American Contemporary Ballet in rehearsal. Anastasia Petukhova, Courtesy ACB.

American Contemporary Ballet Director Lincoln Jones is Making Ballet Relevant in Los Angeles

Lincoln Jones felt there was a pertinence missing from ballet when he decided to form American Contemporary Ballet. "People looking at a film today can pick apart screenwriting versus art direction and editing," says Jones. "They are really conversant with it. I thought ballet is never going to feel super-relevant until people can do that."

So how to do that? Connect the audience to the show.


"The format is taking an 18th-century salon-style approach to art," he says, referring to ACB's performance mode. Audiences sit close to the dancers, just as in a rehearsal setting, and the company always dances to live music in unconventional spaces. Afterwards, the audience chats with the dancers and director to explore ballet as an art form.

In black and white in profile, Lincoln Jones, wearing a t-shirt, holds a musical score and pencil. He is smiling.

Artistic director Lincoln Jones. Anastasia Petukhova, Courtesy ACB.

Jones, who is also a musician, danced with the Columbia City Ballet and taught at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. He started the initial incarnation of the company in New York City in 2004, but the current troupe started in 2011 in Los Angeles. Because he shuns traditional proscenium stages, Jones has moved the company around to several downtown warehouse, retail and skyscraper spaces—with the blessing of a generous real estate mogul—to find the right performance venue. "We are in the process of designing our own space," he says. Currently the company performs and rehearses in the Fashion Theater at the California Market Center in downtown L.A.

As ACB's primary choreographer and a devotee of George Balanchine, Jones approaches programming with a curator's eye. He craves context, so he juxtaposes excerpts from Balanchine's Raymonda Variations with a pas d'action from Petipa's Raymonda, as staged from the original Stepanov notation. Or he might pair two original works, like his Inferno and Burlesque, both set to music by frequent collaborator Charles Wuorinen. Jones is also planning a Les Sylphides, with faster tempi for the Michel Fokine choreography, performed in simple practice clothes to a solo piano. And the company's Nutcracker literally begins with a party—audience invited.

Cara Hansvick, who dances soloist roles (although the company isn't ranked), joined ACB in 2018 after dancing with Charlotte Ballet II. What has impressed her is the individual attention Jones grants to each dancer to nurture their artistry. "He wants everyone to give 150 percent at all times," she says. "He never wants us to be boring. He told me, 'When you go onstage I either want you to mess up everything or completely blow my mind. I'd rather you do something exciting onstage that I'll remember.' "

Hansvick earned a BS in ballet performance and arts management from Indiana University and acts as a liaison between ACBs' supporters and the company. She relishes the close rapport with the audience, composed of downtown-L.A. hipsters, architects, artists and dance lovers, and others who are just curious. The shows typically attract return audiences. Hansvick describes the lack of an audience bond in her other company performance experiences as a "blank void," after which, "you go home and come back the next day for class. Here, they look at you as a full person." ACB has just under two dozen dancers. "There is a team energy," she says, "and I feel so appreciated." The company is also in the early planning stages of establishing its own school.

A number of ballerinas stand around a warehouse space wearing different colored leotards, white tutus, pink tights and pointe shoes.

American Contemporary Ballet. Will Davidson, Courtesy ACB.

ACB invites guest speakers for its separate Conversation series, where artists outside the dance world are asked about their perspectives on ballet to contextualize it. For example, actress Jane Kaczmarek compared the audition process in theater and film to ballet's, while painter Kenton Nelson looked at how his creative process was similar to choreographers' and dancers' experiences.

Always seeking to make ballet more congruous with modern life, Jones wants an audience to experience ballet for what it is, rather than reaching for what it's supposed to mean. "Balanchine said ballet doesn't mean anything—it just is," he explains. "You don't ask a rose what it is. It's just beautiful."

Audition Advice


The company holds auditions in New York City and Los Angeles, usually in February or March. Jones looks for dancers with musicality, lovely feet and a solid technique in the Balanchine style, but especially seeks those with "a desire and ability to grow and adapt themselves choreographically to various projects." The women trend towards tall (many are between 5' 7" and 5' 9"). But all of that can be transcended if "there's something interesting about that dancer that makes you want to watch them." After a dance audition, Jones interviews select candidates to determine whether their goals and work ethic match the company's.

American Contemporary Ballet At a Glance


Number of dancers:
21 (including 6 apprentices)

Length of contract: 38 weeks

Starting salary: $300 per week

Performances per season: 70 in 2019–20

Website: acbdances.com

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

Quinn Wharton

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Angelica Generosa Shares Her Classic, Comfy Style In and Out of the Studio

"I love the feeling and look of effortless fashion," says Angelica Generosa. Preferring a classic style, the Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist keeps her wardrobe stocked with blazers. But they serve a practical purpose, too. "It tends to get chilly in Seattle, so it's the perfect accessory for layering," Generosa explains.

She's also quite fond of designer handbags. "They're my go-to accessory, and they're also my weakness when shopping," she says, naming Chloé, Chanel and Dior as some of her favorite brands. "I really appreciate the craftsmanship it takes to produce one—they're so beautiful and each has its own story, in a way."

In the studio, Generosa prioritizes comfort, and she'll change up her look depending on the repertoire (leotards and tutus for classical works, breathable shirts with workout pants for contemporary). But she always arrives to work in style. "I really love putting together outfits for even just going to the studio," she says. "It's another way of expressing my mood and what kind of vibe I'm going for that day."

The Details: Street

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue blazer, white blouse and gray jeans, is photographed from underneath as she walks and looks to the right.

Quinn Wharton

BCBG blazer: "It has some shoulder pads and a really cool pattern," says Generosa. "It reminds me of my mom and '80s fashion."

Zara blouse: She incorporate neutrals, like this white satin button-up, to balance bright pops of colors.

Angelica Generosa looks off to her right in front of a glass-windowed building. She wears a blue blazer, white blouse, gray jeans and carries a small green handbag.

Quinn Wharton

Madewell jeans: Comfort is a major factor for Generosa, who gets her fashion inspiration from her mom, friends and people she comes across day to day.

Chloé bag: "I tend to have smaller purses because I'm quite small. Bigger bags overwhelm me sometimes—unless it's my dance bag, of course!"

The Details: Studio

Angleica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool leggings and pink pointe shoes, balances in a lunge on pointe with her left leg in front, facing a wall of windows.

Quinn Wharton

Label Dancewear leotard: "This was designed by my good friend Elizabeth Murphy, a principal dancer here at PNB. Her leotards always fit me really well."

Mirella leggings: "I get cold easily," says Generosa, who wears leggings and vests to stay warm throughout the day.

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool tights and pink pointe shoes, jumps and crosses her right foot over her left shin while lifting her arms up to the right.

Quinn Wharton

Freed of London pointe shoes: "When sewing them, I crisscross my elastics and use an elasticized ribbon from Body Wrappers," which helps alleviate Achilles tendon issues, she says. She then trims the satin off of the tip of the shoe. "Then I bend the shank a bit to loosen it up and cut a bit off where my arch is."

Getty Images

This New "Nutcracker" Competition Wants Your Dance Studio to be Part of a Virtual Collaboration

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks