News
Ross Brown, Courtesy RNZB

It's been several years since former Pacific Northwest Ballet star Patricia Barker took over leadership of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. In that time Barker and her husband, former PNB dancer Michael Auer, have had to acclimate themselves to a new country, a new hemisphere and a new culture.

She also noticed that RNZB had a different way of working when she took the helm in 2017. The company was then grappling with acccusations of abusive behavior and other workplace grievances by its former director, along with a few vocal New Zealanders with nationalistic agendas stirring up controversy. "The company was trying to lay low and let things blow over," she says. "You can never lay low; you just have to face your troubles head on."

Even though Barker says the turmoil had nothing to do with her, she took it on and moved the company forward by turning attention back on the art form, which she says is what matters most to audiences. And what matters to Barker with regard to that art form is creating more opportunities for female choreographers. So much so that the company's entire 2020 season will feature works choreographed by women.

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Adelaide Clauss and Tamás Krizsa perform Swan Lake's Act II pas de deux. Gene Witkowski, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.

Watching Adelaide Clauss dance intoxicates the senses, a visual equivalent of a flower's perfume. This past spring, while performing Swan Lake's Act II pas de deux at a benefit in her hometown of Buffalo, New York, her melding of grace and technique revealed her to be an artist of great promise. Her delicately positioned arms and hands floated as if to frame the beauty of ballet itself. Clauss was in her element: "I really love the demands of classical adagio," she says.

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Terrence S. Orr with dancers of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Aimee DiAndrea, Courtesy PBT.

Change is in the air in Steel City: On Friday Terrence S. Orr announced that, after 22-years as artistic director of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, he will retire in June 2020 following the conclusion of PBT's 50th anniversary season.

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Ballet Careers
Victoria Morgan pushes dancers' boundaries in the studio. Jennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet.

Victoria Morgan's normally bright smile is even brighter entering her 22nd season as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director. That's because the 55-year-old company is in the best shape it has ever been: Attendance, ticket sales and the company's annual operating budget are at all-time highs. But the road to Cincinnati Ballet's current successes required an early revamp in Morgan's thinking about programming. When she took over leadership in 1997, the former San Francisco Ballet dancer had trouble accepting that the company simply didn't have the budget for her ideas about duplicating the repertoire she was used to.

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Ballet Stars
Powers with William Newton in Edwaard Liang's Giselle. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.

While its minimalist costuming and sets gave Edwaard Liang's new Giselle for BalletMet a nontraditional look last February, there was nothing spartan about Grace-Anne Powers' performance in the title role. Powers' radiant smile, warmth and happy disposition made Giselle's betrayal by Albrecht (danced by William Newton), and her subsequent death of a broken heart, a real tearjerker. She had you believing that an entire village could, indeed, love her.

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Ballet Careers
Karen Gibbons-Brown coaching the company. Photo by Jeffrey Crane, Courtesy Fort Wayne Ballet.

Anonymity has its benefits, says Fort Wayne Ballet executive and artistic director Karen Gibbons-Brown: "We are tucked in the Midwest and one of the beauties is you get to fly under the radar and experiment in a way that you don't get to in a larger place." While that may have been true in the past, Indiana's Fort Wayne Ballet is now making moves toward greater visibility.

As an organization, FWB is entering its 62nd year, but it has only existed as a professional dance company with full-time, contracted dancers since the 2010–11 season. Prior to that, the organization's on-again, off-again performance company hit its heights under Michael Tevlin's tenure as artistic director (1981–94).

When Gibbons-Brown arrived in 1998, the organization and its affiliated school, the Auer Academy of Fort Wayne Ballet, were in distress. But the former dancer with South Carolina Chamber Dance Ensemble, Bristol Ballet and Theatre Ballet of San Francisco says part of why she came to Fort Wayne was that "it is a community rich in the arts and there was a lot of opportunity."

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From left: Liang Fu, James Kirby Rogers, Amanda DeVenuta and Lamin Periera dos Santos. Photo by Kenny Johnson, Courtesy Kansas City Ballet.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," Dorothy famously announces in the beloved 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Kansas City, Missouri, rather, is where audiences will find Dorothy this fall. October 12–21, Kansas City Ballet presents the world premiere of choreographer Septime Webre's The Wizard of Oz at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. A joint production with Colorado Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Webre's million-dollar-plus production pulls storylines from the familiar film as well as from L. Frank Baum's 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Special effects, including eye-popping projections, will help bring the story to life. "Monkeys will fly, munchkins will roam, and Dorothy, Toto and the gang will once again be following the yellow brick road to the Emerald City," says KCB artistic director Devon Carney.

Ballet Stars
Sailers, with Brett Sjoblom in Heather Britt's Claudette, is a true up-and-comer. Photo by Heather Thorne, Courtesy Nashville Ballet.

With the magical allure of a firefly against the night sky, Nashville Ballet's Imani Sailers displayed flashes of brilliance in Heather Britt's bendy, breezy contemporary pas de deux Claudette. It's fitting that this breakout moment for Sailers came during last season's Emergence series: Her performance proved why she is a true up-and-comer in the company.

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