Dance Matters: On Uncertain Ground

April 24, 2012

Ballet San Jose moves forward without an artistic director.



BSJ rehearsing Balanchine’s
Allegro Brillante. Photo by Robert Shomler, Courtesy BSJ.



A ballet company without an artistic director—can it work? Ballet San Jose is giving it a go.

Principal ballet master Raymond Rodriguez, who has been with the company for 30 years, and artistic advisor Wes Chapman, former director of ABT II (now American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company), have been charged with mounting the season’s repertoire. As part of the company’s new artistic partnership with ABT, Ballet San Jose has access to the ABT repertoire and coaching staff, and the BSJ school faculty will become certified in ABT’s National Training Curriculum. In February, Rodriguez said that the leadership model was still evolving. How the 2012–13 season will look, and what Chapman’s role will be going forward, had yet to be determined.

Missing from this season’s rep are ballets by founding director Dennis Nahat, who the board, in January, formally removed from his position as the head of the company for more than 25 years. He told the San Francisco Chronicle in December that he had been locked out of all artistic decisions by the board. The company will find some measure of continuity under Rodriguez, who considers Nahat a mentor.

The current season’s pieces are practically all company premieres. In February, the San Jose studios were in a flurry of activity, with Rodriguez staging David Lichine’s Graduation Ball (1940), Chapman working on Robbins’ Interplay (1945), ABT ballet mistress Susan Jones staging Paquita, and Ben Stevenson looking at the company for his Cinderella (1970), which is performed this month.

“I think all of this is a catalyst for artistic growth,” says Rodriguez, “building the company up so more choreographers will want to work with the company, dancers will want to join the company, and audiences will want to come see us.”

Putting the internal conflicts behind him, Rodriguez says, “We have to move forward and do what we’ve always done in the best way possible.”