Major Turnover at Atlanta Ballet

April 5, 2017

At the start of the 2017–18 season, Atlanta Ballet will have a new look. According to an article on ArtsATL, many of the company’s well-known faces won’t be returning. Some departures can be attributed to the regular turnover all ballet companies experience at season’s end: Dancers simply retire or sign a contract elsewhere.

Still, there’s another major factor at play: recently instated artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin, who is continuing to shape the company. Whenever a new director takes the helm, roster shake-ups are to be expected. (Pennsylvania Ballet is still experiencing reverberations from Angel Corella’s arrival. ) Nedvigin, the Bolshoi-trained former San Francisco Ballet principal, told Dance Magazine last year, “I want to broaden the repertoire by unifying the dancers in their technique.” He also mentioned that he intends to add more classical and neoclassical ballet to Atlanta’s repertoire, which in recent years has had more of a contemporary ballet lean.

One way to do that is to bring in dancers who are more experienced with classical and neoclassical styles, or younger dancers who are more easily moldable. For instance, Monika Haczkiewicz, a young dancer who finished her training at the classically slanted Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, came on board this season.

Atlanta Ballet’s contracts, like many companies’, are up for renewal each season. In a way, this functions as a natural “refresh” button, allowing Nedvigin to realize his vision more fully. ArtsATL reached Nedvigin via email, and reports that “[Nedvigin] said it’s important that the artistic vision of each dancer aligns with the company’s new artistic vision.” For several of the dancers, AB no longer feels like an artistic home.

Kiara Felder. Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

Who’s leaving? Thirteen of the current 28 (a total which includes company members and apprentices), so almost half of AB’s dancers. Five chose to leave on their own. Tara Lee will remain connected to the company; the veteran of 21 seasons is also a burgeoning choreographer who has been commissioned to create a work for Atlanta next season. Christian Clark decided to leave last month but has been invited back as a guest artist for parts of the upcoming season. Rachel Van Buskirk departs after 10 seasons, as will Alessa Rogers after 9. Kiara Felder, the company’s sole African American female, is also leaving.

Alessa Rogers. Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet

An additional eight dancers were not offered contracts for next season: Heath Gill, Sara Havener, Devon Joslin, Otar Khelashvilli, Brandon Nguyen, Ransom Wilkes-Davis, and apprentices Kristen Marshall and Laura Morton.

For some, the next few months may be a rocky transition period as they determine the next step in their career. Others, however, are already anticipating their future: Rogers is joining France’s Ballet du Rhin, and Felder is moving to Les Grands Ballet Canadiens. We wish the rest of the departing dancers successful futures.