Inside DM

New Artistic Directors = New School Directors

Ballet school heads have shifted in the wake of changing company leadership.

Miami City Ballet School. PC Pavel Antonov, Courtesy MCB.

The change in artistic directors at both The Washington Ballet (where Julie Kent took over this year) and Pennsylvania Ballet (led by Angel Corella since 2014) has set off a chain reaction of new school directorships. Among the transitions this fall, Arantxa Ochoa departs The School of Pennsylvania Ballet to become Miami City Ballet School’s new director of faculty and curriculum and Xiomara Reyes will head The Washington School of Ballet.

The Washington School of Ballet

When it was announced in April that Kee Juan Han would be stepping down as director of The Washington School of Ballet to return to his native Singapore, Kent asked the recently retired American Ballet Theatre principal Xiomara Reyes to apply for the position. Reyes’ husband, Rinat Imaev, a company teacher at ABT, is also joining the school as senior faculty and company teacher. The couple brings with them an international training background (Cuban, Russian and Belgian), and Reyes plans to keep the syllabus an amalgam of influences. “I am very excited and nervous for this challenge,” says Reyes. “But I feel ready and we are prepared to do our best. They have a very good infrastructure, which makes me feel safer, and Kee Juan helped introduce us to how the school works.”

While they do not have plans to make any sea changes yet, Reyes and Kent are interested in forging a stronger connection between the school and company. Reyes adds, “It is very important for the kids to be closer to their idols, the dancers from the company, and to give them that kind of nourishment.”

Miami City Ballet School

After 20 years within the Pennsylvania Ballet organization, as a dancer and then school director, Arantxa Ochoa made the tough decision to leave her home. “I was doing my thing with the school, and Angel and I didn’t talk about making any changes, so my leaving came as a bit of a surprise,” says Ochoa. “But it was time for me. I am extremely thankful to the organization and so proud of the kids; they are the hardest to leave.”

Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez initially approached Ochoa when she was auditioning teachers for the summer intensive and was interested in having Ochoa teach. She later offered her the larger position and Ochoa realized it was a perfect fit. “I remember watching Lourdes when I was at School of American Ballet and she was in New York City Ballet,” says Ochoa. “I think she is an incredible woman making great choices. When I look at those dancers who can do everything and are all individuals, I am inspired to do the same with the school, to create dancers who can dance like that.” Ochoa will be taking on a bigger school, with more students, and a faculty that is mostly unknown to her. Like Reyes, she has a goal of developing more students for the company. Ochoa also wants to make Miami City Ballet School a training destination for the next generation of dancers and plans to maintain her passion for developing theatricality and stage presence.

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet

Anastasia Babayeva and Denis Gronostayskiy will be replacing Ochoa at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet as co-principals. Both are graduates of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Russia and co-founders of the Academy of International Ballet in Media, Pennsylvania. Babayeva and Gronostayskiy are the latest in an array of changes made by Corella at Pennsylvania Ballet in the last year as he seeks to expand the company beyond its Balanchine roots.

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