American Ballet Theatre is set to mark is 75th anniversary with a celebration which will last 15 months. It will include historic revivals, new works, a new documentary film, a touring exhibition by the Library of Congress and an anniversary gala. With such a huge milestone to celebrate it seems the company is rather justified in its plans. If this news was not exciting enough, guest artists for the season will include Evgenia Obraztsova, Natalia Osipova and Marianela Nuñez, who will be making her American Ballet Theatre debut in a revival of Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella.
The spring season will feature works performed during the company’s first decade of work, such as George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, which was created for the company in 1947. The works will also include Agnes de Mille’s 1942 Rodeo, bringing out the company heirlooms from the archive. The most anticipated part of the celebratory year of the anniversary is Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty, which has its world premiere at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in California on 3 March 2015.
The company will hold its anniversary gala at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on 18 May 2015, featuring special guest appearances, film excerpts of historic performances and interviews with major figures in the dance world. Esteemed choreographer Mark Morris will then create a new work for American Ballet Theatre’s autumn season for 2015.
The anniversary will also be marked by a new documentary by film maker Ric Burns, detailing the company’s intricate background. The Library of Congress exhibition – American Ballet Theatre: touring the globe for 75 years – will be on view until January 2015, and will then travel to Los Angeles where it will be available to view for six months.
American Ballet Theater has announced a diversity programme in beginning a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and regional ballet companies across the country in order to increase the number of minority dancers. Project Plié will offer scholarships to talented young dancers and train dance teachers who work in underrepresented groups and communities, boosting diversity within ballet to reflect the US population.
ABT Soloist Misty Copeland has become the face of the new national initiative following appearances in a Diet Dr. Pepper advert – her stretches and pirouettes viewed almost half a million times on YouTube – and in magazines such as New York, Forbes, and Essence. These have hooked fans from outside the ballet world: ultimately, the company hopes to attract not only more dancers, but also more audience members from minority groups. Copeland values her commercial opportunities which enable her to present ballet as a mainstream not just in a grand theatre where young aspiring children may not have the chance to gain inspiration from ballet dancers’ work.
Project Plié will not just be taking steps to encourage broader participation in classical ballet but also addressing the issue of training access, which can be limited for children by cultural, economic and geographic factors. Project Plié aims to find the next Misty Copeland how she was discovered: by participating in Boys and Girls Club activities when a local dance teacher came to offer free classes, Copeland’s physique was noted and encouraged to begin studying ballet, aged 13. This is considered late by balletic standards yet Copeland had entered American Ballet Theatre’s corps de ballet by 19.
One-hour presentations will be launched at select Boys and Girls Clubs around the country with an introduction to ballet and hands-on play with pointe shoes and tutus, followed by a movement class. Children of high potential will be identified and eligible for one of 10 scholarships that could cover costs such as classes, shoes and transportation, for a year of study with an ABT-certified teacher in their area. Upon completion, those students will be eligible for scholarships to ABT’s Young Dancer Summer Workshop.