Helene

Edwaard Liang Named Ballet Met Columbus Artistic Director

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From the press release:

BalletMet Columbus Names

Internationally Renowned Dancer/Choreographer

Edwaard Liang as Artistic Director

 

 BalletMet Columbus is delighted to announce that renowned choreographer Edwaard Liang will become its new Artistic Director effective July 2013. 

 

A former dancer with New York City Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater and on Broadway, Liang has built an international reputation as a choreographer.  Over the last decade, he has created work for the Bolshoi Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kirov Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Shanghai Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre and Washington Ballet.

  

Born in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in Marin County, California, Edwaard Liang began his early dance training at age 5 at Marin Ballet.  After studying at the School of American Ballet he joined New York City Ballet in 1993, the same year he was a medal winner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition and won the Mae L. Wien Award. By 1998, he was promoted to Soloist.

In 2001, Edwaard joined the Tony Award® winning Broadway cast of Fosse. His performance in Fosse was later televised nationally on PBS’ Great Performances series – “Dance in America: From Broadway: Fosse,” and subsequently released on DVD.

By 2002, Liang was invited by Jiri Kylian to become a member of the acclaimed Nederlands Dans Theater 1.  While dancing with NDT 1 Mr. Liang discovered his passion and love for choreography. Since establishing himself as a choreographer, his works have been performed by dance companies around the world and he has won numerous awards for his choreography including the 2006 National Choreographic Competition. 

 

BalletMet Columbus started its search for a new artistic director last spring after former Artistic Director Gerard Charles announced he would leave to become the Ballet Master at Chicago’s famed Joffrey Ballet.   “Throughout our search process, we have been aware that his position was not only important to BalletMet, but to Central Ohio.  Our search committee of board members, dancers, staff and community members worked tirelessly for nearly a year to evaluate more than 80 applicants from around the world,” said BalletMet Columbus board chair, Mary Duffey.  “Edwaard has committed to move to Columbus, and to our mission of engaging the community through quality performances, instruction, and education programs and creation of new work.”

 

BalletMet board member and search committee co-chair, Sue Porter added, “Edwaard has already had an extraordinary career as a dancer and choreographer and now is excited to take the next step as an artistic director.  We feel very proud that he has decided that BalletMet is where he wants to take that next step.”

 

Mr. Liang becomes BalletMet Columbus’ fifth artistic director, following a strong roster of past leadership that began in 1978 with Wayne Soulant and continued with John McFall (1986 – 1993), David Nixon (1994 – 2001) and Gerard Charles (2001 – 2012). 

 

BalletMet Columbus continues its 2012-2013 season with The Rite of Spring, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony March 22 – 24 at the Ohio Theatre.  The program features world premiere choreography by James Kudelka (The Rite of Spring) and Jimmy Orrante (Rapsodie Espagnol), and a Columbus premiere by Amedeo Amodio (Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun).

 

The 2012-2013 season concludes with the Columbus premiere of a new ballet by two-time Tony Award nominee Lynne Taylor-Corbett, The Little Mermaid, at the Capitol Theatre April 19 – 27.

 

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This is very promising news! How many choreographer led companies in the U.S do we have these days? And by "choreographer", I mean one whose works were sought after by other companies long before they became director themself of a company... I guess there are several, but lately the model seems to be "in residence". It will be interesting to see how his vision shapes Ballet Met.

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Ib Andersen had a ballet in the PNB rep before he became AD of Ballet Arizona. He was, at the time, working as a freelance choreographer and Balanchine Trust stager. William Whitener choreographed for other companies and in other genres. Christopher Stowell had begun to receive commissions before he became AD of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Stanton Welch was probably the most prolific and established choreographer before he took over Houston Ballet.

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Like him or not, Mikko Nissinen at Boston Ballet.

Septime Webre at Washington Ballet

Ben Stevenson at Texas Ballet Theater

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There have been a number of Artistic Directors who had some choreographic experience before taking over ballet companies, like Helgi Tomasson, Peter Martins, and Paul Mejia, for example, but had Stevenson established a career as a choreographer before he took over Houston Ballet or Mikko Nisseinen before he held the AD position in Alberta?

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2013-2014 Season

(order below is random, not significant)

Choreographer Directed

1. Ballet Met - Edwaard Liang

2. Ballet Arizona - Ib Anderson

3. Boston Ballet - Mikko Nissensen

4. Texas Ballet Theater - Ben Stevenson

5. Washington Ballet - Septime Webre

6. Houston Ballet - Stanton Welch

Ballet Master Directed

1. Joffrey Ballet- Ashley Wheater

2. Miami City Ballet - Lourdes Lopez

3. Pennsylvania Ballet - Roy Kaiser

4. Pacific Northwest Ballet - Peter Boal

5. Ballet West - Adam Sklute

6. Suzanne Farrell Ballet

7. Grand Rapids Ballet - Patricia Barker

8. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre - Terrence Orr

9. Los Angeles Ballet - Thordal Christensen

10. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet - Tom MossbrucKer

11. New Jersey Ballet - Carolyn Clark

Unknown

1. Kansas City Ballet

2. Oregon Ballet Theatre

3. Ballet San Jose

I'm not really sure what to make of choroegraphers Peter Martins and Helgi Tomasson because it seems so long since they have created on another company... But I guess that is true of Ben Stevenson too... Where would you put them?

I'm not counting Stowell or Whitener because they are ADs for 2013-2014 (hopefully I am mistaken)

Who all am I missing?

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Robert Hill, Orlando Ballet

Take a look on You Tube

Some pretty original, significant work

Probably in the choreographer driven category

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By your categories, Amy,

Choreographer Directed

North Carolina Dance Theatre - Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux

Carolina Ballet - Robert Weiss

The question, though, was how many AD's were primarily choreographers before being tapped for an AD spot, as opposed to becoming AD's bringing some choreographic experience, but mainly choreographing for their own company.

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I also do not think Mikko Nissinen should be on the choreographer list. He is not a choreographer. He only does so by necessity. He is not ballet master driven either. What is the criteria for a ballet master? I feel that would be to choose ballets for the dancers. There should be an Artistic Director list. Many of the Ballet Master list are probably more suited for the AD list. Artistic Directors are very good at choosing repertoire for their company and community. An AD needs to think about all components of his company and it's survival- dancers, repertoire, and the audience that supports the product.

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Okay I guess I understand the criteria Amy you set forth but still think there might be three categories but I would name them as:

Artistic Director Driven

Choreographer Driven

Ballet Master Driven (although rare, most AD's see the bigger picture that is AD driven)

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Oh, I was trying to come up with something better than "non-choreographer" driven for the second list... Those who weren't choreographers seemed more like ballet masters... (isn't that the title Balanchine claimed?)... Regardless of hether or not they are choreographers, artistic directors choose repertory, dancers and designers...

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Sorry Amy! I am getting caught up in semantics! I just do see that companies are run either by AD 's and Boards that promote and foster the AD's original work or look more for them choosing outside work.

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2013-2014 Season [updated]

(order below is random, not significant)

Choreographer Directed

1. Ballet Met - Edwaard Liang

2. Ballet Arizona - Ib Anderson

3. Boston Ballet - Mikko Nissensen

4. Texas Ballet Theater - Ben Stevenson

5. Washington Ballet - Septime Webre

6. Houston Ballet - Stanton Welch

7. Carolina Ballet - Robert Weiss

8. North Carolina Dance Theatre - Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux

9. Orlando Ballet - Robert Hill

Ballet Master Directed

1. Joffrey Ballet- Ashley Wheater

2. Miami City Ballet - Lourdes Lopez

3. Pennsylvania Ballet - Roy Kaiser

4. Pacific Northwest Ballet - Peter Boal

5. Ballet West - Adam Sklute

6. Suzanne Farrell Ballet

7. Grand Rapids Ballet - Patricia Barker

8. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre - Terrence Orr

9. Los Angeles Ballet - Thordal Christensen

10. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet - Tom MossbrucKer

11. New Jersey Ballet - Carolyn Clark

Unknown

1. Kansas City Ballet

2. Oregon Ballet Theatre

3. Ballet San Jose

I'm not really sure what to make of choroegraphers Peter Martins and Helgi Tomasson because it seems so long since they have created on another company... But I guess that is true of Ben Stevenson too...   Where would you put them? Some of these never quite achieved as fame as choreographers as they did as dancers...

I'm not counting Stowell or Whitener because they are ADs for 2013-2014 (hopefully I am mistaken)

Who all am I missing?

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I'm not counting Stowell or Whitener because they are ADs for 2013-2014 (hopefully I am mistaken)

I think this is a typo -- both Stowell and Whitener are leaving (or have left) their respective companies this year -- neither will be ADs in the 13-14 season.

Who all am I missing?

Nashville Ballet -- Paul Vasterling makes work for the company. I am not sure what his career was like before this position, though.

Cincinnati Ballet -- Victoria Morgan

Eugene Ballet -- Toni Pimble

(so there's two women)

It looks like we've got more than two categories here, really. Companies that are led by choreographers who have established that part of their career as a separate part of their lives (Balanchine/Robbins at NYCB, Stevenson at Houston B and Texas Theater B, Webre at Washington B..) Companies that are led by directors who can make dances for the ensemble, but whose careers are not primarily about their choreography (Whitener at Kansas City B, Tomasson at San Francisco B, Joffrey at Joffrey B.) And then companies that are led by directors who do not make dancers for the ensemble (or do it very rarely) (Boal at Pacific Northwest B, Lopez at Miami City B, Ashley Wheater at Joffrey B)

People sometimes slide around on this (while he was AD at Oregon Ballet Theater, Christopher Stowell's job was as much about finding other people's choreography for the ensemble as it was about making work himself, but now that he's left the organization, he'll likely be choreographing more frequently) but I do think there's a difference between someone who can make decent dances when the need arises, and someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer.

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It looks like we've got more than two categories here, really. Companies that are led by choreographers who have established that part of their career as a separate part of their lives (Balanchine/Robbins at NYCB, Stevenson at Houston B and Texas Theater B, Webre at Washington B..) Companies that are led by directors who can make dances for the ensemble, but whose careers are not primarily about their choreography (Whitener at Kansas City B, Tomasson at San Francisco B, Joffrey at Joffrey B.) And then companies that are led by directors who do not make dancers for the ensemble (or do it very rarely) (Boal at Pacific Northwest B, Lopez at Miami City B, Ashley Wheater at Joffrey B)

People sometimes slide around on this (while he was AD at Oregon Ballet Theater, Christopher Stowell's job was as much about finding other people's choreography for the ensemble as it was about making work himself, but now that he's left the organization, he'll likely be choreographing more frequently) but I do think there's a difference between someone who can make decent dances when the need arises, and someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer.

I haven't had any caffeine yet, but in your transition to a 3 category system here you place Joffrey in the second, which you then seem to associate with "someone who can make decent dances when the need arises," rather than "someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer."

In some ways I agree with the distinction between these categories, and certainly Joffrey's career was about much more than choreography.

But I think you've given him rather a rough assessment here. He wasn't someone who just "can make dances for the ensemble."

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Yes, thanks for the correction & additions. It's good to see the list. I had thought we were trending more toward non choreographer led companies since the mid 90s, but it looks like that was not so. In the 70s it felt like every company had a dedicated choreographer either leading it or as a long term residence. Who at ABT has replaced Tudor? We now have Ratmansky on a longer contract but how much of his year is he actually at ABT? Who has replaced Aroino and Joffrey at The Joffrey? Is it just that when an institution reaches a certain size where sustaining it financially requires a certain kind of management that it is difficult to have a choreographer run company? Maybe it is easier to survive the lows in a choreographer's output when one isn't trying to float a huge budget?

I like to see repertory grow forward wuth living choreograohers instead of only backwards adding in classics and reconstructions. Are the "hot" choreographers doing do much globe trotting that its hard for them to develop deep "muse relationships" with dancers the way earlier choreographers seem to have? Does the globe trotting water down the chance for a particular company to develop it's own style? Ballet has surely benefitted from the development of such styles before.

I wonder what Liang dancers will begin to look like...

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Why do the juiciest questions come up when I have other work to do?

I haven't had any caffeine yet, but in your transition to a 3 category system here you place Joffrey in the second, which you then seem to associate with "someone who can make decent dances when the need arises," rather than "someone who identifies themselves primarily as a choreographer."

In some ways I agree with the distinction between these categories, and certainly Joffrey's career was about much more than choreography.

But I think you've given him rather a rough assessment here. He wasn't someone who just "can make dances for the ensemble."

I think both of us might need further caffeination -- let me try and be more clear.

My distinction here isn't so much about the quality of the choreography, but about how central the role of choreographer is to the artist. You're right -- Joffrey made some exquisite works, but I think if we could ask him, he would say that his work as a collector of other people's choreography was in many ways more important than his own creations -- that the repertory of the company was his most important contribution to the art form.

The other aspect that I was thinking about was how some artists seem to have two, simultaneous and yet distinct identities, so that they are choreographers, working with a variety of ensembles, and they are directors, working with distinct companies. For all that he was powerfully associated with American Ballet Theater, Tudor made work for a variety of companies -- his identity as a choreographer was separate from his identity as a director. This happens more frequently now -- think of people like Ratmansky, Wheeldon and Kudelka -- it takes an immense amount of energy, and an institution that does not need a big infusion of new choreography by a singular voice (a company whose style isn't rooted in a specific kind of work), but at a time when so many ballet companies have a backlog of work to depend on (and to conserve), if you're intent on making a lot of new work, you might have to find several outlets for it.

Who at ABT has replaced Tudor? We now have Ratmansky on a longer contract but how much of his year is he actually at ABT? Who has replaced Aroino and Joffrey at The Joffrey? Is it just that when an institution reaches a certain size where sustaining it financially requires a certain kind of management that it is difficult to have a choreographer run company? Maybe it is easier to survive the lows in a choreographer's output when one isn't trying to float a huge budget?

I think perhaps Tudor has been replaced by a couple of people, since he performed several functions at ABT. I don't have time to look it up right now, but I have a feeling that Ratmansky has already made more works than Tudor did, so it's not just a question of volume.

Yes, for years Arpino was a prolific resident choreographer at the Joffrey (and I'm not sure he really worked outside the company, though I wouldn't be surprised if he had) But they've had a long tradition of mixed repertory -- like the Ailey company, it was never about the work of one person.

Need to go be productive, but will be back.

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Ok, which choreographers have left their stamp on which companies? Obviously Balanchine on ABT and Ashton on the Royal... Tudor had a definite influence on the old ABT and I think deMille left her influence too, though perhaps that is now so long gone that it is easier to remember her influence playing feeding along with Joffrey & Arpino into the old Joffrey. I suspect that no matter what the NY critics might think of Nissensen, that he is beginning to shape Boston Ballet into it's own personal style rather than just another good repertory company. Hey, Nureyev certainly left his influence as a choreographer on the dancing of the Paris Opera, even if he was a greater dancer than choreographer... Has Ratmansky yet shaped ABT? Will Liang shape Ballet Met?

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We tend to think of Balanchine as having dominated from the beginning, but until NYCB, his work might have been of the top quality wherever he was, but there were many other choreographers in these companies and project groups, and, according to the Duberman bio, he resisted many of Kirstein's ideas on American themes which would have gone to other choreographers in other Kirstein-sponsored projects. There were also other, outside choreographers (besides Robbins)! Including Tudor and Ashton. Ashton gradually became the dominant choreographer, and Macmillan established a body of work at Royal Ballet before he took over as dominant, but not sole choreographer, especially in a company that did full-length classics. Tudor wasn't prolific enough to dominate ABT exclusively.

Ashton and Tudor became relatively dominant in young, emerging rep companies, while Balanchine had that rare sponsor who begged, borrowed, and stole to put his works front and center. NYCB was one of the few companies to be created on a similar model to most of the most well-known modern companies, who existed for a single artistic vision.

Ashton and Balanchine were lucky to have schools -- with Ashton for a more limited period of time -- that developed dancers who not only could meet the technical demands of their choreography, but also which developed a singular style. For Tudor, it was more to do with coaching, and while that makes his works so delicate, the Ashton style has also been lost despite the existence of a school.

Unless someone is willing to throw a lot of money at a choreographer to create a company for them, like Balanchine -- for whom else has this happened? -- or a choreographer is willing to start his or her own small group and try to grow it -- maybe the original, failed Morphoses concept comes closest -- the choices for a choreographer are growing within companies, like Liang. now Peck, Wheeldon, Ratmansky, Martins and then taking them over, taking over a different company, or skipping the AD headaches -- personnel management, season planning, fundraising, accounting, etc. -- and becoming Resident choreographer. Ratmansky is (re-?)establishing that place at American Ballet Theatre.

For AD's with at least some choreographic experience and interest where they choreograph for their own company out of necessity, sometimes that necessity means re-shaping a company through the work. Like Hayden said, "I became a Balanchine dancer by dancing Balanchine ballets.". (She didn't have the luxury of his early schooling.) When Ib Andersen took over Ballet Arizona and Helgi Tomasson took over San Francisco Ballet, their works were essential in transitioning existing companies from a more contemporary rep to a more technically demanding classical and neoclassical one, and to do this, they created works that strengthened the technique -- and certainly with Andersen the mime and dramatic aspects of works -- and the abilities of the dancers and grew the dancers through their own choreography and the careful curation of rep that did the same. Kent and Christoper Stowell took the same aporoaches at PNB and OBT. Most of the time they created works not just because they had an idea for ballet ABC, but because their companies needed specific works of specific sizes with a specific range of roles with specific technical and artistic challenges at the time, even if they weren't always immune to the call of a muse or to the advantages of creating if not stars, then recognizable names in their dance-going communities. Ratmansky was starting from a better place at ABT, but he seems to be taking a similar approach.

I think this aspect of company-building is highly under-rated and that it stems from an understanding of institutions and lomg-term planning and thinking. It's why Jerome Robbins, with his slash-and-burn approach and total focus/selfishness about his work, was suited to short-term project companies and existing in a company where all that was done for him.

I don't know BalletMet well enough to understand what condition the company is in or what it needs. I've also only seen a couple of very small ballets by him, which don't show a wide range or tge abilities to move groups around or to create the hierarchical opportunities that feed dancers what they need at that point in their development. He might very well have created works which show this and/or may be an intelligent purchaser of appropriate rep for the company. He may gradually use his own work to create an artistic vision and, through that and his selection of other rep, to bring the company to another level, which seems to me to be the point of being an AD.

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I fear that Ratmansky imay not be not at ABT enough to make a big impact, even with the long contract. I fear he is there as much as the guest artists are there... (Please, someone disabuse me of this notion... For I hope that I am wrong.)

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Ratmansky would need a reason to leave and a reason to take on the administrative work of an AD. The. Major Chad R&D companies are all accounted for, with the possible exception of the Mariinsky. (Why he'd want to be second-fiddle to Gergiev and the opera were this ever to become a possibility, I don't know.)

He's got a great gig at ABT: he gets to make new work performed by a core of great dancers and impressive guests, and from the outside, it looks like Kevin McKenzie gives him lots of latitude. Plus he gets to live in NYC. What's not to like?

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