox. In these first few days at BalletRox, it’s been great interacting and working with the team as I learn more about the organization in its various capacities.

If you’re unfamiliar with my background, I founded Abilities Dance (a nonprofit performing company) on the basis of intersectional disability rights through dance.

The need for such a company became clear after listening to the stories of adult disabled artists (including myself) of not having opportunities to professionally perform or train.

Through a lens of intersectional equity, we were able to not just provide work opportunities for diverse artists within and outside of the disabled community across the city and nation, but also have conversations on diversity and equity in various industries and communities.

With the help of staff and board members, I will bring that same intersectional equity lens to BalletRox. To clarify, this isn’t entirely new programming.

This is intentionally bringing out the underlying equity work of BalletRox as we more strongly state and further support every student that has and will enter our spaces in Spontaneous Celebrations, Boston Public Schools classrooms, or digitally in these unprecedented times.

To start, we’re working with Northeastern engineering classes this year to update our website so that image descriptions are embedded in our photos for any blind/low-vision person wanting to know more of our work.

Our leadership team (board members and senior staff) has been training with the Cultural Equity Learning Community to dismantle racism in arts and culture nonprofits. (Prior to starting with BalletRox, I served as a facilitator and guest lecturer for the learning community.)

These are just two of hopefully many equity examples to come.

This work will be challenging and uncomfortable, but it is necessary to continue BalletRox’s mission in the years to come.

As we embark on this next phase of BalletRox, I look forward to meeting you and hearing your stories, connections, and ideas for how we can work together for the people served by BalletRox.

Together, we will continue the legacy that Carol and her team created, while innovatively continuing to grow BalletRox through Fall 2020 and beyond.