Nedvigin teaching company class. Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

Gennadi Nedvigin Is Making Big Changes—and Fast—at 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.


Nedvigin says he was influenced by his old boss, Helgi Tomasson, and by the variety of choreographers and works Tomasson assembled at SFB. "It's inspiring for dancers to continually work with different choreographers," says Nedvigin, who has already brought in Liam Scarlett's Vespertine and world premieres by Gemma Bond and Craig Davidson.


Atlanta Ballet in Liam Scarlett's "Vespertine." Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy AB.

Whereas the repertoire under his predecessor, longtime director John McFall, fell on the more traditional or contemporary ends of the spectrum, Nedvigin's approach aims for somewhere in between. This change in vision resulted in a publicized dancer exodus—a mix of dancers leaving, retiring or not being offered contracts. Some perceived that the company would become mostly classical. Not so, says Nedvigin. "If you are stuck on classical, one day it is going to get boring. I want my dancers to have an appreciation for the classics while looking forward to new creations."

To realize this, Nedvigin says he needed to add dancers so that AB can stage more difficult and elaborate productions, like this February's Don Quixote. When he took over the non-ranked troupe, there were 28 artists, including apprentices. That increased to 32 this season, and Nedvigin also founded the 12-member Atlanta Ballet 2. Ten more dancers (split between AB2 and the main company) will be added for the 2018–19 season, making over half the company new hires since he arrived.

And while this growth will help define the company's new identity, Nedvigin feels that maintaining a professional atmosphere in the studio is also integral, including how the dancers conduct themselves with visiting artists. "When I hear very enthusiastic feedback from choreographers who have worked with the company for the first time, I think any director would be pleased to hear the process in the room was so focused, responsive and creative," he says.


Atlanta Ballet in Gemma Bond's "Denouement." Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy AB.

Nedvigin values dancers who show a readiness and eagerness to embrace a variety of styles. "The more styles you learn, the better dancer you become," he says. He's drawn to those who want to hone their technique and are open to growing as artists.

"His classes are clean," says third-season company dancer Ashley Wegmann. "There is more of an emphasis on classical technique than before." Like many directors, Nedvigin feels that strong classical technique is a basic foundation for learning other styles. "I need to create a company that aligns at many points," he says, "so when they are onstage they look like a united troupe."

Wegmann says that approach has been extended across the board from the dancers to the artistic staff, which includes one new ballet master hired under Nedvigin. "I think we are all on the same page now," she says. "The atmosphere is very supportive, and Gennadi seems happy with the dancers he chose." As for Nedvigin's demeanor, she says, "He's a little reserved but approachable."

"I try to be fair to everyone, challenge them all and give them everything I have to share," he says. "I can't say I am really hard on the dancers. In general, I want to maintain professionalism in the studio while helping the dancers get better quicker and stay healthy."

Doing things quicker seems to be a theme of Nedvigin's tenure so far. Elevating the level of dancing, increasing company size and altering its repertoire mix are all happening simultaneously and sooner than planned. This December, AB will debut a new Nutcracker, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov. Rehearsals even began early, before those for its 2017 Nutcracker. Jokes Nedvigin, "It probably was a bit confusing for the dancers to start doing completely different steps on the same music." Still, he says this full-length world premiere will be his first production "to really show what the company is capable of."


Atlanta Ballet At a Glance

Number of dancers: 32

Length of contract: 38 weeks

Starting salary: $739.50 per week

Performances this season: 42

Website: atlantaballet.com


Audition Advice

"I look at a dancer's training, confidence level, individuality, how they move and how much they pay attention in class and to corrections," says Nedvigin. "You can tell a lot from even how a dancer enters and exits the studio."

The company accepts applications year-round for invitation-only auditions. A headshot, full-length dance photo, resumé and video links should be sent to audition@atlantaballet.com. Open auditions for Atlanta Ballet 2 are held in January and February.

Latest Posts


Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: 10 Dancers Making Strides In and Out of the Spotlight

The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!

Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

A male dancer catches a female dancer in his right arm as she wraps her left arm around his shoulder and executes a high arabesque on pointe. Both wear white costumes and dance in front of a blue backdrop onstage.

Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

Wearing a powder blue tutu, cropped light yellow top and feather tiara, Wanyue Qiao does a piqu\u00e9 retir\u00e9 on pointe on her left leg and pulls her right arm in towards her.

Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

Three male dancers in tight-fitting, multicolored costumes stand in positions of ascending height from left to right. All extend their right arms out in front of them.

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

Wearing a white pixie wig and a short light-pink tunic costume, a female ballet dancer poses in attitude front on pointe with her left arm bent across her ribs and her right hand held below her chin.

Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

A ballerina in a black feathered tutu stands triumphantly in sous-sus, holding the hand of a male dancer in a dark cloak with feathers underneath who raises his left hand in the air.

Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

Wearing a blue dance dress with rhinestone embellishments and a sparkly tiara, India Bradley finishes a move with her arms out to the side and hands slightly flexed.

India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake

Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

Dressed in a green bell-boy costume and hat, Alejandro Gonz\u00e1lez does a saut\u00e9 with his left leg in retir\u00e9 and his arms in a long diagonal from right to left. Other dancers in late 19-century period costumes watch him around the stage.

Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

Wearing a long white tutu and crown, Nina Fernandes does a saut de chat in front of a wintery backdrop as snow falls from the top of the stage.

Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

Courtesy Carrie Gaerte, modeled by 2020 Butler University graduate Michela Semenza

Concussions Are More Than a Bump on the Head. Here's What Dancers Need to Know

Your partner accidentally drops you during a lift. You collide head-on with another dancer in rehearsal. Or you're hit in the face while you're spotting a turn. Even if you didn't lose consciousness, you may have a concussion, which can occur from a direct blow to the head or rotary force of the brain moving excessively or striking the skull.

As a dancer, your first instinct may be to keep going, but you shouldn't, says physical therapist and athletic trainer Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, who works with Butler University in Indianapolis and at Ascension St. Vincent Sports Performance. "What's really hard for dancers is admitting that maybe something isn't right," she says. "But the big thing about concussions is that your brain is not like your ankle, shoulder or knee. When your brain has an injury, that needs to take precedence over a role or a job."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Thinking About College Ballet Programs? Here's a Comprehensive Guide to the Application Process

Gone are the days when you had to skip college in order to have a successful ballet career. College ballet programs are better than ever before, providing students with the training, professional connections and performance experience they need to thrive in companies postgraduation. But given the number of elements involved in the application process, choosing the right program can feel daunting. We've broken the college application timeline down step by step to help you best approach each stage along the way.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks