NYCB’s Gala Features Choreography by Women, Company Dancers
It’s been five years since a female choreographer premiered a work at New York City Ballet. Fortunately the 2016 fall gala on September 20 presents a more gender-diverse choreographic lineup, including company principal Lauren Lovette and independent choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. The gala program includes premieres by two other NYCB dancers: resident choreographer Justin Peck and corps member Peter Walker, who creates his first ballet for the company.
“Choreographing on your peers provides a great level of familiarity and trust. It can be weird to instruct your friends, but I have so much respect for my colleagues. I try to instill that in the studio,” says Lovette, who has never choreographed on a professional company. She has participated in NYCB’s New York Choreographic Institute, and took opportunities to create as a School of American Ballet student.
Ochoa adds another premiere to her prolific resumé. She gained acclaim with the Scottish Ballet’s commission of A Streetcar Named Desire in 2012, and recently created work for Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO project.
Including Lovette and Walker on NYCB’s list of homegrown choreographic talent (along with Peck and corps member Troy Schumacher) helps confirm the company’s commitment to cultivating from within and providing opportunities to its dancers. —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
Atlanta Ballet Welcomes a New Director
Atlanta Ballet has hired former San Francisco Ballet principal Gennadi Nedvigin to become the company’s fourth leader. He stepped into the role in July, after longtime artistic director John McFall retired on June 1. “I could have danced longer, but I wanted to prioritize this opportunity,” explains Nedvigin of his recent retirement from the stage. “It will work best if I do one thing.”
While at San Francisco Ballet, Nedvigin’s experience included working as a ballet master and stager of Yuri Possokhov’s works, in addition to dancing lead roles in a wide variety of repertoire. When he staged Possokhov’s Classical Symphony for Atlanta Ballet in 2014, Nedvigin was very impressed with the company. “I also enjoyed the sense of closeness among the dancers and the family atmosphere,” he adds.
Glimmers of Nedvigin’s vision can already be seen in the 2016–17 season, which includes a new commission choreographed by American Ballet Theatre corps dancer Gemma Bond, his own staging of Paquita, Possokhov’s Firebird and the U.S. premiere of Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine, as well as the previously successful Atlanta Ballet productions of Carmina Burana and Camino Real.
“I would like to build a platform of works made just for Atlanta Ballet and so well suited that we become known for it,” says Nedvigin. He believes agility to be one of the advantages of helming a small company and hopes to start touring more as a result. It’s too soon to know how Nedvigin’s shift in direction will affect hiring and casting. However, all of the dancers were offered contracts for the 2016–17 season. —Candice Thompson
Acosta’s Carmen Arrives in Texas
Carlos Acosta’s Carmen, a co-production with London’s Royal Ballet, Australia’s Queensland Ballet and Texas Ballet Theater, arrives in Dallas, September 16–18, and in Fort Worth, October 7–9.
TBT artistic director Ben Stevenson met Acosta when the international star was only 18 years old. As Houston Ballet’s then artistic director, Stevenson nurtured Acosta’s outsized talent, helping him rise to prominence during his six years dancing with the company. The two have remained connected throughout the years.
Another legendary Stevenson dancer, Li Cunxin (author of Mao’s Last Dancer), heads Queensland Ballet, linking the two companies. “Ballet people are like Velcro; we stick together,” Stevenson quips. The choice to co-produce Carmen with The Royal Ballet was a logical one. “Carlos already had such success with his production of Don Quixote in 2013, and he’s a natural for the sexy, fiery story of Carmen,” Stevenson says. “Also, we don’t have a version of Carmen in the repertoire, and it’s nice to add something that’s familiar.” The ballet had its premiere at The Royal in October 2015.
It helps that Acosta remains a legend in Texas, and Stevenson hopes to bring some of his signature energy to the company. With choreography full of high-octane bravura turns and leaps, two of Acosta’s signature talents, audiences can expect considerable machismo in Carmen—though it’s too soon to know if Acosta will be able to coach TBT dancers himself. “It’s going to be fun,” Stevenson says, “especially for the men!” —Nancy Wozny
A Decade Down in Vail
This summer, former New York City Ballet principal Damian Woetzel celebrates 10 years as the artistic director of the Vail International Dance Festival. “Everything I do is about the cumulative process,” he says. “When I look back, it’s to see how we got here. Yes, it’s been 10 years, but I’m thinking: What are we doing this year?”
Vail has established itself as a premiere dance destination, both for audience members—who can expect to see huge stars, world premieres and diverse dance styles—and for artists drawn to the festival’s emphasis on growth and education. “There are many ways to spend your time outside of your main company,” Woetzel says. “Vail gives dancers a chance to develop. It’s risky for them and requires a certain level of commitment. I think those who come back are ones who want that experience.”
Woetzel plans to build on the festival’s forward momentum. “We’re focusing on premieres and new work,” he says. “Building a festival is a layering process, and I’m excited to create a laboratory that ends up onstage.” —NLG
Highlights from this year’s Vail lineup, July 30–August 13, include American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston as artist in residence, BalletX as the company in residence and other performers spanning styles from tap to tango. Get tickets: vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival.
Ballet Stars Descend on Havana
The Ballet Royalty Gala, a brand-new event presented by Improvedance, takes place at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso on August 20. It will be live-streamed from Havana, Cuba, to the world. Fans can watch their favorite dancers from morning class through the performance itself. Look out for international stars like the Bolshoi Ballet’s Semyon Chudin, American Ballet Theatre’s Daniil Simkin, San Francisco Ballet’s Maria Kochetkova, Boston Ballet’s Misa Kuranaga, Staatsballett Berlin’s Iana Salenko and many more. Watch it here: improvedance.com. —NLG