Nonprofit ballet company that received Hillsborough County Cultural Development Grant offers professional dance training and performances

Brandon Ballet has hit an impressive milestone. This year marks the nonprofit dance company's 30th season. With a focus on classical ballet, the organization offers professional training to students of all ages. It also delivers two major productions annually, as well as mixed repertory performances and community outreach events throughout the year. One such performance was a sensory-friendly dance production of "Don Quixote."

Sensory-friendly ballet performances

A sensory-friendly, or relaxed, performance is a production that has been modified to be less overwhelming to the senses. The shows are designed to accommodate people who may experience sensory sensitivity or overload. For instance, loud music, bright or flashing lights, or fog machines may be removed or toned down to create a more welcoming performance.

Brandon Ballet's sensory-friendly production of "Don Quixote" was performed in a local park. The company's artistic director, Brentwood Townend, explained why the location was ideal.

"We chose to do it in a park because of the children or anyone who would struggle with sitting down in a theater for a long time, to be able to engage with it on their level. I have three little ones of my own, and so they are able to come to the shows and they can dance along with us as we're performing. And if they're not into it, they can go play on the playground and do whatever they like," Townend said.

The modified "Don Quixote" ballet performance featured lower-volumed music and less clapping and tambourine-shaking. Not only did the show create a more relaxed environment for sensitive viewers, but it reached more people in the community by being held in an open, public space, rather than in a theater.

Anna Smith, a professional dancer with Brandon Ballet, understands the importance of performances being accessible to diverse audiences. She strongly advocates for everyone to enjoy dance productions in person.

"I feel like so much of entertainment these days is from a screen. I think we forget how exciting a live performance can be," Smith explained. "There's something magical about having a stage in front of you be actually alive with people. I think anybody who hasn't experienced that yet or has not experienced it recently should definitely give it a try."

The costumes worn by Brandon Ballet dancers
The costumes worn by Brandon Ballet dancers can be as detailed and intricate as the choreography they perform.

Hillsborough County Cultural Development Grant

Brandon Ballet is a recipient of the Hillsborough County Cultural Development Grant. Cultural Development Grants provide general program support to local cultural organizations with programming that not only serves diverse audiences but also reaches geographically diverse communities. It is the intent of the program to encourage the development of both cultural and administrative operations of these organizations.

Applications for 2025 fiscal year grants open on Feb. 26. For more information, visit the Hillsborough County Arts Council or email

Image Caption: Anna Smith, a professional dancer with Brandon Ballet, rehearses in the studio.
Posted: 2/21/2024, 3:04:37 PM