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 students, 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.
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 his early 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 works 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 did 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’sL’Enfant et les Sortilèges (1925), the first of four treatments he would make of this wondrous score over the years. The 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 ; 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-, , and .
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 dance.
Check out his work by clicking HERE. Italian choreographer Davide Bombana was born in Milano on December 24, 1958 where he studied ballet at the Ballet School of La Scala. He was a principal dancer at “La Scala Ballet.” He also performed with Pennsylvania Ballet (Philadelphia), Scottish Ballet (Glasgow), London Festival Ballet (London) coming back as guest in La Scala for Cranko Romeo and Juliet and R. Petit Proust. He worked at the Bayerische Staatsballett (Munich) as a principal dancer from 1986-1991 and as a choreographer from 1991-1998. His first choreography Sonata, created for Anna Villadolid, had its world premiere in Manila and was then presented in Munich and Dresden. For Munich he created the following choreographies: Parabel, Quatour pour la fin du temps, Okanagon, Woyzeck Fragmenteinspired by Büchner, Schönberg opus 4 and the two full lengths ballets Luigi Nono Project, Ein Traumspiel inspired by Strindberg, for which he received the international Prix Benois in Moskau in spring 1998. In 1998, Davide Bombana was appointed director of the company Maggio Danza in Florence where he restaged Woyzeck Fragmente and Schönberg opus 4 and created the full lengths ballet Teorema inspired by Pasolini. He has choreographed and restaged Aus der Ferne (Ballet du Rhin France, Petite Suite En Noir (Paris Conservatory, John Cranko Schule Stuttgart), the full lengths ballet Lolita (Grand Ballet de Genève), La septième lune (Paris Opera), Kunst der Fuge (Ballet du Rhin),Tenebrae (Karlsruhe Germany) and Cinderella (Essen Germany).
Watch an example of Marco Goecke’s work by clicking HERE. In 2014, KCDF débuted Marco Goecke’s internationally famous and highly demanded work titled, Mopey, as a Kansas City premiere. After rave reviews and audience appreciation KCDF will bring his choreography back this year. In 2015, KCDF will presenting his masterful work, Firebird Pas de deux. Marco Goecke has served as Resident Choreographer at the Stuttgart Ballet since 2005. Mr. Goecke choreographed his first piece Loch (2000) for Theater Hagen Ballet. His works for the Stuttgart Ballet include, Chicks (2001), Nutcracker (2006), and Alben (2008). He has also created Mopey (2002), for the Choreographic Institute of New York; Beautiful Freak (2005) for the Hamburg Ballet; Blushing (2003), for Hamburg Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet; Der Rest ist Schweigen (2003), Bravo Charlie (2006) and Pierrot Lunaire (2010) for Scarpino Ballet; Sonett (2006), and Le Rossignol (2009) for Leipzig Ballet; Spectre de la rose (2009) for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo; Place a Chill (2011) for Pacific Northwest Ballet. Mr. Goecke is the recipient of the prestigious Nijinsky Award (2006) as Emerging Choreographer.
Watch an example of Douglas Lee’s work by clicking HERE. Douglas Lee was born in England and started his ballet training at the Arts Educational School London and then received a scholarship for the Royal Ballet School where he graduated in 1996,winning the Alicia Markova Award. In the Fall of 1996, Douglas Lee, joined the Stuttgart ballet and became principal in 2002. Douglas Lee made his choreographic debut in February 1999 for the Stuttgart based Noverre Society’s “Young Choreographers”, upon which he was commissioned to create a new work for the Stuttgart Ballet. Lee’s second and third work for the Stuttgart Ballet followed in 2001/2002 in the Playhouse. Through his consistent collaboration with the Stuttgart dancers, Lee has developed a distinct choreographic voice, which is characterized by stunning sculptural images created by the use of exquisite and complex partnering and a masterful use of the classical vocabulary. Following his successes in Stuttgart, Douglas Lee became a freelance choreographer and began choreographing internationally. His creation Fanfare LX for the Stuttgart Ballet was taken into the repertoire of the Staatsballett Berlin. He created Fractured Wake and returned to create 5 for Silver for the Norwegian National Ballet, Rubicon Play for the Royal ballet of Flanders and Lifecasting for the New York City Ballet which was shortlisted in Time Out NY as one of the outstanding dance works of 2009 and taken into the Stuttgart Ballet repertoire. Douglas Lee has been nominated for 3 Golden Mask Awards for his choreography.
Ryan was born in Maine. He took his first ballet class at the age of 15 and at 17 joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. It was there he created his first choreographic work which received an honorable mention in the 2003 first steps choreographic competition. In the 2004 competition his piece “Pavana”, won the the people’s choice award and best contemporary ballet award and was then chosen to be performed at RWB’s annual Ballet in the Park. In 2007, Ryan was commissioned by the “Salsa Idaho Correspondent” to create a work in the afro-cuban style to the music of “Celia Cruz” which was performed by the Balance Dance Company in Boise, Idaho. Ryan has also collaborated with live painter, Patrick Hunter “Patcasso” to present a fusion work featuring music by the “Rolling Stones”. He has since created 6 works on Ballet Idaho notably “City Symphony” to Phillip Glass’s famed opera “Einstein on the Beach” and “Romeo and Juliette” set to Tchaikovsky’s romantic overture. Ryan’s most recent work “On the Sky” set to Max Richter was performed for the Kansas City Ballet’s “New Moves” showcase and will be presented as a part of a full work for the 2015 Kansas City Dance Festival. His work has been called “sophisticated”, “the highlight of the evening” and “Mesmerizing from curtain up to curtain down”.
Jennifer Owen’s ballet career has taken her around the globe. After training with Pacific Northwest Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, she went on to dance with the Russian State Ballet, Moscow Renaissance Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, BalletMet, and had the unique experience of appearing as a guest artist with the National Ballet of Turkmenistan. Notable roles danced include the title role in Giselle, Kitri in Don Quixote, principal roles in George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Donizetti Variations, and the central pas de deux in Todd Bolender’s, Arena. She has choreographed over thirty new works for the Owen/Cox Dance Group, as well as nine works for Kansas City Ballet’s “In the Wings” choreographic workshop, and a winning entry for the 2006 Columbus Choreography Project. Owen is the recipient of a 2000 Princess Grace Honorarium. This is Jennifer’s 2nd year performing with KCDF and the 2nd year Owen/Cox Dance Group has been KCDF’s Sponsor. Jennifer Owen is dancing in her piece, Long Day/Good Night, in tonight’s performance.
Penny Saunders, originally from Florida, graduated from the Harid Conservatory in 1995. Later that same year Saunders began her professional career with The American Repertory Ballet while also continuing to train with Elisabeth Carroll. Saunders made her way out west in 1999 to join Ballet Arizona where she continued to dance the traditional ballets as well as many neoclassical and contemporary works. Saunders was introduced to Moses Pendleton in 2001, which led her to tour extensively with MOMIX Dance Theater for the following two years before moving on to New York City in 2003 where she became a founding member of Cedar Lake Ensemble. In 2004 Saunders joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago where she had the good fortune to dance works by Jirí Kylián, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, Mats Ek, Twyla Tharp, Christopher Bruce, Doug Varone, Aszure Barton, Victor Quijada, and Alejandro Cerrudo, among many others. It was during this time in Chicago that Penny began to pursue her choreographic interests by participating in the company’s annual Inside Out choreographic workshop. In 2011 Saunders won the National Choreographic Competition that awarded her the opportunity to create a piece for Hubbard Street’s second company, and then in 2013, just before her departure from Chicago, Saunders premiered a new work on Hubbard Street’s main company. Saunders has also made work for Owen Cox Dance Group, SFDanceworks, Whim W’Him, and Neos Dance Theater as a choreographer in residence at the University of Akron. She now lives in Seattle with her amazing husband and beautiful son and is looking forward to more creative endeavors in 2015.