From left: Liang Fu, James Kirby Rogers, Amanda DeVenuta and Lamin Periera dos Santos. Photo by Kenny Johnson, Courtesy Kansas City Ballet.
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," Dorothy famously announces in the beloved 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Kansas City, Missouri, rather, is where audiences will find Dorothy this fall. October 12–21, Kansas City Ballet presents the world premiere of choreographer Septime Webre's The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. A joint production with Colorado Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Webre's million-dollar-plus production pulls storylines from the familiar film as well as from L. Frank Baum's 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Special effects, including eye-popping projections, will help bring the story to life. "Monkeys will fly, munchkins will roam, and Dorothy, Toto and the gang will once again be following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City," says KCB artistic director Devon Carney.
Sailers, with Brett Sjoblom in Heather Britt's Claudette, is a true up-and-comer. Photo by Heather Thorne, Courtesy Nashville Ballet.
With the magical allure of a firefly against the night sky, Nashville Ballet's Imani Sailers displayed flashes of brilliance in Heather Britt's bendy, breezy contemporary pas de deux Claudette. It's fitting that this breakout moment for Sailers came during last season's Emergence series: Her performance proved why she is a true up-and-comer in the company.
Samantha Griffin in Balanchine's Serenade. Photo by Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.
Intensity is Samantha Griffin's modus operandi, whether she's self-reflecting on an unhappy, gilded existence in Garrett Smith's Facades or violently whipping a metal chair into the wings in artistic director Victoria Morgan's Black Coffee. The 23-year-old Griffin puts all of her flexible 5' 8" frame to use in contemporary movement, which she prefers. "It fits my body well," she says. Yet she's also given dazzling performances in more neoclassical roles, including the Tall Girl soloist in Balanchine's "Rubies" and the Dark Angel in his Serenade.
James Sofranko in Paul Taylor's Company B with San Francisco Ballet. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
James Sofranko, longtime San Francisco Ballet soloist, will succeed Patricia Barker as Grand Rapids Ballet's new artistic director, effective July 1. Sofranko topped a list of 40 applicants from around the world to become only the fifth artistic director in GRB's 47-year history. The 38-year-old will continue his work with SFDanceworks, the Bay Area contemporary ballet company that he founded in 2014. Pointe spoke with Sofranko about his transition.
Had you been actively seeking an artistic directorship?
In a way. I had applied to two other places before to sort of test the waters. With my career at SFB nearing the end, I began thinking about it more and got excited about what I could potentially bring to a company such as Grand Rapids Ballet.
Joffrey Ballet dancers Christine Rocas and Dylan Gutierrez in "Giselle." Photo Courtesy Spring to Dance Festival.
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.
James Ihde partners Lillian DiPiazza in Balanchine's Concerto Barocco. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy PAB.
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.
Sappington rehearsing Alice at Cleveland Ballet. Photo by Peter Sampson, Courtesy Cleveland Ballet.
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.
Nedvigin teaching company class. Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.
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.