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Julie Kent is New AD at Washington Ballet


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"With a new artistic director, the board wants to increase the company’s size and make the public more aware of the school and community involvement. According to its 2013-23 strategic plan, the organization aims to employ 40 dancers by 2023, adding at least two a year."

​I think the board has goals outside of a chamber ballet company. Lets hope that the ballet regularly returns to the Opera House at the Kennedy Center.

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So who will get Victor Barbee's job? Would that be a good fit for Ethan Stiefel?

I'm betting Ratmansky. I view that role like the VP of the United States (maybe that's incorrect) so I don't see why he couldn't handle that plus fulfill all of his choreography commitments. He seems to have had a lot of influence on many dancers, giving big roles to corps and soloists, so it's an obvious choice to me.

I'm very, very surprised Kent is leaving ABT. She seems beloved by so many dancers there who really value her teaching and coaching. So much for her running the summer intensive. Can't imagine Mckenzie is thrilled. And I'm also surprised Barbee is going to take the associate role there, reporting to her basically. Congrats to her though. Good to see another woman appointed AD.

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Congrats to both Kent and Barbee. Given Leon's comment in The Washington Post article that they're seen as a package deal, I think they'll both get their money's worth in artistic power...and a better pace of life for family time.

I rather think McKenzie will be understanding: he studied in Washington and left ABT to begin his administrative career there, too. And ABT doesn't lack teaching artists with a command of its rep from recent generations (Salstein, Stiefel, Beloserkovsky, Gomes, Murphy) to step into their places.

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Isn't Barbee more qualified to be an AD than Kent? So many years as Associate AD with ABT, he now will have the same Associate position with a much smaller troupe? I guess that the WB was primarily seeking a "face" and "name" to lead cocktail parties to raise funds, rather than a solid administrator. (Let's call it what it is.) Her husband can more than help her in the real work & she'll learn the ropes. Good luck.

By the way, the WB and its affiliated school were founded and run for decades by Mary Day, so it's not a matter of "finally" getting a woman in the AD role.

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I actually think this is a smart move on the part of Julie Kent and Victor Barbee.

They may be looking ahead to Kevin McKenzie's eventual retirement (by choice . . . or not) and wondering what their place would be under a new regime, particularly in the case of Barbee. When the ABT artistic director succession is discussed, Barbee's name is rarely mentioned. The two most frequently cited names are Alexei Ratmansky and Ethan Stiefel. I could see Barbee working under Ratmansky but, with Steifel, there's no guarantee that Stiefel wouldn't bring in someone from his own generation, like Sascha Radetsky or Marcelo Gomes, as his #2. In which case, Barbee would become the ABT equivalent of Laurent Hilaire -- the odd man out.

That being said, this is a big, big loss for ABT as Barbee has been with the company since the mid-70s and Kent has been a company member since the mid-80s. They know all the productions backwards and forwards. And long may Irina Kolpakova live but she will be 83 years old in 2016. That's another looming problem the company has.

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I'm very, very surprised Kent is leaving ABT. She seems beloved by so many dancers there who really value her teaching and coaching. So much for her running the summer intensive. Can't imagine Mckenzie is thrilled. And I'm also surprised Barbee is going to take the associate role there, reporting to her basically. Congrats to her though. Good to see another woman appointed AD.

This news was actually posted yesterday on another thread under ABT when I read the announcement in Washington Post :) Based on the article I am not as surprised as I am sure having her mother in the area for her children would make good sense?!

".........Kent grew up in Potomac, attended Winston Churchill High School and studied at Maryland Youth Ballet .... Her mother, who is the only surviving grandparent to Kent and Barbee’s children, lives in the area. That pull, and “not wanting to miss an opportunity that doesn’t come along often,” overrode her reluctance to leave a life she has adored since joining ABT’s corps de ballet in 1986, Kent said..."

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I had the sense that Barbee never had the artistic stature to be seriously considered as the next ABT AD - not with people like Stiefel and Ratmansky around. And she hasn't had the opportunity to develop administrative experience while she's been dancing. So they should make a perfect team at Washington Ballet, combining their strengths. Perhaps someday they'll be in a position to come back to ABT or perhaps they will be happy enough at WB to stay there and build the company. Her predecessor stayed for 17 years!

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I actually think this is a smart move on the part of Julie Kent and Victor Barbee.

They may be looking ahead to Kevin McKenzie's eventual retirement (by choice . . . or not) and wondering what their place would be under a new regime, particularly in the case of Barbee. When the ABT artistic director succession is discussed, Barbee's name is rarely mentioned. The two most frequently cited names are Alexei Ratmansky and Ethan Stiefel. I could see Barbee working under Ratmansky but, with Steifel, there's no guarantee that Stiefel wouldn't bring in someone from his own generation, like Sascha Radetsky or Marcelo Gomes, as his #2. In which case, Barbee would become the ABT equivalent of Laurent Hilaire -- the odd man out.

That being said, this is a big, big loss for ABT as Barbee has been with the company since the mid-70s and Kent has been a company member since the mid-80s. They know all the productions backwards and forwards. And long may Irina Kolpakova live but she will be 83 years old in 2016. That's another looming problem the company has.

Oooooooo.....I really like this idea: Stifel as AD, with Radetsky as the associate AD. Or, Gomes as AD, w/ Radetsky. For some reason, I'd never considered Radetsky in that mix, but it makes wonderful sense.

And, yes, it's a big loss with them leaving. As I mentioned upthread, Kent is a beloved teacher/coach, and I'm surprised she'd leave especially given her recent appointment to the summer intensive, but for the reasons you've mentioned I have to agree it's a smart move for them. I had thought Kent would become the next "Kolpakova" at ABT.

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I can understand why they would make this shift to WB -- opportunities that likely would not come their way in their current company. But it is indeed a major loss of institutional memory for ABT.

We talk alot about that aspect of NYCB, especially about Martins' choices to include some and exclude others, but we don't have that same conversation about ABT very often. Why is that, do you suppose?

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We talk a lot about that aspect of NYCB, especially about Martins' choices to include some and exclude others, but we don't have that same conversation about ABT very often. Why is that, do you suppose?

Because ABT's repertory was never driven by one man in life (and by his memory in death.) Balanchine looms so large at the New York City Ballet that the custodianship of his surviving works takes on an almost religious dimension in terms of how true the surviving company is remaining to the "true faith". Hence the ongoing discussion about the adequacy of the stagers. With ABT, the repertory has been so eclectic over the years that bad or inaccurate stagings in one area (i.e. the much-maligned Kirkland Sleeping Beauty) need not impact stagers and stagings in other areas (Tudor, Tharp, Ashton, MacMillan).

One of the interesting things going on right now at ABT is the potential for the Ratmansky and Ashton repertories to reinforce one another, Ratmansky himself has talked about this and how he sees a certain kinship between what he is doing and the Ashton works in repertory. For those who like to criticize ABT for not having a unifying creative force at its core, one may start to emerge between the Ratmansky-Ashton linkage. Can't say if it will happen but it might.

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I guess that the WB was primarily seeking a "face" and "name" to lead cocktail parties to raise funds, rather than a solid administrator.

If that's the case (and I don't whether it is or not), at least they would have her husband leading from behind. Unfortunately, it may be a trend that the ability to raise money will become an increasingly important criteria for selecting directors of arts organizations. The National Symphony's current music director apparently was hired because he is good at schmoozing with wealthy donors (and he doesn't have a wife who can make up for his shortcomings as a conductor).

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Because ABT's repertory was never driven by one man in life (and by his memory in death.) Balanchine looms so large at the New York City Ballet that the custodianship of his surviving works takes on an almost religious dimension in terms of how true the surviving company is remaining to the "true faith". Hence the ongoing discussion about the adequacy of the stagers. With ABT, the repertory has been so eclectic over the years that bad or inaccurate stagings in one area (i.e. the much-maligned Kirkland Sleeping Beauty) need not impact stagers and stagings in other areas (Tudor, Tharp, Ashton, MacMillan).

Totally agree with this. Too, the post-Baryshnikov regime change followed by the danger of collapse more or less cleared the decks: I imagine that naturally progressing into the company's staff probably appeared neither financially possible nor desirable. And I guess we've also found one unexpected virtue in having a larger roster of guest stars rather than home-grown types for many years...less family drama!

One of the interesting things going on right now at ABT is the potential for the Ratmansky and Ashton repertories to reinforce one another, Ratmansky himself has talked about this and how he sees a certain kinship between what he is doing and the Ashton works in repertory. For those who like to criticize ABT for not having a unifying creative force at its core, one may start to emerge between the Ratmansky-Ashton linkage. Can't say if it will happen but it might.

Yeah, as they've been adding/reviving at least one Ashton work a year for a while, it seems a deliberate strategy.

The coaching question is interesting. In terms of resolving both the Ashton/MacMillan coaching position left by Parkinson and the traditional Petipa technique coaching position that Kolpakova fills, I think Murphy makes more sense than anyone...that is, if she has the desire and the gift for it. (She's great in the American short works, too.)

I'm a little surprised Gomes and Vishneva aren't mentioned more as potential future artistic directors, given their artistic stature and experience putting together shows (it's the experience that counts, not the quality). But not too much, given the whole white, US-born male thing.

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I don't feel like Vishneva has shown any particular dedication to ABT that would ever put her in the running for a high level administrative post. Her appearances with ABT have been few and far between during the last few years.

Gomes, however, has been 100 percent dedicated to ABT, and I would be thrilled if he ended up in a leadership position after his dancing career is over. The problem is that I think you have to be tough and mean to lead an organizaton like ABT - hirings, firings, promotions, casting and so on - and I'm not sure that Gomes would ever want that kind of a job.

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I don't feel like Vishneva has shown any particular dedication to ABT that would ever put her in the running for a high level administrative post. Her appearances with ABT have been few and far between during the last few years.

Gomes, however, has been 100 percent dedicated to ABT, and I would be thrilled if he ended up in a leadership position after his dancing career is over. The problem is that I think you have to be tough and mean to lead an organizaton like ABT - hirings, firings, promotions, casting and so on - and I'm not sure that Gomes would ever want that kind of a job.

Agreed about Vishneva even though I love her as a dancer I can't see her in an administrative position nor do I think she would want to, Gomes would be wonderful! Now that Silicon Valley Ballet is shutting now.... Carreño?

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On Kent’s dream list of ballets to add to the repertoire are works by English, Russian and American masters, such as Frederick Ashton, Alexei Ratmansky and Martha Graham. She aims to group them into programs by their nationality, to explore “the similarities, and what makes an English or a Russian masterpiece, and the chronologies.”
On Kent’s dream list of ballets to add to the repertoire are works by English, Russian and American masters, such as Frederick Ashton, Alexei Ratmansky and Martha Graham. She aims to group them into programs by their nationality, to explore “the similarities, and what makes an English or a Russian masterpiece, and the chronologies.”
Kent, who grew up in Potomac, Md., envisions collaborations with other Washington arts institutions, such as “a program in conjunction with an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, or one of the smaller galleries.” Kent also has in mind historical retrospectives that would link ballet to wider cultural developments: “Programs focusing on art in the 1920s, or pre-war or post-war, that would add relevance to a conversation that’s happening now.”

Sounds like she has big plans for the company. See more here : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/03/08/ballet-star-julie-kent-has-big-plans-for-washington-ballet/

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This is followed by

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/when-the-boss-is-a-ballerina-julie-kent-on-balancing-washington-ballet-top-job-and-family/2016/03/25/7d076798-f03f-11e5-89c3-a647fcce95e0_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-card-arts%3Ahomepage%2Fcard

, which contains a few more details, e.g., she wants to schedule Symphonic Variations next season.

I assume that they've researched funding sources, but doubling the size of the company seems like a pretty daunting task. It would be nice if they could become an affiliate of the Kennedy Center, which seems to have more money than it knows what to do with (e.g., they are paying well over $2 million/year to the not particularly talented music director of the National Symphony). But would the Kennedy Center have an interest in that? They presumably rake in lots of money from the annual visits by ABT, NYCB, and (especially) Mariinsky, so would they want to turn around and hand some of that money over to another ballet company? And then have to worry about scheduling conflicts?

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It would be nice if they could become an affiliate of the Kennedy Center, which seems to have more money than it knows what to do with (e.g., they are paying well over $2 million/year to the not particularly talented music director of the National Symphony). But would the Kennedy Center have an interest in that? They presumably rake in lots of money from the annual visits by ABT, NYCB, and (especially) Mariinsky, so would they want to turn around and hand some of that money over to another ballet company? And then have to worry about scheduling conflicts?

I don't see any official designation on the website, but Suzanne Farrell Ballet is more or less the Kennedy Center's ballet company.

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It must be a figurehead, schoozy kind of appointment, because Peter Martins, Edward Villella, Helgi Tomasson, Peter Boal, Ib Andersen, Jose Carena, Benjamin Millepied, Kevin McKenzie, Christopher Stowell, Ethan Stiefel, Christopher d'Amboise, and Gen Horiuchi had years of administrative experience before being appointed Artist Director ;)

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