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AD Septime Webre Leaving


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The Washington Ballet sent out an email this morning announcing that Artistic Director Septime Webre is resigning, effective at the end of the season. The e-mail implies that he wants to concentrate on choreography and on helping other companies to stage the pieces that he's already created.

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Any thoughts on who might be stepping into the position?

I would think that they would be looking for a young, enthusiastic person. Webre was still in his 30's when he took over. It's a tough job, having to compete with all the companies that the Kennedy Center brings in (the WB's next program is running the same week as the Mariinsky Ballet!!!). Webre's personality and willingness to address audiences were, IMHO, a big asset for the WB.

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I think this is a positive development for ballet in DC. It sounds like the board has plans to get much bigger. I think Septime did a lot of positive things for dance in Washington, but he has reached his ceiling. If I were a gambler, I'd put my money on Julie Kent or Susan Jaffee. Both have DC roots. I think the board wants the company to move out of regional status. It has a great school, but needs a new facility, programing, etc. I think they'd like to create better relations with the Kennedy Center. Would be nice to have them performing in the opera house. Other possible contenders might be Suzanne Farrell, if they wanted to move in a Balanchine direction, or David Hallberg. He just joined their board, along with City Center's, and seems to be crafting his post-dance career. He hasn't performed in nearly 2 years and I'm sure the board might allow him to perform for a few more years, if needed to seal the deal. Similar to Tamara Rojo at English National. The problem with Hallberg is that I doubt his appointment would be long term. He might jump ship for other directorships (ABT, etc.). I think the Washington Ballet has great potential. The audience is there and it has an incredible performing arts facility (Kennedy Center). It just needs a leader to take it to that level. I think a company with the repertory similar to San Francisco Ballet would do really well.

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I think it'll be between Julie Kent and David Hallberg. Outside of the fame, does Hallberg have the chops to grow its budget and bring the company to the international stage? I think he will need guidance for some time. His appointment would certainly get the company a lot of of publicity.

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I don't think any major choreographer comes to mind. Justin Peck? Not sure he would accept and there is no track record on running a company. Edward Liang? Don't see him as on the "international" level. I think the strategic plan for the company aims to aggressively break into international status. I think a big name appointment could help that cause. I think the next 5 years might be transformative. Wayne McGregor would be a fun appointment... but I think they will go the more "ABT" route. Kevin Mckenzie had a long relationship with Mary Day. Julie Kent is from the DC area. Hallberg was trained by Kee Juan Han, the current director of the school.

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For a period of time before Webre, founder Mary Day was artistic director and Choo San Goh was resident choreographer. Day was most well known as a teacher. Goh's choreography was widely admired. However, neither Day nor Goh had the flashy personality or PR savy that Webre has.

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I think it'll be between Julie Kent and David Hallberg. Outside of the fame, does Hallberg have the chops to grow its budget and bring the company to the international stage? I think he will need guidance for some time. His appointment would certainly get the company a lot of of publicity.

Julie Kent and Victor Barbee as co-ADs?

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Julie Kent and Victor Barbee as co-ADs?

Could be. I'm not sure that Kent has the temperament to be an AD, but I could be wrong. However, she is from the DC area and everyone knows her. Would bring a lot of publicity. Barbee could help her build the company. If there were two ADs, I would hope that both contribute. Not one as director and the other as a ballet master. I would also hope that it doesn't become the same company as ABT. Needs to have a unique voice.

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IMHO, what the WB needs to concentrate on is developing dancers who will become at least as much of a draw as the AD is. It's great to have a dynamic and personable AD, but having dancers who can generate fan interest for a decade or more can help insulate the company from front office changes, which are always going to happen.

It would be nice if the WB could become more of a partner with the Kennedy Center, but is there any indication that the Kennedy Center would want that? Would they want to have to schedule their (presumably lucrative) visits by ABT, NYCB, Mariinksy, etc. around the WB's schedule?

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