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Florida Dance Theatre, Polk County’s only professional dance company and training academy, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Formerly known as Lakeland Ballet, Florida Dance Theatre was founded in 1993 by artistic director, Carol Krajacic Erkes. It was originally intended only as a training school, but Ms. Erkes was impressed by the talent available in the Polk County region; and while recognizing a lack of dance programming in the area, she formed Polk County’s first, and to this date, only professional dance company. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Florida Dance Theatre was created to make presentations of the art of dance, produced under professional standards available to the community at large and to stimulate local interest and awareness of the beautiful art form of dance. Through the additional artistry of guest choreographers, the company has built a reputation for artistic excellence and innovative programming. Florida artists along with professional dancers from around the United States, Russia, Puerto Rico, and Mexico have made Florida Dance Theatre a thriving, powerful, and positive arts organization dedicated to the highest quality in performance, instruction, and community education. The auxiliary training academy offers a curriculum of instruction in classical ballet, jazz, modern, and more. The faculty of the Academy of Florida Dance Theatre is drawn from the ranks of the professional company and other area professionals ensuring the students a credible source of insight and experience. Carol Erkes retired as the Executive Director in June 2019.
Several Academy students have gone on to pursue their professional careers with other companies including the Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Met, Memphis Ballet, Ballet Magnificat, the Smuin Company, and Hartford Ballet. Many students have also received scholarships to college dance programs including Florida State, Southern Methodist University and Goucher College.
In addition to performing, the professional company of Florida Dance Theatre has strong roots in its outreach programs. Educational partnerships with various organizations such as Family Fundamentals, Salvation Army, and the Lakeland Housing Authority, summer camps, scholarship programs and in-school Arts in Education performance series over the years have kept Florida Dance Theatre connected to the community through education and entertainment.