NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — When she was 18, she was selected by Mikhail Baryshnikov to play a high-profile role at the American Ballet Theatre, launching a celebrated career as one of the world’s top ballerinas. Now, 40 years later, Susan Jaffe has been named to lead the company.
Jaffe took over as artistic director at ABT in December, succeeding Kevin McKenzie as the first new director in 30 years. Jaffe says her goals include making the world of heavy white ballet more accessible and inclusive.
“I’m going to preserve the beauty and depth of classical ballet,” Jaffe said in an interview, “but keeping an eye on where we are today in the world of ballet. And we want to be careful to make sure that We are inclusive and doing everything we can to make ballet accessible and beloved by all – because I love ballet and I want everyone to love it.
In addition to finding ways to recruit a more diverse pool of dancers, Jaffe, 59, said the company will reevaluate some ballet classics (or parts of classics) that may no longer be appropriate for modern sensibilities. “For example, a ballet that is about slavery and the enslavement of women might not be something we want to save,” she said, referring to “Le Corsair”, a nod to its bravura choreography. traditional favourite.
Jaffe also aims to add new, modern choreographers to the company’s repertoire. “I have a list of 20 artists that I want to bring in to either do work already done or commission a new one,” she said. “It brings together an array of artists that ABT probably hasn’t seen before.”
The former ballerina, who has been working as artistic director at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater since 2020, said in a statement that this will be her seventh role at ABT, starting as a student and expanding to dance, teaching and other roles. will move through.
In addition to his 22 years as a principal dancer at ABT – one of the world’s top classical ballet companies and, along with the New York City Ballet, one of America’s two major ballet troupes – Jaffe has guest-starred with companies such as Royal Danced as Ballet, Kirov, Stuttgart Ballet, La Scala and many others. He left the stage in 2002.
Jaffe served as the Dean of Dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for eight years.
In interviews, she recalled how Baryshnikov, then director of ABT, chose her at the age of 18 to dance a major pas de deux with dancer Alexander Godunov at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Only a few years later he made her a principal dancer, a title she held for 22 years.
Jaffe will take over as the dance world is still recovering from the pandemic shutdown. She said a silver lining of the pandemic was that dancers created digital content out of necessity to reach a wider audience.
“The explosion of dance in digital form has been a silver lining to the pandemic,” Jaffe said. “I think it would be silly for us to say, ‘Okay. Well, it’s over now. We’re all going back to theaters right now’ because I think that’s the kind of prosperity that’s made of that,’ ’ He said. “I would definitely like to stay and expand on that.”