New Executive, School Leadership and Dancer Promotions at ABT

Gisele Bethea just received an apprentice contract. She's pictured here at the 2014 USA IBC. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

American Ballet Theatre is starting 2016 with a bang, with a slew of new leadership announcements and exciting promotions among the lower ranks. Yesterday, ABT officially named Kara Medoff Barnett as its new executive director—and while she's only 37, the company looks like it will be in very skilled hands. Barnett, who grew up studying ballet before college, not only has a Harvard MBA, but she also won a 2003 Tony award as associate producer of Broadway's A Long Day's Journey Into Night. She joins ABT after serving as managing director of Lincoln Center International.


Barnett isn't the only woman on top. Last week, the company announced that former ABT principal Cynthia Harvey will succeed Franco De Vita in May as artistic director of ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. For those of us who grew up in the `80s and `90s, Harvey was one of two formidable “Cynthias" in ABT's star ranks (the other being Cynthia Gregory). My dance studio had a well-worn and well-loved VHS recording of her and Mikhail Baryshnikov in Don Quixote, and I feel compelled to share a snippet here:

Harvey spent the last several years teaching and coaching overseas, and formed the En Avant Foundation (a nonprofit foundation for mentoring and coaching gifted ballet dancers) in 2014. Luckily, De Vita, who retires in April, is not going far—he told The New York Times he will likely continue teaching at the school.

And finally, the company just promoted five young women we should all keep an eye on. Hanna Bass and Wan Yue Qiao have been promoted from apprentice to the corps de ballet, while Studio Company members Remy Young, Erica Lall and Gisele Bethea (who we featured in our October/November 2014 issue) have received apprentice contracts. Congratulations, everyone!

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Gene Schiavone, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Lindsay Martell at a class performance. Courtesy Martell.

More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:

"Is your daughter the dancer?"

"Actually," I say, "I am."

"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"

"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."

Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.

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Kevin Lloyd Photography, Courtesy Ballet Jörgen

Canada's Ballet Jörgen is committed to telling Canadian stories by Canadian choreographers. For its next full-length ballet, director Bengt Jörgen turned to what he calls "perhaps the most quintessential Canadian story" of all time: Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, about the flame-haired, precocious orphan Anne Shirley. Jörgen is choreographing the work, which will debut in Halifax, Nova Scotia (not far from Anne's fictional home in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island), on September 28 before embarking on a two-year tour of Canada and the U.S.

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