Follow The Leaders

May 30, 2016

New directors are taking the reins at three major American dance companies.

Gennadi Nedvigin, at Atlanta Ballet

The news about Gennadi Nedvigin becoming artistic director of Atlanta Ballet broke before he was even able to announce his retirement from San Francisco Ballet. In recent years, the principal had been working as a teacher, stager and ballet master, and had once spent three weeks in Atlanta staging Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony. “When John McFall’s retirement came out, it didn’t take me long to think, Wow, I should apply for this position,” says Nedvigin. “I had two to three years in my pocket to dance some more, but it felt right to go for it.”

Nedvigin plans to bring the refinement of his Bolshoi Ballet School training to Atlanta Ballet, and develop a cohesive style. “I want to broaden the repertoire by unifying the dancers in their technique,” says Nedvigin. Though he will add more classical and neoclassical ballets to the repertoire, Nedvigin says he’ll maintain the company’s exciting mix of new contemporary work.

Colin Connor, at José Limón Dance Foundation

The 70-year-old José Limón Dance Foundation has found its fifth director in Colin Connor, who is leaving his full-time faculty position at CalArts to return to the company where he spent eight years dancing as a soloist. Connor wants the company’s repertoire to show the influence Limón has had on contemporary dance at large by programming new pieces alongside the work of the modern dance pioneer. “Limón is so specific, and yet I am not sure people realize how it has changed the face of dance and how we see it,” says Connor. In particular, he wants to bring in choreographers who will give the dancers new technical and artistic challenges, and provide balance to the strong, traditional male and female archetypes in Limón’s work. “There has always been a social conscience with Limón,” explains Connor. “I want to be able to bring in choreographers who really wrestle with that.”

Julie Kent, at The Washington Ballet

For Julie Kent, taking over The Washington Ballet is a homecoming. “I have an emotional attachment to this city and understanding of the audience,” says Kent, who grew up in nearby Maryland. “My mother and sister have been ticket holders to the Kennedy Center for over 40 years, and my first experience on that stage was as a super in Coppélia.” Having retired from her principal dance career at American Ballet Theatre, Kent will bring her wide-ranging dance experience, including a short stint as artistic director of ABT’s summer intensives. Joining her is her husband, Victor Barbee, who will serve as associate artistic director, a role he also held at ABT.

Kent wants to add masterpieces from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, as well as works by developing choreographers, to TWB’s rep. And she is committed to outreach, like the company’s work with the Boys & Girls Clubs. “The process I have used for 30 years as a dancer, trying to build on what I have accomplished the day before, will guide me in DC,” says Kent. “I have a plan for what we should represent to our city and to the country, as the nation’s capital.”