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Sofranko in William Forsythe's "Pas/Parts." Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy Sofranko.

Today Grand Rapids Ballet announced that longtime San Francisco Ballet soloist James Sofranko will succeed Patricia Barker as its new artistic director, effective July 1, 2018.

The 38-year-old, now in his 18th season with SFB, topped a list of 40 applicants from around the world to become only the fifth artistic director in GRB's 46-year history.

Born in Marion, Indiana, Sofranko grew up in Cincinnati and trained at The Harid Conservatory and New York's Juilliard School. He joined SFB in 2000 and was promoted to soloist in 2007. From 2005­–2006 he performed the lead role of Eddie in the national tour of Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel's Broadway musical Movin' Out. He also has directing experience: In 2014 he founded his own contemporary ballet repertory company, SFDanceworks, which performs during the summer.

Photo by Andrew Weeks, Courtesy Sofranko.

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James Sofranko. Photo by Andrew Weeks.

The Bay Area dance scene continues to grow, and San Francisco Ballet soloist James Sofranko has added his voice to the mix. His new company, SFDanceworks, was founded in 2014 and presents its debut season this week at the ODC Theater in San Francisco.

The U.S. has a surprising lack of contemporary dance companies that perform a broad repertoire—Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and L.A.'s BODYTRAFFIC and LA Dance Project are three, and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet was another. Sofranko's troupe looks to become one of those few, with a mixed rep of new work, emerging choreographers and established names.

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James Sofranko in Jerome Robbins' The Concert (or, the Perils of Everybody). Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy of San Francisco Ballet.

Who says ballet can't cure cancer? DanceFAR or “Dance For a Reason"—the brainchild of San Francisco Ballet soloist James Sofranko and former SFB dancers Garen Scribner and Margaret Karl—raises money for the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. This year's fourth annual star-studded gala takes place tomorrow night at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and will feature some of the West Coast's biggest names in ballet, including dancers from SFB, Alonzo King LINES Ballet and Ballet Silicon Valley.

The lineup also includes American Ballet Theatre principals Marcelo Gomes and Stella Abrera, who is no nonprofit novice herself. In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in November 2013, Abrera formed her disaster relief organization Steps Forward for the Philippines.

Stella Abrera and Marcelo Gomes on the dance floor. Photo by Justin Barbin courtesy of Gillian Murphy via Twitter.

Sofranko and Abrera are just a couple of names on a growing list of dancers who contribute their talents to charitable causes. New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht's annual “Dance Against Cancer Benefit" has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society, and ballet dancers from all over the globe appear in Dancers Responding to AIDS' annual Fire Island Dance Festival, which had record-breaking fundraising efforts this past summer.

To date, DanceFAR has raised over $300,000, with tomorrow night likely to show a huge increase.

Sarah Van Patten, San Francisco Ballet principal . Photo by Quinn Wharton courtesy of DanceFAR.

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