Elton John, Neil Diamond and the band Rush—2018 just got underway and it already feels like the year of the beloved star retiring. Joining that list today is one of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's longest tenured principal dancers, Julia Erickson. The 38-year-old Seattle native trained at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School and spent two years with Texas Ballet Theater before joining PBT in 2001. Starting in 2010, she was the co-owner of Barre, a line of nutrition bars for dancers, until the company's hiatus in 2015. She was also the 2014 recipient of the BRAZZY Award for outstanding female dancer, chosen by Pittsburgh's dance writers. The audience and critics' favorite will close out her 17-year career with PBT in October. Pointe spoke with Erickson about her career and what's next.
Charlotte Ballet's Chelsea Dumas demanded attention from the moment she bounded onto the stage as Catherine Earnshaw in Sasha Janes' Wuthering Heights. Premiered last April at the Levine Center for the Arts' Knight Theater in Charlotte, Janes' epic ballet spanned the first half of Emily Brontë's classic novel and was a theatrical tour-de-force.
Dumas, here with Josh Hall, as Catherine Earnshaw in "Wuthering Heights." Photo by Christopher Record, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.
Today Grand Rapids Ballet announced that longtime San Francisco Ballet soloist James Sofranko will succeed Patricia Barker as its new artistic director, effective July 1, 2018.
The 38-year-old, now in his 18th season with SFB, topped a list of 40 applicants from around the world to become only the fifth artistic director in GRB's 46-year history.
Born in Marion, Indiana, Sofranko grew up in Cincinnati and trained at The Harid Conservatory and New York's Juilliard School. He joined SFB in 2000 and was promoted to soloist in 2007. From 2005–2006 he performed the lead role of Eddie in the national tour of Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel's Broadway musical Movin' Out. He also has directing experience: In 2014 he founded his own contemporary ballet repertory company, SFDanceworks, which performs during the summer.
Photo by Andrew Weeks, Courtesy Sofranko.
Romeo wasn't the only one falling in love during Edwaard Liang's production of Romeo and Juliet at BalletMet last April; those in the audience witnessing retiring company star Adrienne Benz's final performance as Juliet were equally captivated.
Benz and Ward. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.
The diminutive powerhouse capped her 14-year BalletMet career with a passionate portrayal of the young heroine, one that coursed with the innocence and exuberance of youth. Her combination of adroit acting and assured technique was helped along by her onstage chemistry with her partner David Ward. Together, they were utterly believable as Shakespeare's fabled star-crossed lovers.
Former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Patricia Barker has taken over as artistic director of Royal New Zealand Ballet. Barker, 54, was named to her new role in June, becoming only the second woman director in RNZB's 64-year history and the second high-profile American to take the helm in recent years (the other being former American Ballet Theatre star Ethan Stiefel).
Patricia Barker. Photo Courtesy RNZB.
Rising lazily from an armchair, shrugging her shoulders and limply snapping her arms side to side, Alana Griffith imbued the title role in Septime Webre's ALICE (in wonderland) with the unmistakable boredom and longing of youth. Throughout the performance, her ability to bring personal depth to both the character and to Webre's challenging choreography revealed a special dancer coming into her own as an artist.
Alana Griffith in "ALICE (in wonderland)". Photo by Mark Frohna, Courtesy Milwaukee Ballet.
Plucked from its second company to star as Olga in Tulsa Ballet's 2016 production of Onegin, Tomoka Kawazoe offered the kind of classic story-ballet sweetness that audiences love. Yet the 19-year-old Tokyo native is equally adept in contemporary works. She wowed audiences in Jennifer Archibald's OMENS, displaying a rapid-fire technical fierceness illuminated by her dazzling flexibility.
Photo by Andrew Fassbender, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet
When Gen Horiuchi became the executive and artistic director of Saint Louis Ballet, his mentor Peter Martins offered the same wisdom that George Balanchine had given him: Running a company isn't just about ballet—you have to do and oversee everything. That leadership philosophy is what Horiuchi, now 53, has adopted at Saint Louis Ballet.
The Tokyo native and former New York City Ballet principal took over the financially troubled company from longtime artistic directors Ludmila Dokoudovsky and Antoni Zalewski in 2000. Within two years Horiuchi stabilized the organization's finances and restructured and revitalized the Saint Louis Ballet School. In 2010, he moved the organization into a new 7,500-square-foot facility with four studios.
Now in his 18th season with SLB, Horiuchi has increased the company's annual operating budget from $200,000 in 2000 to $2 million currently, grown the number of dancers from 13 to 25, and added more productions (when he arrived they were only perform- ing Nutcracker). He's also increased ticket sales and bolstered the school's enrollment from 50 to 350 students.