Dances With Seedlings

Via Non-Profit Quarterly is a brief story about the Farm to Ballet Project which is taking agricultural themed ballet to about nine farms throughout Vermont this summer. (Their second season, I should mention.)

When I first started reading about this project, The Wormfarm Institute and their various programs like the Fermentation Fest and Roadside Culture Stands immediately came to mind. There has been a concentrated effort over the last decade or so to call more attention to arts programs in rural settings.

The Farm to Ballet Project partners closely with the farms and reinvest profits either into the farm or other agricultural non-profits.

But he also has a passion for local farming, and the Farm to Ballet Project has allowed him to connect the not-so-obvious dots between dance and agriculture. The project supports the farming community because 75 percent of ticket sales from each performance go to the host farm or to agriculture-related nonprofits. Local farm products are highlighted in other ways, too. For example, at a recent performance, “many in the 300-plus audience of adults and children also enjoyed dinner beforehand made from locally grown ingredients.”

They perform a story ballet that follows farm plants, animals and soil over the course of a year. The dancers in the first video below talk about being lettuce, cucumbers, goats, bees and various other creatures in the performance which occurs outside in the farm fields.

In the second video below, two of the dancers talk about how much they have come to appreciate impact of different grass types (and cow patties) on what sort of movements they can safely execute.

In addition to bringing ballet to communities in a context the audiences have never seen before, they are also providing an opportunity for people to renew an artistic practice that had been interrupted by other life events.

In the interview below, a woman talks about how she never expected to be able to perform classical ballet again after having started a family. This season their youngest company member is 17 and the oldest is 73.

This comment reminded me of a post I made last year about a woman who started two dance companies in different cities for people who had trained in dance to a high level, hadn’t pursued dance as a career, but wanted to continue dancing and choreographing.

This interview is additional evidence that there is an unmet need for an outlet of creative expression in dance and probably other disciplines.

They mention a benefit of performing in a farm field they hadn’t initially anticipated is that kids can follow their impulse to get up and start dancing off to the side without really interrupting the performance.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment