By Rita Felciano
5 August 2019
Becoming an artistic director can be a lot more complicated than it may seem. Dance Magazine spoke with three newly minted leaders, at the beginning and then again at the end of their first seasons as artistic directors of long-running ballet companies.
Amy Seiwert—Sacramento Ballet
Previous experience: Dancer with Sacramento Ballet; dancer and resident choreographer with Smuin Contemporary Ballet; director of her own pickup troupe, Imagery; freelance choreographer
Her thoughts on the job in fall 2018: “This is not a cookie-cutter company; there is a lot of diversity among the dancers. The company will be 65 years old, so I’m very aware of being part of a lineage. I hear Michael Smuin’s voice in my head all the time: He said that if you invite people into the theater and take their money, you better damn well entertain them.”
Garrett Anderson—Ballet Idaho
Previous experience: Dancer with San Francisco Ballet, Royal Ballet of Flanders, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Trey McIntyre Project
His thoughts on the job in fall 2018: “I like the openness and genuine joy in this company’s performances, and was struck by the sense of transparency and lack of pretension. I’ve had to build a season in a short time, which is a great opportunity to jumpstart my vision, but I’ve had to make decisions without knowing the company very well.”
James Sofranko—Grand Rapids Ballet
Previous experience: San Francisco Ballet soloist and founder of SFDanceworks
His thoughts on the job in fall 2018: “I had heard that the company had come a long way under the previous director, Patricia Barker. They were doing a lot of great work and had become noticed on the big stage. But for me, coming from a huge metropolitan area into a smaller one, I wonder whether there is an audience for the smaller pieces that can show that ballet is more than the big story ones.”
A year has gone by. How do you feel?
Seiwert: “The sheer amount of work was overwhelming. I felt like Sisyphus rolling up that boulder, fearing that it would kill me if I stopped. But I love working with these dancers.”
Anderson: “I have been treated so well, but people didn’t know what to expect from me, so we were careful about how we framed our message. Change has been about evolution and organic, rather than a pivot. I didn’t want our community only exposed to the finished product, so we invited people into our studios to observe the dancers at work. We also initiated preshow talks. Audiences right away were excited about what was happening.”
Sofranko: “Some people have left, and I’ve hired another bunch and now have a group of dancers who are 100 percent behind my vision. I have big dreams, but I don’t want to bankrupt the company with a moon shot that won’t serve anyone in the long term.”
Read the full interview in Dance Magazine.