Yuka Oba, Ednis Ariel Gomez Mallol and Connie Flachs in Swing by Olivier Wevers. Photo by Ryan Jackson, courtesy Flachs
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
Rehearsal for Penny Saunders' The Happy Prince & Other Wilde Tales. Photo by Isaac Aoki Photography, Courtesy Grand Rapids Ballet
Children's stories probably aren't the first thing that come to mind when considering the writings of Oscar Wilde. But his collection of stories for kids, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, forms the basis for Penny Saunders' latest work for Grand Rapids Ballet. There's plenty of ballet fodder to be found in the characters, from a self-sacrificing bird to a self-important firework to a selfish giant. Whether the tale Saunders weaves from the various stories ends in tragedy, happily ever after, or somewhere strange in between, audiences are in for a Wilde time. May 4–6, 11–12. grballet.com.
Today Grand Rapids Ballet announced that longtime San Francisco Ballet soloist James Sofranko will succeed Patricia Barker as its new artistic director, effective July 1, 2018.
The 38-year-old, now in his 18th season with SFB, topped a list of 40 applicants from around the world to become only the fifth artistic director in GRB's 46-year history.
Born in Marion, Indiana, Sofranko grew up in Cincinnati and trained at The Harid Conservatory and New York's Juilliard School. He joined SFB in 2000 and was promoted to soloist in 2007. From 2005–2006 he performed the lead role of Eddie in the national tour of Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel's Broadway musical Movin' Out. He also has directing experience: In 2014 he founded his own contemporary ballet repertory company, SFDanceworks, which performs during the summer.
The past few months have brought on a media storm surrounding accusations about the culture and employment practices at the Royal New Zealand Ballet. But it turns out, much of the reported information doesn't tell the whole story.
Caught up in the rumors has been newly hired artistic director Patricia Barker. The former Pacific Northwest Ballet star and concurrent director of Grand Rapids Ballet took over RNZB last June, and although the most troubling aspects of what has been reported, such as accusations of abusive behavior and other workplace grievances, pre-date her appointment, some complaints have been directed at her.