Alexi Ramov, artistic director of the Scranton Ballet Guild in Pennsylvania, carried the seed of Dorothy Alexander’s Regional Festival idea home to Pennsylvania, where he and Barbara Weisberger, artistic director of the Wilkes-Barre Ballet Theater (now Pennsylvania Ballet), planted and nurtured it with the first Northeast Festival.
On May 22-23, 1959, the Scranton Ballet and Wilkes-Barre Ballet Theater co-hosted the first Regional Dance Festival in the Northeast. P.W. Manchester served as Festival Adjudicator. Participating companies included the Holiday Theatre of Newark, Classical Ballet Concert Group of Ottawa, Detroit City Ballet, Cleveland Civic Ballet, First New England Jr., Ballet, New England Civic Ballet, Bethlehem Ballet, and Severo Ballet of Detroit. Also appearing were the Dayton Civic Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet Guild, Toledo Ballet, and Erie Civic Ballet. Honored guest artists were Prima Ballerina Alexandra Danilova and one of the founders of Modern Dance, Ted Shawn. “Mr. Capezio”, Ben Sommers, also attended.
In 1960 George Balanchine attended the second Northeast Regional Festival in Erie, PA. He was moved by the enthusiasm of the twenty companies in attendance and by the interest in ballet generated by the Festival itself. In 1961, Balanchine accompanied Diana Adams, the Festival Adjudicator, viewing the companies in attendance both in class and in performance. Lincoln Kirstein attended the third Northeast Regional Festival, this time held in Dayton, Ohio.
In the summer of 1961 Josephine Schwartz took the lead in organizing the first Craft of Choreography Conference (now RDA’s National Choreography Intensive) at Keystone Junior College (now Keystone College) just outside of Scranton, PA. Ms. Schwarz, who had danced professionally with the distinguished modern company Humphrey-Weidman Company, brought a major asset of modern dance to the Choreography Conference: an emphasis on the making of dance. Up to this time most dance faculty had primarily been staging and adapting existing works. The Choreography Conference grew out of a need for more original choreography.
In 1973, the National Association for Regional Ballet (NARB) was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in New York, joining the five Regional Dance organizations across the country. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded NARB its first major grant in 1972, and a New York office was opened with Doris Hering as the first executive director. With the regional dance movement taking flight, the 100th Regional Festival took place May 25 – 29, 1983 in Poughkeepsie, New York, hosted by Mid-Hudson Ballet at Vassar College and the Bardavon. In 2007, the second ever National Festival took place in Pittsburgh, PA with over 2,000 attendees.