As she was stepping into her new role as artistic director of The Washington Ballet this July, ballet icon Julie Kent made a natural fit for the cover of our first-ever Feminist Issue. At the time, she was still just starting to get her feet wet. Writer Marina Harss’ profile of Kent covered some of her dreams for the troupe, like increasing the roster, expanding the repertoire and using live music whenever possible. But now we’ve started to see some of her changes in action. So what does a Washington Ballet led by Julie Kent actually look like?
Live Music is Here
Count it as Dream Accomplished: Yesterday, the company announced that each of its spring performances will feature a live orchestra, led by a guest conductor from other ballet companies around the country. (What a fun idea!) Charles Barker, from American Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Ballet, will conduct Giselle in March, and Martin West of San Francisco Ballet will conduct the company’s season-closing repertory program in May.
The Nutcracker music will be taped because, as Kent told The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kaufman, “We won’t sell one more ticket if we have live music, and it’s about $100,000 a week. We have to move forward strategically and sensibly, and use the money for the orchestra where we can get the most out of it.”
No word on how the company will foot the live music bill this spring, although TWB’s website does have eight separate categories listed under “Support.”
Big ABT Names Sign On
We also found out yesterday that Kent’s first-ever commissioned work will go to Ethan Stiefel, one of her former partners. He’s recently dabbled in choreography on Flesh and Bone, at the Royal New Zealand Ballet and on ABT’s Studio Company. His new one act ballet, tentatively titled Frontier, will be based on John F. Kennedy’s determination to land a man on the moon.
He’s not the only ABT alum Kent’s brought in. Former principal Xiomara Reyes, who retired the same year as Kent, is the new head of The Washington Ballet School.
New Dancers Hired
Kent has hired two ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School grads: Brittany Stone as a dancer and Adelaide Clauss as an apprentice. She’s also brought in two major stars—the much-loved Cuban dancer Rolando Sarabia and former Korean National Ballet principal Eun Won Lee. Expect many more names in the coming seasons if the company grows from 21 to 40, as Kent hopes it will.
This spring, TWB will add to its repertoire two works by ballet’s most sought-after choreographers today: In Creases by Justin Peck and Seven Sonatas by Alexei Ratmansky (in which Kent was in the original cast). The company will also tackle Sir Frederick Ashton’s beloved classic The Dream for the first time.
Workshops for Outside Dancers
If you’re really curious what Kent’s like at the head of the studio, sign up for her master class series next month. Reyes will be teaching on November 12 and Kent on November 19. The two-part series will also include character and contemporary classes, plus post-class Q&As with the two directors. The series is open to adult dancers—and could be a smart audition opportunity for anyone curious about joining the company.
Of course, it’s still early in Kent’s directing career. But so far, most of these choices seem like savvy moves—even if they’re heavily inspired by her ABT background. We can’t wait to see what else she has in store.