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.
The Cambrians [KAYM-bree-uns] is a brand new, Chicago-headquartered dance production and media company. The Chicago Tribune called our most recent undertaking, The Nexus Project, “hard to describe, but easy to watch”, and we love that. At The Cambrians, we use large collaborative processes that coordinate the very best performers with numerous choreographers from many different communities. These processes create genre-bending, interdisciplinary shows which challenge the notion that progressive art can’t be accessible. We strive to make sure that as many voices as possible have an influence in the art we put on stage. Working with artists from many perspectives allows us to build art rooted in the human experiences that connect us all.
Vicente Nebrada was one of the most internationally renowned Latin American choreographers. As a dancer he worked with ballerina Alicia Alonso at the National Ballet of Cuba, with Roland Petit in Paris and the Joffrey Ballet in New York.
He was a founding member of the Harkness Ballet where he began his choreographic career in 1964. In 1975 he became the Founding Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of the International Ballet of Caracas. He created numerous ballets for this company, touring extensively and solidifying his reputation as an internationally acclaimed choreographer.
In 1984 he was appointed artistic director of the National Ballet of Caracas which he directed until 2002. For this company he created versions of classics which included, Romeo and Juliet,Coppélia, Don Quixote, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
His artistic support as resident choreographer helped establish Ballet Florida in Palm Beach in the mid 1990s. His works continue to be performed around the world and have been danced by more than 30 companies such as: American Ballet Theater, National Ballet of Canada, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Ballet Hispanico of New York, Berlin Opera Ballet, English National Ballet, Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Korea, Ballet de Santiago, Chile and Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón, Argentina.
Matthew Neenan began his dance training at the Boston Ballet School and with noted teachers Nan C. Keating and Jacqueline Cronsberg. He later attended the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and the School of American Ballet in New York. From 1994-2007, Matthew danced with the Pennsylvania Ballet where he danced numerous principal roles in works by George Balanchine, John Cranko, Paul Taylor, Peter Martins, Val Caniparoli, Jorma Elo, Lila York, Meredith Rainey, Christopher Wheeldon and Jerome Robbins. In October 2007, Matthew was named Choreographer in Residenceat the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Matthew’s choreography has been featured and performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet (totaling 13 commissions), BalletX, The Washington Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet Memphis, Milwaukee Ballet, Juilliard Dance, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, Sacramento Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Indiana University, Opera Philadelphia, and LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts (NYC), among others. He has received numerous awards and grants for his choreography from the National Endowment of the Arts, Dance Advance funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Choo San Goh Foundation, and the Independence Foundation. In 2006, Matthew received the New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute’s Fellowship Initiative Award. Matthew’s “Carmina Burana”, “As It’s Going”, and “11:11” was performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet at New York City Center in 2006 & 2007. In 2008, he received a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. This marks his fourth time receiving the PCA fellowship. In October 2009, Matthew was the grand-prize winner of Sacramento Ballet’s Capital Choreography Competition and was also the first recipient of the Jerome Robbins NEW Program Fellowship for his workAt the border for Pennsylvania Ballet.
In 2005, Matthew co-founded BalletX with fellow dancer Christine Cox. BalletX had its world premiere at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September 2005 and is now the resident dance company at the prestigious Wilma Theatre. BalletX has toured and performed Neenan’s choreography in New York City at The Skirball Center, Symphony Space and Central Park Summerstage, Vail International Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, The Cerritos Center, Laguna Dance Festival, Spring to Dance Festival in St.Louis, and internationally in Cali, Colombia and Seoul, Korea.
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 is co-founder and Artistic Director of Owen/Cox Dance Group. Jennifer’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. Jennifer has choreographed over forty works for the Owen/Cox Dance Group, as well as nine works for Kansas City Ballet’s “In the Wings” choreographic workshop, and created the winning entry for the 2006 Columbus Choreography Project. Owen is the recipient of a 2000 Princess Grace Honorarium.
In 2006, after a 13-year international ballet career, Jennifer co-founded Owen/Cox Dance Group with composer Brad Cox. The ensemble is committed to creating and performing new and innovative dance works in collaboration with nationally recognized dancers, musicians, and visual artists. The group’s mission is to create new music and dance collaborations, to present high-quality contemporary dance performances with live music, and to engage as wide an audience as possible through affordable live performances and education and outreach programs. With this mission in mind, founders Owen and Cox bring together some of the most talented artists from Kansas City and around the country, representing a variety of genres, to perform contemporary dance with live music. The collaborative results speak for themselves: fresh and vibrant new works that are classical in form, but contemporary in expression.
Since Owen/Cox Dance Group’s debut performance in 2007, the company’s accomplishments include: two world premieres commissioned by the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, creative partnerships with newEar Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, Charlotte Street Foundation, The People’s Liberation Big Band, Ensemble Ibérica, YWCA of Greater Kansas City, Bach Aria Soloists, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, and Paseo Academy, collaborations with artists Peregrine Honig, Peggy Noland, Mark Southerland, and NEA Fellow Nate Fors, participation in annual events Spring to Dance Festival, Modern Night at the Folly, New Dance Partners, Festival on the Vine, and Dance in the Park, and launching of Take the Stage, an educational program providing year-long dance instruction to elementary school students in the Kansas City area. The company has been proud to serve as fiscal sponsor for Kansas City Dance Festival since 2013.
Choreographer Garrett Smith was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and began his formal training with Utah Regional Ballet. He was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and was honored to meet George W. Bush at the White House and perform his choreography at The Kennedy Center. Garrett later joined Houston Ballet and choreographed on the company through an award presented to him by Peter Martins from the New York Choreographic Institute.
Garrett currently dances with Norwegian National Ballet. He has had the great pleasure to work personally withchoreographers Jiři Kylían, Nacho Duato, Jorma Elo, Alexander Ekman, and also dance works by William Forsythe.
Garrett has been commissioned by Norwegian National Ballet, Ballet West, and Milwaukee Ballet to create new choreography. He was also selected for the National Choreographers Initiative 2014 to choreograph a new work.Garrett was recently accepted as a finalist for the Milwaukee Ballet’s Genesis International Choreographic Competi- tion, where his new creation, Mortal Form, took 1st place. Garrett was awarded the 2015 New York Choreo- graphic Institute, where he created a new work on New York City Ballet. Garrett Recently won outstanding Choreographer award at the Youth American Grand Prix 2016 where he will have the opportunity to create with the Bolshoi Ballet.