NYCB Has Officially Started Its Search for a New Leader. Here's What We Know So Far.
Since December an interim artistic leadership team has been guiding New York City Ballet, and in January, Peter Martins officially resigned. But only now has the search for Martins' permanent replacement begun. Here's what we know about how the process will unfold.
The Company Is Seeking Dancers' Input
On Monday, a town hall-style meeting was held, allowing company members to weigh in on what they want from future leadership. The New York Times reports that this was the first of a series of conversations in the search committee's "listening tour." (The committee consists of seven voices from NYCB's board and six from the affiliated School of American Ballet's board.) More dancers, along with NYCB staff, donors and board members, are expected to offer their thoughts at future events.
The dancers will give their input during the first phase of the search. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
The town halls aren't the only option for current company members: Dancers are also welcome to express their thoughts privately and anonymously. Hopefully, this extra option will mean that the artists are comfortable to speak freely.
Recruitment firm Phillips Oppenheim has been enlisted by the committee, and this move signals that the search will not be purely insular. The firm has prior experience with arts organizations, and its clients include the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (where NYCB performs each summer), The Washington Ballet and Chicago's Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
The Position Won't Be Split
The new artistic director of NYCB will also lead its school. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy SAB.
Dancers, critics and fans alike have speculated if NYCB might decide to break the position into multiple roles, divvying up duties for directing the school and company amongst several people. According to the same Times article, that's not going to happen. The boards at NYCB and SAB decided more than a decade ago that its next successor would remain in charge of both.
Interviews Won't Start Right Away
Choosing an artistic leader is a multi-phase process (so hang in there, interim team). After the meetings within the company, the committee will turn to the larger ballet world: They want to hear from notable ballet figures, those involved with George Balanchine's and Jerome Robbins' trusts, and, yes, even Peter Martins. Prospective candidates will not be interviewed until this fall at the very earliest. Afterwards, the chosen candidate must go through a round of approvals: by the entire search committee and then by the boards of both NYCB and SAB.
Why Is Martins Involved?
Martins will be involved in the search for his successor. Photo by Adam Shankbone, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
While Martins resigned amidst allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse, an investigation did not corroborate these claims. Despite the tarnished relationship between Martins, NYCB and SAB, it does make sense to include him in this process. He stood at the helm of NYCB for 35 years, so he's more in touch with the position and the inner-workings of the company than anyone else.
Why the Snail's Pace?
Finding a new leader is a monumental decision for any dance organization, but given NYCB's status as one of the country's most foremost ballet companies, this appointment isn't going to be made hastily. The successor will only follow Balanchine (who was in place for 35 years), Robbins (who co-led with Martins at the beginning of his tenure) and Martins himself. While we're admittedly anxious to know who will be next, there's a lot at stake, so we prefer that the new leader be well worth the wait.
What happens during a performance is the product of the painstaking process of realizing an artistic vision. Whether held beforehand, afterward, offsite or online, audience discussions tend not to be so preordained, easily thrown off track without a skilled moderator at the helm.
"I'm someone who dreaded talkbacks and Q&As," admits Bill Bragin, former director of public programming at Lincoln Center. "While I was in New York, a lot of the time it was just audience members trying to show off how smart they were."
These events present a pile of difficult questions: How much do you reveal about a piece before it's shown? How can a conversation designed to hit key points feel casual and spontaneous? How do you cater to the needs of diverse attendees, from novice dancegoers to lifelong fans to scholars and critics? And how do you avoid smothering dance with language, flattening all its complexity?
If you think becoming a trainee or apprentice is the only path to gaining experience in a dance company environment, think again.
The University of Arizona, located in the heart of Tucson, acclimates dancers to the pace and rigor of company life while offering all the academic opportunities of a globally-ranked university. If you're looking to get a head-start on your professional dance career—or to just have a college experience that balances company-level training and repertory with rigorous academics—the University of Arizona's undergraduate and graduate programs have myriad opportunites to offer:
Yes, we realize it's only August. But we can't help but to already be musing about all the incredible dance happenings of 2019.
We're getting ready for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we want to hear from you about the shows you can't stop thinking about, the dance videos that blew your mind and the artists you discovered this year who everyone should know about.
I dance to encourage others. The longer I dance, the more I see that much of my real work is to speak life-giving words to my fellow artists. This is a multidimensionally grueling profession. I count it a privilege to remind my colleagues of how they are bringing beauty into the world through their craft. I recently noticed significant artistic growth in a fellow dancer, and when I verbalized what I saw, he beamed. The impact of positive feedback is deeper than we realize.