NYCB Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan and NYCB Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford. Christopher Lane, Courtesy NYCB.
After a year and a half of tumult at New York City Ballet, the company is finally settling into a groove under new artistic director Jonathan Stafford and associate artistic director Wendy Whelan, who lead their first full season starting this fall.
From left: Jonathan Stafford; Photo by Paul Kolnik; Wendy Whelan, Photo by Lindsey Thomas
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.
As it turns out, Martins left room for Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Jonathan Stafford to select two of the company's six commissions for the 2018-19 season. Their choices—Kyle Abraham and Emma Portner—are surprising, and thrilling.
Neither choreographer has made work on a large ballet company before, though Abraham created a duet with Wendy Whelan for her "Restless Creature" series, among his other commissions for companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and work for his own company. And though Portner has been a favorite in commercial circles for a few years now, the concert commissions have just recently started rolling in: This fall she'll be collaborating with Lil Buck and Dev Hynesfor a full-length work for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and working with Anne Plamondon on a Fall for Dance North piece.
From left: Justin Peck, Rebecca Krohn, Jonathan Stafford and Craig Hall. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy New York City Ballet.
The New York City Ballet Board of Directors announced on Saturday the interim team that has been appointed to run the artistic side of the company during ballet master in chief Peter Martins' leave of absence. Martins requested a temporary leave from both NYCB and the School of American Ballet last Thursday while the company undergoes an internal investigation into the sexual harassment accusations aimed at him.
The four-person group is made up of members of the company's current artistic staff, led by ballet master and former principal dancer Jonathan Stafford. Joining Stafford are NYCB resident choreographer and soloist Justin Peck and ballet masters Craig Hall and Rebecca Krohn, both former dancers with the company. While the members of this group haven't had much leadership experience, their close familiarity with the company (Krohn left the stage for her new role just two months ago) should help to ease the dancers' transition.
The team will be responsible for the day-to-day artistic needs of the company including scheduling, casting and conducting rehearsals. While there's no word yet on the length of their tenure, we'll continue to keep you updated as the story surrounding Martins unfolds.
Karel Cruz with Carla Korbes in Pacific Northwest Ballet's Don Quixote. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.
When former New York City Ballet principal Jonathan Stafford was a young corps member, he remembers taking a big gulp when he was first cast to partner a principal. “I was not strong enough, and she decided after dress rehearsal that I wasn't ready," he says. “So the artistic staff brought back her previous partner." Despite his preparation, Stafford, now an NYCB ballet master, says he understood the decision. But in another casting shake-up later in the run, he was quickly put back in. “The second time around I was a better partner because the pressure of the debut was off and we were both more relaxed."