News

Above, seven dancers who lost their jobs at ANB banded together to create a video to express their unity and strength.

The messages started coming in Monday evening. A concerned teacher was worried about several dancers she knew at American National Ballet—did we know what was going on? Later that night, more information started emerging on social media—and it was clear something was up at the Charleston, South Carolina–based company.

We've been interested in ANB since its debut was first announced in April—not only was it a brand new company, but one with close to 50 dancers, and some major names attached, like Rasta Thomas, Sara Michelle Murawski and Jessica Saund. The founders, Doug and Ashley Benefield, had few ballet credentials, but they made an encouraging promise to highlight diversity, hiring dancers of different body types and races. A story in Charleston's The Post & Courier reported that they had a strategic business plan to support the company through for-profit ventures such as a licensing enterprise, a dancewear line and an academy.

So what happened? Here's what we know so far:

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Vikki Sloviter, Courtesy Murawski

At 5' 10.5", Sara Michelle Murawski stands taller than most people, let alone most ballerinas. As a student, Murawski was always told her height was a positive thing, and that elongated lines are what ballet is all about. But in the professional world in the U.S., she encountered a totally different mentality. Her story went viral last December, when she was fired from Pennsylvania Ballet for being "too tall." After a devastating few months, Murawski was the first principal signed to the new American National Ballet, a Charleston, SC, company whose mission is to celebrate dancer diversity. Here, she tells her story. —Courtney Bowers

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Ballet Stars

While dancers switching companies is nothing new, the ballet companies themselves rarely change. That's why we're especially excited to see two new American companies on the horizon for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

South Carolina-based American National Ballet (ANB) plans to make its debut first, with its inaugural season taking place this fall, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Though ANB is still holding auditions (both in-person and through video), they've announced Sara Michelle Murawski as their first principal dancer and company member. Since ANB was created with the intention of highlighting diversity, it makes perfect sense that they wanted to bring in Murawski, who was let go from the Pennsylvania Ballet this past season for being too tall.

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