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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!

Summer Intensive Survival
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There's a sweet spot toward the end of August—after summer intensives have wrapped up and before it's time to head back to school or work—where the days are long, lazy and begging to be spent neck-deep in a pile of good books. Whether you're looking for inspiration for the upcoming season or trying to brush up on your dance history, you can never go wrong with an excellent book on ballet. We've gathered eight titles (all available at common booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble) guaranteed to give you a deeper understanding of the art form, to add to your end-of-summer reading list.

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James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico warm up onstage. Angela Sterling, Courtesy SDC.

On a sunny July weekend, hundreds of Seattle-area dance fans converged on tiny Vashon Island, a bucolic enclave in Puget Sound about 20 miles from the city. They made the ferry trek to attend the debut performance of the fledgling Seattle Dance Collective.

SDC is not a run-of-the-mill contemporary dance company; it's the brainchild of two of Pacific Northwest Ballet's most respected principal dancers: James Yoichi Moore and Noelani Pantastico. The duo wanted to create a nimble organization to feature dancers and choreographers they felt needed more exposure in the Pacific Northwest.

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Roman Mejia in Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

The Princess Grace Foundation has just announced its 2019 class, and we're thrilled that two ballet dancers—New York City Ballet's Roman Mejia and BalletX's Stanley Glover—are included among the list of über-talented actors, filmmakers, playwrights, dancers and choreographers.

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The Royal Ballet's Alexander Campbell and Yasmine Naghdi in Ashton's The Two Pigeons. Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

While most ballet casts are 100 percent human, it's not unheard of for live animals to appear onstage, providing everything from stage dressing to supporting roles. Michael Messerer's production of Don Quixote features a horse and a donkey; American Ballet Theatre's Giselle calls for two Russian wolfhounds; and Sir Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee requires a white Shetland pony. Another Ashton masterpiece, The Two Pigeons, is well known for its animal actors. But though ballet is a highly disciplined, carefully choreographed art form, some performers are naturally more prone to flights of fancy—because they're birds.

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