For the first time since its inception 11 years ago, Dance St. Louis' annual Emerson Spring to Dance Festival — May 25 and 26 at the University of Missouri–St. Louis' Touhill Performing Arts Center — will be curated by someone other than festival founder Michael Utoff. That job fell to newly hired programming consultant Terence Marling.
Hailed as "arguably the best dance buffet in the Midwest" by the Chicago Tribune, the popular festival is known for championing lesser-known regional dance artists and companies. It will retain that focus under Marling, along with representation by more familiar names such as Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and Marling's former company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
One of Pennsylvania Ballet's longest tenured dancers, soloist James Ihde is retiring from the company after 25 years. The Kent, Ohio–native began his dance journey at the Dance Institute of the University of Akron and The Rock School before joining Pennsylvania Ballet in 1993. His numerous stage credits include George Balanchine's Agon, William Forsythe's Artifact Suite, Jiří Kylián's Forgotten Land and Christopher Wheeldon's Liturgy. Before his final performance on May 13, Ihde offers his advice to young male dancers looking to follow in his footsteps.
On Coping with Stereotypes
Ihde and Ian Hussey in Matthew Neenan's Archīva. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy PAB.
Nearly four decades ago, choreographer Margo Sappington made a long-lasting impression on Gladisa Guadalupe. Back then, Guadalupe was just a 17-year-old member of Venezuela's Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas, and Sappington was choreographing on the company. Guadalupe told a fellow dancer that, someday, when she had her own company, she'd have Sappington create a ballet on it.
Guadalupe has kept that promise. Now the artistic director of Cleveland Ballet, a 14-member company launched in 2015, Guadalupe has commissioned the 70-year-old Sappington to create a ballet based on Lewis Carroll's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.
Gennadi Nedvigin recalls a ballet class he took in 2016, shortly after becoming Atlanta Ballet's artistic director. The recently retired San Francisco Ballet star was wrapping up performance commitments, so while taking barre, he answered work emails on his phone, got sidetracked and kept repeating his ronds de jambe.
Now, fully retired and in his second season directing, the Russian-born, Bolshoi-trained Nedvigin says he is free from distraction and focused on one job. That is, reshaping the 88-year-old Atlanta Ballet into his vision of a world-class company that performs classical, neoclassical and contemporary works. He hopes to build an exclusive repertoire and add touring opportunities.
A mainstay in Boston's cultural landscape, José Mateo Ballet Theatre will end its 32-year run under founder, artistic director and choreographer José Mateo following the company's Moving Violations program this weekend. The 18-member company will be on hiatus until a new director is found, save for performances of Mateo's The Nutcracker in November and December. The 66-year-old Mateo says that while he is ending his duties as artistic director, he is not retiring from the organization—he's merely shifting his focus to further developing the José Mateo Ballet Theatre School and the Dance for World Community festival he produces each year. Pointe spoke with him recently about his decision and his future plans.
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.