.The last few years have seen notable company closures, including Silicon Valley Ballet in San Jose, California. But Los Angeles–based American Contemporary Ballet is moving in the opposite direction, extending its contract and filling out its now-year-round roster of dancers.
"We got the advice to grow slowly because it allows you to make your mistakes on a small scale," says artistic director Lincoln Jones, who founded the company to present ballet as a musical art form. To whit, the repertoire includes work by Balanchine, Fred Astaire and Jones. Performances are always accompanied by live music."
We decided that after five years we would expand. In the past, summer has been our biggest season, but now we're going to a 36-week contract, from May 8 to February 19." The company currently has 8 women and 4 men, plus 6 apprentices for a total of 18—up from 14 dancers, in the past.
"The kind of work we do will be the same," says Jones, referring to the company's largely neoclassical repertoire. "But we're adding a Nutcracker. And now we'll be able to do larger-scale work." Other changes include a burgeoning apprentice program and steps toward a full school. The company will keep its annual bicoastal auditions and continue to rehearse in its permanent home, the 32nd floor of a skyscraper in downtown L.A.
ACB has remained afloat despite a turbulent economy by pinpointing the kind of work that Angelenos want to see. "We knew that it would be hard to come into a city that lacks a long history of ballet," Jones says. The company appealed to music fans by partnering with The Da Camera Society, a venerable presenter of chamber music, and enticed new audience members by performing in nontraditional venues like warehouses. "We hold a performance series with our artistic collaborators, like photographers and actors, who offer a different perspective on ballet. We want an audience that's as knowledgeable about ballet as they can possibly be."