GEORGE BALANCHINE (1904-1983)
George Balanchine, born Georgi Melitonovitch Balanchivadze in St. Petersburg,
Russia, is regarded as the foremost contemporary choreographer in the world
of ballet. At the age of nine, he was accepted into the ballet section
of St. Petersburg's rigorous Imperial Theater School, and, with other young
was soon appearing on the stage of the famed Maryinsky Theater in such
spectacles as The Sleeping Beauty (his favorite). He graduated with honors
in 1921 and
joined the corps de ballet of the Maryinsky, by then renamed the State
Theater of Opera and Ballet.
The son of a composer, Balanchine gained a knowledge of music early in
life that far exceeded that of most of his fellow choreographers. He began
piano lessons at five, and at some point between 1919 and 1921, while continuing
to dance, he enrolled in the Petrograd Conservatory of Music. There he
studied piano and music theory, including composition, harmony, and counterpoint,
for three years, and he began to compose music. (In the upheaval of the
Revolution, when money was worthless, he sometimes played the piano in
cabarets and silent movie houses in exchange for bread.) Such extensive musical
made it possible for Balanchine as a choreographer to communicate with
a composer of the stature of Stravinsky; it also gave him the ability to make
of orchestral scores, an invaluable aid in translating music into dance.
Balanchine began to choreograph while still in his teens, creating his
first work in 1920 or earlier. It was a pas de deux called La Nuit, for
himself and a female student, to the music of Anton Rubinstein. Another of
duets, Enigma, danced in bare feet, was performed once at a benefit on
the stage of the State Theater, as well as for some years thereafter, in both
Petrograd/Leningrad and in the West. In 1923, he and some of his colleagues
formed a small troupe, the Young Ballet, for which he composed several
in an experimental vein, but the authorities disapproved, and the performers
were threatened with dismissal if they continued to participate. Then fatefully,
in the summer of 1924, Balanchine and three other dancers were permitted
to leave the newly formed Soviet Union for a tour of Western Europe. They
not return. With Balanchine were Tamara Geva, Alexandra Danilova, and Nicholas
Efimov, all of whom later became well known in the West. Seen performing
in London, the dancers were invited by the impresario Serge Diaghilev to audition
for his renowned Ballets Russes and were taken into the company.
Diaghilev had his eye on Balanchine as a choreographer as well and, with
the departure of Bronislava Nijinska, hired him as ballet master (principal
choreographer). Balanchine's first substantive effort was Ravel's L'Enfant
et les Sortilèges (1925), the first of four treatments he would
make of this wondrous score over the years. Then came a reworking of Stravinsky's Le Chant du Rossignol, in which 14-year-old Alicia Markova made her stage
debut. From that time until 1929, when the Ballets Russes collapsed with
Diaghilev's death, Balanchine created nine more ballets (in addition to
numerous slighter pieces), including the immortal Apollon Musagète (1928) and Prodigal Son (1929). During this period, Balanchine suffered
a serious knee injury. This limited his dancing and may have bolstered
his commitment to full-time choreography.
The next years were uncertain ones. Balanchine was making a movie with
former Diaghilev ballerina Lydia Lopokova (the wife of British economist
John Maynard Keynes) when he heard of Diaghilev's death. He soon began
staging dances for Britain's popular Cochran Revues; acted as guest ballet
master for the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen; and was engaged by its
founder René Blum as ballet master for a new Ballets Russes, the
Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, for which he choreographed three ballets
around the talents of the young Tamara Toumanova-Cotillon, La Concurrence,
and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
Leaving the Ballets Russes (perhaps due to the aggressive presence of Colonel
W. de Basil, who soon took the company away from René Blum), Balanchine
formed Les Ballets 1933, with Boris Kochno, Diaghilev's last private secretary,
as artistic advisor and the backing of British socialite Edward James.
For the company's first-and only-season, he created six new ballets, in
collaboration with such leading artistic figures as Bertolt Brecht and
Kurt Weill (The Seven Deadly Sins), artist Pavel Tchelitchew (Errante),
and composers Darius Milhaud (Les Songes) and Henri Sauget (Fastes). But
the troupe disbanded in a matter of months. It was during its London engagement,
however, that a meeting occurred that would change the history of 20th-century
The young American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein (1907-1996), raised in
Boston and a graduate of Harvard University, harbored a dream: To establish
a ballet company in America, filled with American dancers and not dependent
on repertory from Europe. Through Romola Nijinsky, whom Kirstein had assisted
in writing a biography of her husband, he met Balanchine after a Les Ballets
1933 performance and outlined his vision. Balanchine was essential to it.
Deciding quicky in favor of a new start, Balanchine agreed to come to the
United States and arrived in New York in October 1933. "But first,
a school," he is famously reported to have said.
Kirstein was prepared to support the idea, and the first product of their
collaboration was indeed a school, the School of American Ballet, founded
in 1934 with the assistance of Edward M.M. Warburg, a Harvard colleague.
(The first classes were held January 2.) The School remains in operation
to this day, training dancers for the New York City Ballet and companies
worldwide. The first ballet Balanchine choreographed in America--Serenade,
to Tchaikovsky--was created for students of the School and had its world
premiere outdoors at Warburg's summer home near White Plains, New York,
in 1934. Within a year, Balanchine and Kirstein had created a professional
company, the American Ballet, which made its debut at the Adelphi Theater,
New York City, in March 1935. After a handful of summer performances, a
projected tour collapsed, but the troupe remained together as the resident
ballet company at the Metropolitan Opera. However, Balanchine had no interest
in choreographing opera dances, and the Met had little interest in furthering
the cause of ballet; in the American Ballet's three years at the Met, Balanchine
was allowed just two all-dance programs. In 1936, he mounted a dance-drama
version of Gluck's Orfeo and Eurydice, controversial in that the singers
were relegated to the pit while the dancers claimed the stage. The second
program, in 1937, was, prophetically, devoted to Stravinsky: a revival
of Apollo plus two new works, Le Baiser de la Fée and Card Game.
It was the first of three festivals Balanchine devoted to Stravinsky over
The fifty-year collaboration of these two creative giants is
unique in the 20th century. Stravinsky's description of their
work together on Balustrade in 1940 is implicitly a description of their shared vision. He wrote, "Balanchine
composed the choreography as he listened to my recording, and I could actually
observe him conceiving gestures, movement, combinations, and composition.
The result was a series of dialogues perfectly complementary to and coordinated
with the dialogues of the music." (In 1972, Balanchine choreographed
a new ballet to the same score, Stravinsky Violin Concerto.)
The American Ballet's association with the Met came to an end in 1938 and
Balanchine took several of his dancers to Hollywood. In 1941, he and Kirstein
assembled another classical company, American Ballet Caravan, for a five-month
good-will tour of South America. In the repertory were two major new Balanchine
works, Concerto Barocco and Ballet Imperial (later renamed Tchaikovsky
Piano Concerto No. 2). But after the tour this company, too, disbanded,
and the dancers were forced to find work elsewhere. Between 1944 and 1946
Balanchine was engaged to revitalize Sergei Denham's Ballet Russe de Monte
Carlo after the departure of Massine. There he choreographed Danses Concertantes (1944), Raymonda, and Night Shadow (later called La Sonnambula, both in
1946), while reviving Concerto Barocco, Le Baiser de la Fée, Serenade, Ballet Imperial, and Card Party (renamed Jeu de Cartes). Many of Balanchine's
most important early works were introduced to America at large by the Ballet
Russe, which toured the length and breadth of the country for nine months
of the year.
George Balanchine teaching.
Courtesy NYCB Archives Ballet Society Collection
In 1946 Balanchine and Kirstein formed Ballet Society, presenting to small
New York subscription-only audiences such new Balanchine works as The Four
Temperaments (1946) and Orpheus (1948). On the strength Orpheus, praised
as one of New York's premiere cultural events of the year, Morton Baum,
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the New York City Center of Music
and Drama, invited the company to join City Center (of which the New York
City Drama Company and the New York City Opera were already a part). With
the performance of October 11, 1948, consisting of Concerto Barocco, Orpheus,
and Symphony in C (created for the Paris Opera Ballet as Le Palais de Cristal the previous year), the New York City Ballet was born. Balanchine's talents
had at last found a permanent home.
From that time until his death in 1983, Balanchine served as ballet master
for the New York City Ballet, choreographing the majority of the productions
the Company has introduced from its inception to the present day. An authoritative
catalogue of Balanchine's output lists 425 works, beginning with La Nuit and ending with Variations for Orchestra (1982), a solo for Suzanne Farrell.
In between, he created a body of work as extensive as it was diverse. Among
his notable ballets were Firebird and Bourrée Fantasque (1949; Firebird restaged with Jerome Robbins in 1970); La Valse (1951); Scotch Symphony (1952); The Nutcracker (his first full-length work for the company), Western
Symphony, and Ivesiana (1954); Allegro Brillante (1956); Agon (1957); Stars
and Stripes and The Seven Deadly Sins (1958); Episodes (1959, choreographed
with Martha Graham); Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Liebeslieder Walzer (1960); A Midsummer Night's Dream (1962); Bugaku and Movements for Piano and Orchestra (1963); Don Quixote (in three acts) and Harlequinade (in two acts, both
1965); Jewels (called the first full-length plotless ballet,1967); and Who Cares? (1970). In June, 1972, Balanchine staged an intensive week-long
celebration of Stravinsky. Of the twenty-one new works presented during
the festival, eight were by Balanchine, including four major ones, Stravinsky
Violin Concerto, Duo Concertant, Symphony in Three Movements, and Divertimento
from "Le Baiser de la Fée." Response to the Stravinsky
Festival by critics and the public was overwhelming.
In 1975, Balanchine staged a second New York City Ballet Festival, this
time a three-week homage to Ravel. This celebration produced sixteen new
works by various choreographers, including Balanchine's Tzigane, Le Tombeau
de Couperin, and Sonatine.
Over the next seven years, Balanchine added more than a dozen works to
the New York City Ballet's repertory. First came Union Jack (1976), observing
the U.S. Bicentennial by honoring Great Britain, followed by the lavish Vienna Waltzes (1977). Ballo della Regina and Kammermusik No. 2 were choreographed
in 1978, Ballade, Robert Schumann's "Davidsbündlertänze," and Walpurgisnacht Ballet in 1980. Balanchine's last important work, a new
version of Mozartiana (a ballet originally choreographed for Les Ballets
1933), was created for the Tchaikovsky Festival of 1981. In 1982 he directed
the Stravinsky Centennial Celebration, but by then he was terminally ill.
Although it is for ballet choreography that he is most noted, Balanchine
also worked in musical theater and movies. On Broadway, he created dances
for Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 and On Your Toes, including the groundbreaking "Slaughter
on Tenth Avenue" ballet (1936); Babes in Arms (1937); I Married an
Angel and The Boys from Syracuse (1938); Louisiana Purchase and Cabin in
the Sky, co-choreographed with Katherine Dunham (1940); The Merry Widow (1943); and Where's Charley? (1948), among others. His movie credits include The Goldwyn Follies, with its famous "water nymph" ballet (1938); I Was an Adventuress (1940); and Star Spangled Rhythm (1942). All starred
Embracing television, Balanchine staged many of his ballets (or excerpts)
and created new work especially for the medium: in 1962, he collaborated
with Stravinsky on Noah and the Flood and in 1981 redesigned his 1975 staging
of L'Enfant et les Sortilèges to include a wide range of special
effects, including animation. Through televison, millions of people have
been able to see New York City Ballet. "Choreography by Balanchine," a
five-part "Dance in America" presentation on the PBS series "Great
Performances," began in December 1977. Programs featured The Four
Temperaments, Prodigal Son, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Chaconne, and segments
of Jewels, among several others. Most are now available on video. Balanchine
traveled to Nashville with the Company for the tapings in 1977 and 1978
and personally supervised every shot, in some cases revising steps or angles
for greater effectiveness on screen. The series was widely applauded by
critics and audiences all over the country and was nominated for an Emmy
award. In January 1978, New York City Ballet participated in the acclaimed
PBS series "Live from Lincoln Center," when Coppelia, choreographed
by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova in 1974, was telecast live from the
stage of the New York State Theater. Eight years later, the Company appeared
on another "Live from Lincoln Center" program, performing Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Apollo, Orpheus, Mozartiana, and Who Cares? are among other Balanchine ballets seen on national television.
In 1970, U.S.News and World Report attempted to summarize Balanchine's
achievements: "The greatest choreographer of our time, George Balanchine
is responsible for the successful fusion of modern concepts with older
ideas of classical ballet. Balanchine received his training in Russia before
coming to America in 1933. Here, the free-flowing U.S. dance forms stimulated
him to develop new techniques in dance design and presentation, which have
altered the thinking of the world of dance.
Often working with
modern music and the simplest of themes, he has created ballets that are celebrated for their imagination and originality. His company,
New York City Ballet, is the leading dance group of the United States
and one of the great companies of the world. An essential part of the success
of Balanchine's group has been the training of his dancers, which he has supervised
since the founding of his School of American Ballet in 1934. Balanchine chose
to shape talent locally, and he has said that the basic structure of the American
dancer was responsible for inspiring some of the striking lines of his compositions.
Balanchine is not only gifted in creating entirely new productions, . . .
his choreography for classical works has been equally fresh and inventive.
He has made American dance the most advanced and richest in choreographic
development in the world today."
Balanchine himself wrote, "We must first realize that dancing is an absolutely
independent art, not merely a secondary accompanying one. I believe that it
is one of the great arts. . . . The important thing in ballet is the movement
itself. A ballet may contain a story, but the visual spectacle . . . is the
essential element. The choreographer and the dancer must remember that they
reach the audience through the eye. It's the illusion created which convinces
the audience, much as it is with the work of a magician." Balanchine
always preferred to call himself a craftsman rather than a creator, comparing
himself to a cook or cabinetmaker (both hobbies of his), and he had a reputation
throughout the dance world for the calm and collected way in which he worked
with his dancers and colleagues.
As his reputation grew, he was the recipient of much official recognition.
In the spring of 1975, the Entertainment Hall of Fame in Hollywood inducted
Balanchine as a member, in a nationally televised special by Gene Kelly. The
first choreographer so honored, he joined the ranks of such show business
luminaries as Fred Astaire, Walt Disney, and Bob Hope. The same year, he received
the French Légion d'Honneur. In 1978, he was one of five recipients
(with Marian Anderson, Fred Astaire, Richard Rodgers, and Artur Rubinstein)
of the first Kennedy Center Honors, presented by President Jimmy Carter. He
was also presented with a Knighthood of the Order of Dannebrog, First Class,
by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. In 1980, Balanchine was honored by the National
Society of Arts and Letters with their Gold Medal award, the Austrian government
with its Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Letters, First Class, and
by the New York Chapter of the American Heart Association with their "Heart
of New York" award. These joined such earlier commendations as the French
Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters decoration and the National Institute
of Arts and Letters award for Distinguished Service to the Arts. The last
major award Balanchine received--in absentia--was the Presidential Medal of
Freedom in 1983, the highest honor that can be conferred on a civilian in
the United States. At the time, President Ronald Reagan praised Balanchine's
genius, saying that he has "inspired millions with his stage choreography
. . . and amazed a diverse population through his talents." Soon after,
on April 30, 1983, George Balanchine died in New York at the age of 79.
Clement Crisp, one of the many writers who eulogized Balanchine, assessed
his contribution: "It is hard to think of the ballet world without the
colossal presence of George Balanchine. . . . Now he is gone and, as Lincoln
Kirstein said in his brief and infinitely apt curtain speech, 'Mr. B. is with
Mozart and Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.' But we have not lost Balanchine-not
the essential Balanchine, who lives in the great catalogue of masterpieces
that have so shaped and refined our understanding of ballet and given it-and
us-thrilling life. And we are not without the other essential fact of his
work: his School and the training system that has tuned American bodies as
the ideal classical medium for his ideal classic vision. We can never be without
Balanchine. He is so central to the danse d'école in our century, so
surely its guiding force, that grief becomes mere self-indulgence. Gratitude
and joy must be our feeling for what he gave us, and determination that his
work and ideals be honored and preserved and used to illuminate the future
Reprinted, with emendations, courtesy of
the New York City Ballet and The George Balanchine Trust
Choreographer Nicolo Fonte is known for his daring and original approach to dance. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he studied at the Joffrey Ballet School as well as at the San Francisco Ballet and New York City Ballet Schools. Upon completing a Bachelor Degree of Fine Arts at SUNY Purchase, he danced with Peridance in NYC and later joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montreal. Fonte subsequently joined Nacho Duato's Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid and forged a strong identity in the Spanish company for seven years - for both his dancing and his choreography. En los Segundos Ocultos, (In Hidden Seconds), one of three ballets Fonte made for the Spanish company, was hailed as a breakthrough work of great impact with the poetic vision of a mature artist and indeed this ballet established his presence on the European dance scene.
In 2000 Fonte retired from performing to devote himself full-time to his choreographic career. Since then he has created or staged his ballets for prominent companies all over the world. While working with the Göteborg Ballet in Sweden he created his first full-length ballet, Re: Tchaikovsky, based on the life of the composer. The work appeared on the "Best of 2005" lists of both Ballett-Tanz and Dance Europe. Fonte also received a Choo San Goh award for his 2002 collaboration with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Almost Tango. In addition, he has created six highly successful works for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet that have toured throughout the US and overseas.
Fonte continues to pursue a career that keeps him involved with some of the most dynamic companies on both sides of the Atlantic. In July of 2009 he premiered his first work for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, the critically acclaimed Quiet Bang, and in September created the equally well-received Record of Joy, his second work for Het Nationale Ballet in Holland. Made Man, inspired by Da Vinci's The Last Supper and Fonte's fourth creation for The Royal Ballet of Flanders, premiered this past March in Antwerp and was met with ecstatic reviews and public response.
Jamey Hampton was born in Portland, Oregon, where he began his dance training in the burgeoning modern dance scene of the early 1970's. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1976 with a BFA degree in Drama. He joined Pilobolus Dance Theater in 1978, setting off for his first tour to the Indian sub-continent. He was an original member of Momix, and in 1987 co-founded ISO Dance. In 1998, he co-founded BodyVox with Ashley Roland.
Mr. Hampton's dance and choreography have taken him around the world, performing throughout Europe, the Far and Middle East, South America, the Caribbean, and throughout the U.S. and Canada. In 1989 he was the recipient of an Emmy award for his performance in the KCET television production Episodes. In 1998, he co-choreographed and performed in the Academy Awards, and in 2002 won an American Choreography Award for his work in the film series "Modern Daydreams". He has created works for Ballet Pacifica, Portland Opera, the Lille Opera, Oregon Ballet Theater, Ririe/Woodbury Dance Company, Trinity Irish Dance Company, the Pacific Northwest Professional Dance Project, as well as the full length Ballet Peer Gynt for the Geneva Opera Ballet.
With BodyVox, Mr. Hampton has worked on the creation of seven full evening works as well as numerous chamber pieces for the company. He choreographs for film and opera, and collaborates on a growing body of still image work. He has provided choreographic opportunities for company members, has collaborated with numerous arts organizations and individuals in Portland and beyond, and with the newly established BodyVox Dance Center looks forward to the collaborative opportunities the Center will facilitate.
A firm believer in community service, Mr. Hampton serves on the board of Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Portland Opera. He is a past board member of Northwest Business for Culture and the Arts, Artists for the Arts, and the Northwest Academy. He organized a gala evening of dance at the Joyce Theater in New York to benefit Amnesty International, and another to benefit the Tibetan Resettlement Project of Connecticut. In December of 2003 he organized an evening of music to benefit the international relief organization Mercy Corps.
An accomplished musician, Mr. Hampton has released two CDs of original music, Throw Caution (2000) and Chasing Daylight (2003). He lives in Portland, Oregon with Ashley Roland and their sons, Bowen and Julian.
Trey McIntyre is one of the most sought-after choreographers working today. Born in Wichita, KS, McIntyre studied at North Carolina School of the Arts and later with Houston Ballet Academy. In 1989, McIntyre was named Choreographic Apprentice to Houston Ballet; a position created specially for him by Artistic Director Ben Stevenson, and in 1995 elevated to Choreographic Associate. Since then, McIntyre has created a canon of more than 80 works for companies such as Stuttgart Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, New York City Ballet, Ballet de Santiago (Chile) and Trey McIntyre Project. Trey has served as Resident Choreographer for Oregon Ballet Theatre, Ballet Memphis, and The Washington Ballet. He has received many grants and awards, including two choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography, was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2001, one of People Magazine’s “25 Hottest Bachelors” 2003 and one of Out Magazine’s 2008 “Tastemakers”. McIntyre established his critically-acclaimed Trey McIntyre Project, a dance company that allows him to continue his artistic and creative relationships with a select group of high-caliber dancers. In the summer of 2008, Trey McIntyre Project launched as a full-time company operating out of Boise, ID. In Year 1 as a full-time company, Trey McIntyre Project toured to more than 25 cities across the nation and the world.
Anne Mueller received her training from the Washington School of Ballet and from Dame Sonia Arova at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She received additional training with The Kirov Academy, Houston Ballet Academy, the Joffrey Workshop and the School of American Ballet. Ms. Mueller joined OBT in 1996 after three seasons with the Alabama Ballet. During her time with the company, she has most recently danced featured roles in works by George Balanchine, Nicolo Fonte, James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Yuri Possokhov, Jerome Robbins, Christopher Stowell, Twyla Tharp and Christopher Wheeldon. During the summers of 2005-2007, Ms. Mueller toured nationally with the Trey McIntyre Project, also serving as the ensemble’s Managing Director from 2004 - 2006.
Ms. Mueller’s first choreographic works (three co-creations with Vanessa Thiessen) appeared as part of OBT’s 2000, 2001 and 2002 seasons under the Artistic Direction of James Canfield. Ms. Mueller's choreography was selected for Ballet Builders 2009 in New York, NY. In response to the work showcased, Tim Martin of Dance Europe wrote, “Mueller captures the mood without being literal and we get to enjoy her dancers being sad or playful or just wonderfully kinetic…” Her choreography appears in the repertoire of Arova Contemporary Ballet, Ballet Victoria and the Alabama Ballet. She has also presented works at Summer Dance Lab, Snowy Range Summer Dance Festival and the Portland Concert in the Park series. Ms. Mueller holds the position of Artistic Coordinator at OBT and teaches in the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre.
After receiving his dance training at the Moscow Ballet School, Yuri Possokhov danced with the Bolshoi Ballet for ten years, working primarily with Ballet Master Yuri Grigorovich. He joined the Royal Danish Ballet in 1992 and performed there for two years before moving west to join San Francisco Ballet as a principal dancer. Mr. Possokhov has danced numerous major roles throughout his career, ranging in style from classical to contemporary. In 1999, he organized a tour entitled “Ballet Beyond Borders,” where sixteen dancers from SFB, including Mr. Possokhov, performed in more than ten cities throughout Russia.
As a choreographer, Mr. Possokhov’s credits include Songs of Spain, choreographed in 1997 for former SFB Principal Dancer Muriel Maffre, A Duet for Two created the same year for former SFB Principal Dancer Joanna Berman, and Impromptu Scriabin for former SFB Soloist Felipe Diaz, performed at the 1997 Jackson International Ballet Competition. In 2000, Mr. Possokhov completed a new work for a dancer at the Maryinsky Ballet and that same year choreographed 5 Mazurkas for the Marin Dance Theatre.
His Magrittomania, a work inspired by the paintings of René Magritte, premiered in March 2000 at San Francisco Ballet, and ganered him the 2001 Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Choreography. It has since been added to he Bolshoi Ballet’s repertoire. Mr. Possokhov’s ballet Damned, based on the Euripides’ play Medea, premiered in 2002. In 2003 he collaborated with SFB Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson on a new staging of Don Quixote. He has created two works for OBT: Firebird in 2004 and La Valse in 2005.
In 2006, Mr. Possokhov choreographed a new Cinderella for the Bolshoi Ballet. The work premiered in Moscow and was subsequently performed in London and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Ashley Roland is a native of Connecticut, began her dance training at the Alvin Ailey and David Howard studios in New York, with further studies at North Carolina School of the Arts. In 1983 she joined MOMIX Dance Theater as a dancer and choreographer. In 1987 she co-founded ISO Dance, creating over thirty pieces for the company and touring to five continents. 1997 saw the birth of her latest contemporary dance company, BodyVox, which she co-founded with her partner Jamey Hampton.
As a solo performer Ashley has danced her work in galas throughout Europe, Canada and the United States. In 1993 she choreographed the full-length ballet, Sheherezade for the Georgian State Ballet in Tiblisi, Republic of Georgia. Ashley’s work can also be seen on the following companies: Batsheva, from Tel Aviv, Israel; IntroDans, from Amsterdam; Trinity Irish Dance Company, River North Dance Company, and Oregon Ballet Theater. She has also created and performed in benefits for Amnesty International, Fashion Aid, Friends In Deed, Canadian Aids Relief, Cascade Aids Benefit and the Connecticut Tibetan Resettlement Project.
Beyond her work for the stage Ashley was a featured performer and choreographer in the KCET public television production EPISODES, for which she earned an Emmy Award for Best Performer. She also co-choreographed and performed in the 1998 Academy Awards Show. In 2002 she was a recipient of an American Choreography Award for her work in the short film series Modern Daydreams.
Ashley has been a long time collaborator with dance photographer Lois Greenfield creating thousands of dance images made for the camera. The fruits of this collaboration can be seen in Greenfield's books Breaking Bounds and Airborne, on Greenfield’s yearly calendars, and on the cover of the Anne Rice novel Lasher.
Since the creation of BodyVox, in 1997, Ashley and her partner Jamey have made over one hundred works including two full-length opera productions. The two make their home in Portland, Oregon with their sons, Bowen and Julian.
Christopher Stowell became Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director in 2003. His vision and leadership have cultivated a company with a strong classical foundation and a commitment to fostering new work and promoting live music. Since his arrival, Mr. Stowell has expanded both the dancer roster and the length of the performance season, and has made major additions to the OBT repertoire: including masterpieces by George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton and Jerome Robbins; works by contemporary choreographers such as Lar Lubovitch, Paul Taylor and Christopher Wheeldon; and world premiere ballets by James Kudelka, Trey McIntyre, Julia Adam and Yuri Possokhov. Mr. Stowell’s own contributions to the repertoire include Adin, Eyes On You and OBT’s first full-length Swan Lake.
Mr. Stowell was born in New York City and received his training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and the School of American Ballet. In 1985 he joined San Francisco Ballet where he danced for sixteen years, appearing in theaters throughout the world including the Paris Opera, New York’s Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. As a principal dancer, Mr. Stowell performed leading roles in the full-length classics Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and Othello, and had roles created for him by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson and by contemporary choreographers including Mark Morris, William Forsythe and James Kudelka. An established interpreter of the George Balanchine repertoire, Mr. Stowell appeared in almost every Balanchine ballet performed by SFB. Upon his retirement, he was accorded a gala farewell in the War Memorial Opera House.
In recent years, Mr. Stowell has taught and coached in San Francisco, New York, Japan and Europe. He has created new works for San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Diablo Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, as well as the New York City Ballet Choreographic Institute. He has also staged the works of George Balanchine and Mark Morris.
Rachel Tess began her dance training at the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre, where she performed professionally under director James Canfield from 1998-2000.
She danced works by James Canfield, Trey McIntyre, George Balanchine, Charles Moulton, Bebe Miller, Donald Byrd, and David Parsons. In search of more extensive modern dance training and
opportunities to explore choreography, Rachel began her education at the Juilliard School in 2000. While earning her BFA she had the opportunity to perform works by José Limón, Adam Hougland,
Jirí Kylián, Nacho Duato, Zvi Gotheiner, and Lar Lubovitch among others. She was also a member of the Lar Lubovitch dance company during its 2003 and 2004 seasons.
She is a 2003 Princess Grace Award winner for modern dance and was presented in 2004 with the Martha Hill Dance Award by the Juilliard faculty. Upon graduation Rachel joined
Les Grands Ballet Canadiens where she had the opportunity to work with Didy Veldman, Stijn Celis, Jean Christophe Maillot and Ohad Naharin. In 2005 Rachel moved to Sweden where
she has danced for two seasons with the GoteborgsOperansballett, performing the works of Tero Saarinen, Regina Van Berkel, Meryl Tankard, Daniela Kurz, Matz Ek and Nicolo Fonte.
Tess made her first work as a company member at Oregon Ballet Theatre. After exploring choreography through projects in New York, Montreal, and Sweden the two artists created Rumpus Room Dance with colleague Fernando Melo in 2006. Originally formed as a dance collective in Sweden, Rumpus Room established a second home in Portland, Oregon in 2007.