Recently, Europe has seen its fair share of ballet-related drama. From Benjamin Millepied’s sudden departure from Paris Opéra Ballet to the turbulent shift in directors at Staatsballett Berlin, several companies have undergone big changes this year.

Now, after only eight months in the position, La Scala Ballet's artistic director, Mauro Bigonzetti, has announced his resignation. His reason for leaving is a severe back injury that he's had since the summer, though there has already been some speculation that other reasons may be at play as well.

La Scala Ballet dancers in Bigonzetti’s Cinderella. Photo by Marco Brescia and Rudy Amisano courtesy Teatro alla Scala.

Before taking the position at La Scala, Bigonzetti directed the Italian contemporary ballet company Aterballetto, and he has choreographed for prominent companies around the world. To some, his appointment as artistic director was controversial from the start—his more contemporary background seemed an odd fit for La Scala, traditionally a very classical company. During his tenure, there were reports of strain between him and the dancers over repertory choices, and he was notably absent from a recent tour to China and Japan.

A new director hasn't been chosen yet, but Fréderic Olivieri, who currently runs the company's school, will take over as interim director until February 2017. As they go through this transition, we'll be keeping our eyes out to see what's in store for the company next.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

[rebelmouse-image 20569114 is_animated_gif=false dam=1 crop_info="%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/origin.jpg%22%2C%20%22thumbnails%22%3A%20%7B%22origin%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/origin.jpg%22%2C%20%2235x35%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/35x35.jpg%22%2C%20%22980x%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/980x.jpg%22%2C%20%22700x1245%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/700x1245.jpg%22%2C%20%22600x200%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/600x200.jpg%22%2C%20%221200x400%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/1200x400.jpg%22%2C%20%22600x%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/600x.jpg%22%2C%20%221245x700%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/1245x700.jpg%22%2C%20%221200x800%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/1200x800.jpg%22%2C%20%22600x300%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/600x300.jpg%22%2C%20%22210x%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/210x.jpg%22%2C%20%22300x300%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/300x300.jpg%22%2C%20%22600x600%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/600x600.jpg%22%2C%20%22600x400%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/600x400.jpg%22%2C%20%22300x%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/300x.jpg%22%2C%20%221200x600%22%3A%20%22https%3A//assets.rbl.ms/20569114/1200x600.jpg%22%7D%2C%20%22manual_image_crops%22%3A%20%7B%223x1%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20480%2C%20%22top%22%3A%20100%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20160%2C%20%22left%22%3A%200%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%221200x400%22%2C%20%22600x200%22%5D%7D%2C%20%223x2%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20480%2C%20%22top%22%3A%2020%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20320%2C%20%22left%22%3A%200%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%221200x800%22%2C%20%22600x400%22%5D%7D%2C%20%221x1%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20360%2C%20%22top%22%3A%200%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20360%2C%20%22left%22%3A%2060%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%22600x600%22%2C%20%22300x300%22%5D%7D%2C%20%2216x9%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20480%2C%20%22top%22%3A%2044%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20271%2C%20%22left%22%3A%200%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%221245x700%22%5D%7D%2C%20%229x16%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20203%2C%20%22top%22%3A%200%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20360%2C%20%22left%22%3A%20138%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%22700x1245%22%5D%7D%2C%20%22600x300%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20480%2C%20%22top%22%3A%2060%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20240%2C%20%22left%22%3A%200%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%22600x300%22%5D%7D%2C%20%222x1%22%3A%20%7B%22width%22%3A%20480%2C%20%22top%22%3A%2060%2C%20%22height%22%3A%20240%2C%20%22left%22%3A%200%2C%20%22sizes%22%3A%20%5B%221200x600%22%2C%20%22600x300%22%5D%7D%7D%7D" original_size="480x360" expand=1]

Paintings infrequently inspire ballets. Notable exceptions include Yuri Possokhov's Magrittomania, based on the works of surrealist painter René Magritte, and Christopher Wheeldon's recent Strapless, centered on the woman in John Singer Sargent's painting “Madame X." Different though Magritte and Sargent's paintings are, they both depict people in one way or another—ready material for choreographers. Thus, I'm intrigued by Mauro Bigonzetti's ballet Kazimir's Colors, inspired by Kazimir Malevich's abstract, colorful blocks.

Loosely inspired, I'd say. Diana Vishneva and Vladimir Malakhov are anything but blocky in this 2009 clip. Pliant as putty, she snakes her limbs around her partner, who is sturdy but equally fluid. The piece and Kazimir's paintings do share similarities in their colors, of course, but also in the strength of their off-kilter lines. Vishneva's gorgeous extensions conjure the art's sharp angles. And, like the geometric shapes, the pair's movements are at times thin and reedy and at others wide and bold.

Whereas Bigonzetti recently joined a venerable ballet institution (he's La Scala Ballet's new artistic director), Vishneva will soon leave one of hers. The 2016/2017 season at American Ballet Theatre will be her last, though she will stay on as a principal at the Mariinsky Ballet. Vladimir Malakhov, whose career took him to Vienna, Berlin and beyond, also danced with ABT. He has served as artistic advisor to the Tokyo Ballet and recently produced his show, Malakhov & Friends, in Germany. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Photo by Dean Alexander, courtesy The Washington Ballet.

From Paris to Washington, D.C., there seems to be something in the air affecting ballet directors. On the heels of Benjamin Millepied's startling resignation announcement last week, The Washington Ballet has disclosed the impending departure of Septime Webre; the company's longtime artistic director will step down at the end of the season. "My current contract expires in June," Webre says, "it felt like a 'now or never' moment to take this bold step."

Webre's tenure has left a lasting impact on The Washington Ballet and the city's arts scene. Since taking the helm in 1999, he has increased TWB's budget nearly six fold, expanded the school (which now trains over 1400 students), increased the organization's community outreach, added many works of his own to TWB's repertoire and brought in a number of guest artists. The company has yet to find a replacement director.

Looking forward, Webre says, "I have been itching to get back to my core skill set: creating new work, coaching and mentoring young dancers and choreographers and advocating for the art of ballet." In addition to new creative endeavors, he plans to stage his ballets for other companies. Already, Webre's Alice (in Wonderland) has appeared in repertoires from Kansas City to Cincinnati.

Companies in Italy and Russia, too, are seeing big changes. Milan's La Scala Ballet announced that choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti will replace Makhar Vasiev, who heads to Moscow in March to lead the Bolshoi Ballet. Bigonzetti was the artistic director of the Italian contemporary ballet company Aterballetto from 1997 to 2008, and he has choreographed for companies like New York City Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet. Given his contemporary background, Bigonzetti's appointment at the large and traditionally classical La Scala has raised some eyebrows.

We'll be keeping our eyes on how the flurry of new directorships develops this year. For more news on all things ballet, don't miss a single issue.

Septime Weber interviewed about his Alice at KCB:

A clip of Bigonzetti's Vespro for New York City Ballet: http://www.nycballet.com/ballets/v/vespro.aspx

La Scala Ballet dancers in Bigonzetti's Cinderella. Photo by Marco Brescia and Rudy Amisano courtesy of Teatro alla Scala.

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox