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Roy Kaiser directing a rehearsal of Balanchine's "Rubies" with PA Ballet's Amy Aldridge and Alexander Peters, photo by Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy PAB

Directors’ Exodus at Pennsylvania Ballet

As Pennsylvania Ballet wrapped up its 50th anniversary season this spring, changes at the top signaled the end of an era. In May, longtime artistic director Roy Kaiser announced his resignation, and two weeks later, executive director Michael Scolamiero announced his departure for Miami City Ballet.
Kaiser, a former PA Ballet dancer, had led the company since 1995, hewing closely to the company’s Balanchine roots. Though PA Ballet weathered some financial hard times, the company has taken significant steps forward. It now has a new $17.5 million home, and recently reopened its school. Despite these changes, problems have lingered. “We’ve had a rough several years,” says Scolamiero. “We’re struggling with flat subscriptions, and the individual-giving base has gone up and down.”


Enter Michael Kaiser (no relation to Roy Kaiser), the former president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and founder of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management. Kaiser, who has been credited with helping turn around several high profile dance companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, guided the company in creating a five-year strategic plan, and will serve as an advisor to the committee searching for Roy Kaiser’s replacement. “There’s fidelity to the Balanchine background and repertory,” Kaiser says. “But the company has not been simply a Balanchine company. There’s real diversity to the work, and I think the search committee values that.”


Kaiser is fostering new partnerships on the artistic side. These include the company appearing in Philadelphia’s popular FringeArts festival in collaborations with the celebrated Curtis Institute of Music. It will allow the company to branch into new choreographic territory. “I think these initiatives will expose the company to a younger audience,” he says. —Megan Bridge

 

Martins’ La Sylphide to Come to NYCB

New York City Ballet will add Peter Martins’ production of La Sylphide, the quintessential Bournonville ballet, to its repertoire next year. Martins debuted his version in 1985 at Pennsylvania Ballet. Now, 30 years later, it comes to Martins’ own company.


La Sylphide has long been a staple of the Royal Danish Ballet, where Martins started his career. Bringing the work to NYCB, he says, is a very personal gesture. “This is an homage to my Danish heritage, as the ballets of Bournonville are the foundation of my own technique.” Bournonville also informs the technique of many NYCB dancers. Those who attend the School of American Ballet are exposed to the style during their training. Martins’ Sylphide—which will be paired with a revival of Stanley Williams’ Bournonville Divertissements—will reinforce NYCB’s connection to the style.


Martins sees Balanchine and Bournonville as kindred spirits in the innovations they brought to the art form. Balanchine was “a huge admirer” of Bournonville, Martins says. “He once said to me, ‘You know what made Bournonville so great? He entertained with steps.’ The same can be said for Balanchine.”

Brian Schaefer


Whim W’Him Goes Full-Time

Seattle’s Whim W’Him, launched in 2009, has come a long way from its project-based start. This spring, the company announced a 24-week contract for seven dancers that will round out the company’s 2014–15 season. Olivier Wevers, Whim W’Him’s artistic director and former principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet, spoke with Pointe about his plans for the company’s future.  

 

What can you do now that you couldn’t before? Being a full-time company gives me a core of dancers who are always there, and helps the dancers build their group dynamic. Incoming choreographers can just create, rather than worrying about scheduling. 


Will you continue to cultivate choreographers from within your own ranks?  I’m open to my dancers choreographing. For an upcoming project, they’re picking the choreographer. I want them to be part of the process, not just tools or instruments. I can’t wait to see whom they choose.
Where do you see the company going, stylistically? I’m moving more toward contemporary work myself. But the choreographers coming in sometimes want the girls on pointe. And my version of contemporary has the discipline and articulation of ballet, really using the toes and the feet.

 

Where do you see the company going, stylistically? I’m moving more toward contemporary work myself. But the choreographers coming in sometimes want the girls on pointe. And my version of contemporary has the discipline and articulation of ballet, really using the toes and the feet.

 

How do you see Whim W’Him fitting into the Seattle dance scene?  We definitely draw a different crowd than PNB. Some people who followed me from PNB have ended up not being interested in Whim W’Him. It’s too weird for them. We’re in a smaller theater; we’re right up in your face. Now that we’re better funded, we would love to go and show off, go to different communities and see how they like us. We have giant goals. —Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

Côté Adds a Director’s Role
Next summer, National Ballet of Canada principal Guillaume Côté will add another role to his repertoire—artistic director of Quebec’s Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur. A Canadian version of the Vail International Dance Festival, Saint-Sauveur, founded in 1992, presents international and local dance companies and music groups in a bucolic  village near Montreal. Events occur indoors and outside. “As a dancer, I’m constantly discovering new companies and choreographers I would love to collaborate with,” says Côté. “I want to bring some of them to the festival.” Eventually, he hopes to present an evening of premieres each summer, and the creation of an evening-length work.


Côté feels the setting makes it a special place for dance. “In a way, it brings dance back to its basics, stripped of scenery and expensive effects,” he says. “It inspires artists to show their work in the most beautiful and simple way. Quebec is an incredible place for contemporary dance and I think the festival can be an extension of that community.” —NLG

 

Ballerina Turned Crew Member
Keenan Kampa—of the Mariinsky Ballet—has nabbed the lead in High Strung, a new dance movie slated for release next summer. Kampa will play a ballerina on scholarship at the fictional Manhattan Conservatory of the Arts. Then she meets a hip-hop violinist performing in the subway, and the two team up with a dance crew. The rest, as they say, is history. Choreographer Dave Scott, of “So You Think You Can Dance” and the Step Up series, lends his savvy touch to the street battles. —NLG