Claudia Bauer is a writer and critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dance Magazine, Pointe Magazine, DanceTabs.com and more. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and covers dance internationally.
Adam Sklute (seated far right) at a Ballet West audition. Photo by Jim Lafferty
Audition classes may not differ much from any other class—but directors have ways of sussing out who has what they're looking for. We spoke to three artistic directors to get their perspective from the front of the room.
Nashiville Ballet artistic director Paul Vasterling went through executive coaching to be come a better leader. Photo by Anthony Matula, Courtesy Nashville Ballet
From the outside, it seemed like the worst of New York City Ballet's problems were behind them last winter, when ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired amid accusations of abuse and sexual harassment, and an internal investigation did not substantiate those claims.
But further troubles were revealed in August when a scandal broke that led to dancer Chase Finlay's abrupt resignation and the firing of fellow principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro. All three were accused of "inappropriate communications" and violating "norms of conduct."
The artistic director sets the tone for a dance company and leads by example. But regardless of whether Martins, and George Balanchine before him, established a healthy organization, the issues at NYCB bespeak an industry-wide problem, says Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women. "From New York City Ballet to emerging artists, we've just done what's been handed down," she observes. "That has not necessarily led to great practices."
Ilaria Guerra auditioned for LINES four times before joining the company. Photo by Kyle McKee, Courtesy Mona Baroudi
Ilaria Guerra only joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet in January, but she's already a towering presence in the San Francisco company—and not just because she's 6' tall. Guerra employsher seemingly infinite limbs with luscious fluidity and propulsive power, instinctive musicality and a self-assured presence. And as exquisitely as she embodies King's choreography, she also makes it entirely her own.
Dance Magazine's December 2018 cover girl: Adji Cissoko. Photographed by Jayme Thornton
Adji Cissoko has the alchemical blend of willowy limbs and earthy musicality you expect from a dancer in Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But she also has something more—a joy in dancing that makes every step feel immediate.
"She has this soulful quality of an ancient spirit coming through her body," says LINES chief executive officer Muriel Maffre, a former prima ballerina with San Francisco Ballet. "She's fearless, which is fun to work with," says artistic director Alonzo King. "I don't know how to put it into words— she's herself."