From left: Jonathan Stafford; Photo by Paul Kolnik; Wendy Whelan, Photo by Lindsey Thomas

Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan Will Lead New York City Ballet

Well over a year after the retirement of Peter Martins, New York City Ballet has announced that former principal dancer Jonathan Stafford will lead the company and its affiliated School of American Ballet as artistic director. Fellow former principal Wendy Whelan will serve as associate artistic director.


Since last January, Stafford has helmed the interim leadership team, including Justin Peck, Craig Hall and Rebecca Krohn. And while he has led the company through a challenging year, he's still somewhat of an unconventional choice. Although he was a compelling, understated principal dancer, he wasn't a bonafide star, as directors of major companies typically are. Stafford is not a choreographer, either, though the company did state during the search that they weren't necessarily looking for someone who would be making work.


Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Whelan

Whelan certainly has star power. But it would be a misrepresentation of Whelan's abilities and qualifications to say that she's been hired for this purpose alone. In fact, many were hoping that Whelan would be named director herself—a petition to hire her received over 15,000 signatures. This may not be the glass ceiling-smashing that many were hoping for, but The New York Times reports that Stafford and Whelan will work as partners, with Stafford overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company and Whelan having a bigger hand in programming. Each independently told the search committee that they would be interested in working together.

If the two leaders will truly be "partners," why are they not co-artistic directors, considering NYCB's recent scandals—and the troubling historical gender dynamics of the company? NYCB told The Times that they felt like having a clear leader was important after the rocky experience of having Martins and Jerome Robbins as co-leaders.

But having Whelan at the helm of programming is sure to bring exciting changes. She told The Times that she's interested in "more women choreographing, more diversity on stage, bigger ideas, more open ideas, more daring ideas." Since retiring from NYCB, she's worked with a wide range of choreographers—from Kyle Abraham to Lucinda Childs to Arthur Pita. If that's any indication of what her seasons will look like, we're in for some dynamic evenings at the ballet.

Both leaders said that improving the company's culture is a top priority. The company's board chairman Charles W. Scharf praised Stafford for the progress he's already made in this area, having opened up communication between dancers and leadership and organizing the company's first-ever performance reviews.

The news broke at a meeting with dancers this morning, where it was also announced that Peck would stop dancing for the company after the spring season, and will take the title of artistic advisor.

Stafford will begin his new position effective immediately, and Whelan will begin mid-March.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

How Do You Like Our New Look?

Notice anything different about our site? Perhaps the bigger, splashier images and the fun new fonts?

Welcome to the new pointemagazine.com! We just got a fabulous new redesign, and we can't wait to share the results with you. Have a look around—our exclusive dance photography looks more beautiful than ever, and our stories are easier to navigate. We think you'll agree, ballet has never looked this good!

Intern at Pointe!

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Keep reading

There’s a New Dance Podcast in Town

Hi there, dance friends. I'm the editor in chief of Dance Spirit and content director of The Dance Edit newsletter. And I'm here with a bit of news sure to excite dancers, dance enthusiasts, and other assorted dance obsessives: The Dance Edit is launching a podcast!

Join me and other editors from Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, and Pointe for The Dance Edit Podcast, a weekly roundtable discussion of the top stories moving and shaking (not sorry) the dance world. Beginning March 5th, we'll get you up to tempo (also not sorry) in about 15 minutes every Thursday morning.

Keep reading