A roundup of recent honors in the ballet world
- Muriel Maffre, a former principal with San Francisco Ballet who now performs as a guest artist with Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, was named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
- In October, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Olivier Wevers received an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship for 2008, which includes a cash award of $7,500.
- The Oakland Ballet received one of Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builder Awards in November. The national award comes with a grant of $200,000 and a nonprofit leadership development program.
- The Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, NC, granted lifetime achievement awards to North Carolina Dance Theatre Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Associate Artistic Director Patricia McBride.
- Colorado Council on the Arts gave the Colorado Ballet the 2009 Colorado Masterpieces award. The $55,000 grant will support a tour. —Veronika Pashkin
- Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch’s new full-length ballet Marie premieres February 26 and runs through March 8 at Houston’s Wortham Theater Center. Set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich, the story is inspired by the tragic life of France’s queen Marie Antoinette.
- In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Ballet Nouveau Colorado presents a program called “Love” February 6–15. The evening offers new pieces from Artistic Director Garrett Ammon, Canadian choreographer Mark Godden and Ma Cong (winner of BNC’s 2008 21st Century Choreography Competition). Each worked with Colorado’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop to combine movement with words.
- For their avant-garde AustinVentures StudioTheater Project March 26–April 3, Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills is choreographing a new work entitled Angel of My Nature. The ballet is set to trip-hop music, a genre which fuses hip hop and electronica. “The music is like nothing we’ve ever danced to before,” says dancer Allisyn Paino. “It really gives the movement a completely different pop flair.” —Jennifer Stahl
Joffrey’s New School
The Joffrey Ballet launched the Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, in January. Led by Joffrey’s artistic director Ashley Wheater, the school is located in the Joffrey Tower in Chicago where the company is based. The Academy offers various training programs for students ages 3 and up, including open community classes, a pre-professional training program and a trainee program for 17- to 20-year-olds transitioning into the profession.
Although no discussions between the new academy and the already established Joffrey Ballet School in New York City have taken place as of press time, George de la Peña, artistic director of the New York school, says, “We are hoping to have a mutually supportive relationship in which we work together to return to Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino’s original idea of having a fantastic school that feeds directly into the company.” —JS
News, Moves and Celebrations
- The School of American Ballet celebrates 75 years in 2009. Several events will take place around New York City, including a presentation on Balanchine at the Guggenheim Museum in late February featuring Suki Schorer with SAB students.
- In celebration of Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 40th anniversary, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will display DTH costumes, videos, sets and even a 3D-puzzle to give an inside look into the company’s history. A traveling version of the exhibition is currently being developed for 2010.
- Former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principals Jiabin Pan and Ying Li are starting a new ballet company in Suzhou, a growing city one hour west of Shanghai. The Suzhou Ballet will be only the sixth ballet company in China.
- South African choreographer Sean Bovim will debut his new company, Bovim Ballet, at the Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town February 3–8 with a full-length work entitled Tango Nights.
- After two years as ballet director for Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company, Elisabetta Terabust passed the baton to former Kirov Ballet director Makhar Vaziev in January.
- Robert Hill, a former principal with The Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet, became artistic director of Orlando Ballet in January. —Meghan Quinlan
Ups and Downs in Difficult Times
When the world struggles financially, the arts are often hit the hardest as private donations and audience numbers decrease. Due to the recent economic downturn, Ballet British Columbia was forced to lay off all of its dancers, some administrative staff, and Artistic Director John Alleyne in November. (As of press time their rehiring was dependent on Nutcracker ticket sales.) New York City Ballet had to scale down its upcoming July season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center from three weeks to two. In order to cut costs, Oregon Ballet Theatre replaced live music with a recorded score for 10 of its Nutcracker performances.
Companies have found several ways to fight back. In October, the Scottish Ballet hosted a costume sale, earning almost $30,000, which was used to fund their move to new studios, education activities and an upcoming tour. For their fall season at New York City Center, American Ballet Theatre increased the ticket prices of premium seats while decreasing the price of rear-mezzanine seats. Los Angeles Ballet has explored various group and family packages, as well as partnerships with other local arts organizations.
Yet it’s not all bad news. In January Miami City Ballet launched a multi-year collaboration with The Cleveland Orchestra. The West Australian Ballet even expanded their budget for the 2009 season, hiring 10 more dancers and working with the government to obtain more rehearsal space. —JS
The Joffrey Ballet Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus Gerald Arpino passed away October 29 at age 85. He
performed with the Joffrey in its early years and became resident choreographer in 1961, creating more than a third of its repertoire. Arpino choreographed Billboards, America’s first full-evening ballet set to rock music, and was also the first choreographer to have four of his ballets presented at the White House. He was associate director for many years and, after Robert Joffrey’s death, served as artistic director from 1988–2007.
died at the age of 88 in Cannes, France, on November 4. A Native American from Oklahoma, Hightower was known for her virtuosity and flair as a member of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, American Ballet Theatre (then known as Ballet Theatre) and Col. W. de Basil’s Ballets Russes. Hightower also performed with the Grand Ballet de Monte Carlo, becoming the first American to be a leading ballerina in Europe. After retiring from the stage, she created the famed ballet school Centre de Danse Classique in France and directed the Marseilles Ballet, the ballet of the Grand Théâtre of Nancy and La Scala Ballet.
, 81, passed away on November 19. Barnes was an influential dance and theater critic for The New York Times, The New York Post, The Times of London and Dance Magazine. —MQ