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James Sofranko in Paul Taylor's Company B with San Francisco Ballet. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

James Sofranko, longtime San Francisco Ballet soloist, will succeed Patricia Barker as Grand Rapids Ballet's new artistic director, effective July 1. Sofranko topped a list of 40 applicants from around the world to become only the fifth artistic director in GRB's 47-year history. The 38-year-old will continue his work with SFDanceworks, the Bay Area contemporary ballet company that he founded in 2014. Pointe spoke with Sofranko about his transition.

Had you been actively seeking an artistic directorship?

In a way. I had applied to two other places before to sort of test the waters. With my career at SFB nearing the end, I began thinking about it more and got excited about what I could potentially bring to a company such as Grand Rapids Ballet.

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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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