What Julie Kent's Washington Ballet Looks Like
As she was stepping into her new role as artistic director of The Washington Ballet this July, ballet icon Julie Kent made a natural fit for the cover of our first-ever Feminist Issue. At the time, she was still just starting to get her feet wet. Writer Marina Harss' profile of Kent covered some of her dreams for the troupe, like increasing the roster, expanding the repertoire and using live music whenever possible. But now we've started to see some of her changes in action. So what does a Washington Ballet led by Julie Kent actually look like?
Live Music is Here
Count it as Dream Accomplished: Yesterday, the company announced that each of its spring performances will feature a live orchestra, led by a guest conductor from other ballet companies around the country. (What a fun idea!) Charles Barker, from American Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Ballet, will conduct Giselle in March, and Martin West of San Francisco Ballet will conduct the company's season-closing repertory program in May.
The Nutcracker music will be taped because, as Kent told The Washington Post's Sarah Kaufman, “We won’t sell one more ticket if we have live music, and it’s about $100,000 a week. We have to move forward strategically and sensibly, and use the money for the orchestra where we can get the most out of it.”
No word on how the company will foot the live music bill this spring, although TWB's website does have eight separate categories listed under "Support."
Big ABT Names Sign On
Kent with Stiefel in 2008, PC Kent Becker
We also found out yesterday that Kent's first-ever commissioned work will go to Ethan Stiefel, one of her former partners. He's recently dabbled in choreography on Flesh and Bone, at the Royal New Zealand Ballet and on ABT's Studio Company. His new one act ballet, tentatively titled Frontier, will be based on John F. Kennedy's determination to land a man on the moon.
He's not the only ABT alum Kent's brought in. Former principal Xiomara Reyes, who retired the same year as Kent, is the new head of The Washington Ballet School.
New Dancers Hired
Kent has hired two ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School grads: Brittany Stone as a dancer and Adelaide Clauss as an apprentice. She's also brought in two major stars—the much-loved Cuban dancer Rolando Sarabia and former Korean National Ballet principal Eun Won Lee. Expect many more names in the coming seasons if the company grows from 21 to 40, as Kent hopes it will.
Kent with David Hallberg in Seven Sonatas, via nytimes.com
This spring, TWB will add to its repertoire two works by ballet's most sought-after choreographers today: In Creases by Justin Peck and Seven Sonatas by Alexei Ratmansky (in which Kent was in the original cast). The company will also tackle Sir Frederick Ashton's beloved classic The Dream for the first time.
Workshops for Outside Dancers
If you're really curious what Kent's like at the head of the studio, sign up for her master class series next month. Reyes will be teaching on November 12 and Kent on November 19. The two-part series will also include character and contemporary classes, plus post-class Q&As with the two directors. The series is open to adult dancers—and could be a smart audition opportunity for anyone curious about joining the company.
Of course, it's still early in Kent's directing career. But so far, most of these choices seem like savvy moves—even if they're heavily inspired by her ABT background. We can't wait to see what else she has in store.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: