When Sacramento Ballet's board announced that it would not be renewing the contract of longtime co-directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda after the 2017–18 season, the news upset many in both the Sacramento community and the dance world. The husband and wife duo, who have run the company for 30 years, told the Sacramento Bee that they were being let go unwillingly, while several company members publicly criticized the board's decision. In a move that would give them greater protection, the dancers voted to join the American Guild of Musical Artists in March.
Last week, Sacramento Ballet announced that choreographer Amy Seiwert, a former company member, will become the company's new artistic director in 2018. And it seems to be smart move. Seiwert, who directs the San Francisco–based contemporary ballet troupe Imagery, danced for eight seasons under Cunningham and Binda. "One of the reasons I decided to go for this was to honor the legacy of Ron and Carinne," Seiwert said in a recent phone interview. "They are in my artistic DNA. My choreography, when you look at my aesthetic choices, when you look at my approach to technique, that comes from them. It's a position I want, but not the situation I want it in, because there's a lot of heartbreak."
Seiwert, who continued her performing career at Smuin Ballet, had a chance to meet with the dancers during the search process and says she has no agenda to clean house. "Let's see how we work together, let's see if it's a fit," she says. She notes that it's still too early to say what her plans are for Sacramento Ballet. The same goes for the future of her company Imagery. Seiwert hopes that she can find a way to continue its SKETCH series, which encourages guest choreographers to create risky, innovative work. "I feel strongly that it should exist," she says. "Can it be something that's a collaboration with Sacramento Ballet? What are the opportunities here?"
It's exciting to see a woman at the helm of a ballet company, no less one who's also a prolific choreographer. (Imagery is premiering Seiwert's first evening-length work Wandering in San Francisco this week, with subsequent tours to the The Joyce Theater's Ballet Festival in New York City and Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts.) While she'll work with Sacramento Ballet as artistic director designate next year, she doesn't want her appointment to be a distraction. "This is Ron and Carinne's last year, and it's about honoring them in every way possible. I do not want to take away from that."