What This Job Posting Tells Us About the Future of NYCB
Update: The full job description has been posted here.
Ever since Peter Martins retired from New York City Ballet this January amid an investigation into sexual harassment and abuse allegations, we've been speculating about who might take his place—and how the role of ballet master in chief might be transformed.
Until now, we've only known a bit about what the search for a new leader looks like. But yesterday, The New York Times reported that the company has released a job description for the position. Here's what we're able to discern about the new leader and what this means for the future of NYCB:
They'll Have A New Title
Unlike most ballet company leaders, Peter Martins was known as "ballet master in chief." (Founder George Balanchine began his career as artistic director, but eventually changed his title to "ballet master.") According to the job posting, the company will be going back to the standard "artistic director" designation. What does this mean? Perhaps nothing. But it could speak to a desire to lessen the grandiosity of the position and the implication of absolute power.
They'll Still Be In Charge of the Company & the School
When Martins left, we wondered if the company would continue to want a leader who would run both NYCB and its affiliate School of American Ballet. It's a big role—most schools affiliated with large companies have their own director—and we thought it might be broken up into multiple positions. (Both institutions are currently being run by an interim leadership team of four: Jonathan Stafford, Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall and Justin Peck.) But the job posting makes it clear the search committee is looking for a leader to run both organizations.
They'll Probably Be An Insider
The job description says the candidate should "ideally also be an alumna/us of SAB and NYCB." Though this narrows the playing field significantly, it's no surprise. NYCB has always been an insider company, with very few dancers ever hired outside the SAB pipeline.
They May Not Be A Choreographer
Balanchine and Robbins (pictured) were both directors and celebrated choreographers. Photo courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.
The Times reports that the word "choreographer" is not in the job description at all. Instead, the new artistic director should have "the ability to select the best dancers, choreographers, teachers, and coaches and encourage their development." Hiring someone who can spot talented choreographers—rather than someone who is a talented choreographer themselves—will be a shift. (Though Martins, who initially followed in the footsteps of Balanchine and Robbins as a director who also choreographed prolifically, consistently received mixed reviews and in more recent years created few ballets.)
They Should Be "Humane"
The job posting reads: "The Artistic Director will be a humane leader for whom people wish to perform their best." What does this mean? Your guess is as good as ours, though it could be a response to the allegations against Martins. We can only hope that the rest of the job description explains what it means to be a "humane leader," and how candidates will be assessed on this qualification.
As you're prepping your Thanksgiving meal, why not throw in a dash of dance?
This year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is stuffed (pun intended) with performances from four stellar Broadway shows, the Radio City Rockettes and students from three New York City dance institutions.
Tune in to NBC November 28 from 9 am to noon (in all time zones), or catch the rebroadcast at 2 pm (also in all time zones). Here's what's in store:
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Last week, Variety reported that Sergei Polunin would reunite with the team behind Dancer for another documentary. "Where 'Dancer' looked at his whole life, family and influences," director Steven Cantor said, " 'Satori' will focus more squarely on his creative process as performer and, for the first time ever, choreographer." The title references a poorly received evening of work by the same name first presented by Polunin in 2017. (It recently toured to Moscow and St. Petersburg.)
I cannot be the only person wondering why we should care.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.