Ballet Stars
Amy Seiwert in rehearsal. Photo by Scot Goodman, Courtesy Seiwert.

When Sacramento Ballet's board announced that it would not be renewing the contract of longtime co-directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda after the 2017–18 season, the news upset many in both the Sacramento community and the dance world. The husband and wife duo, who have run the company for 30 years, told the Sacramento Bee that they were being let go unwillingly, while several company members publicly criticized the board's decision. In a move that would give them greater protection, the dancers voted to join the American Guild of Musical Artists in March.

Last week, Sacramento Ballet announced that choreographer Amy Seiwert, a former company member, will become the company's new artistic director in 2018. And it seems to be smart move. Seiwert, who directs the San Francisco–based contemporary ballet troupe Imagery, danced for eight seasons under Cunningham and Binda. "One of the reasons I decided to go for this was to honor the legacy of Ron and Carinne," Seiwert said in a recent phone interview. "They are in my artistic DNA. My choreography, when you look at my aesthetic choices, when you look at my approach to technique, that comes from them. It's a position I want, but not the situation I want it in, because there's a lot of heartbreak."

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These days, when we hear news of a change in leadership at a ballet company, it feels less and less surprising. Over the past year, a surge of companies across the U.S. and abroad have changed directors, and started new chapters—from Benjamin Millepied's abrupt Paris Opéra Ballet departure, to Julie Kent taking the helm of The Washington Ballet, to Gennadi Nedvigin leaving San Francisco for Atlanta.

This week, according to The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Ballet's board announced that the company's longtime co-artistic directors, Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, will depart after the 2017-18 season, when their contract ends.

Sacramento Ballet dancers rehearsing in their new studios. Photo by Manny Crisostomo, via The Sacramento Bee

For the husband-and-wife team, it will be their 30th season at the company, which they helped build and develop over the years. The ballet's school, which Binda was particularly involved with, has grown to almost 400 students, and Cunningham has been praised by critics for his varied repertory choices, which have included works by Balanchine, Trey McIntyre and Twyla Tharp, as well as his own original works. After the transition to new leadership, the pair will become artistic directors emeritus.

While Cunningham and Binda are not fighting the board's choice, they emphasized that they do not feel ready to leave. "We are not retiring; we are not resigning," Cunningham told The Bee. “We want it clear that it’s the board’s decision.”

Nancy Garton, president of the board, stressed that the decision was about mapping out a plan for the organization's future. "This in no way reflects on the quality or quantity of the work that Ron and Carinne have done with the organization," she told The Bee. The choice seems to be more about bringing in a fresh perspective and considering new directions for the company. Already, this transition comes on the heels of another big change—the company recently moved to a new home at the E. Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts.

A new artistic director has yet to be chosen, but the board hopes to fill the position this spring.

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