Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Maggie Small and Fernando Sabino perform
in "After Eden," one of the pieces that
traveled to London earlier this summer.
(Photo courtesy Richmond Ballet)
The busy Richmond Ballet has hired a new dancer, received rave reviews from its London excursion and has some important dates lining up. I caught up with longtime artistic director Stoner Winslett between meetings.

The troupe a few days ago brought on Matthew Frain, 24, who grew up in Chicago and comes to Richmond from the Milwaukee Ballet. “He’s a very nice young man and a lovely dancer,” Winslett says. “He came recommended by Val Caniparoli, a freelance choreographer who’s worked around the world ... and you can’t get a much better reference than that.”

On the cover of the current issue of Dance magazine is the ballet’s Maggie Small. (Click here to see a You Tube video interview with her). 

The piece was written by Richmond dance writer Lea Marshall. Winslett explains the germination of the choice: The publication’s editor-in-chief came to Richmond in October 2010  and saw Richmond Ballet’s Studio 1 performance featuring Salvatore Aiello’s Clowns and Others and Ma Cong’s Ershter Vals.

“She really enjoyed the company very much,” Winslett says, “and Maggie captivated her in part because she was the first professional member who was also an alum of both our ballet school and the Minds In Motion program.”

The reviews from the ballet’s first London performance have been quite good. The Independent’s Zoe Anderson wrote that in Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie, “The Richmond dancers float through it. Arms and torsos flow and curve without a hitch; footwork sparkles neatly.”

Anderson observed, “It’s a high-energy end to an attractive programme.”  Read it here. The Dancing Times reviewer understood where the Richmond Ballet is coming from, describing it as steeped in classical tradition but looking forward. Which is kind of how The Hat, on better days, likes to see Richmond itself.

In September, Richmonder Philip Neal, an alum of the ballet’s school who went on to a 23-year career with the New York City Ballet and now the Miami City Ballet, premiers a new piece in the Studio series titled Gargoyles. He’ll be setting in during a three-week stay that started a couple of days ago. “They’re in there rehearsing right now,” Winslett says. “The girls have talons on their fingers,” she laughed. “I’m sure it’ll be quite compelling.”

Finally, the Richmond Ballet is invited for the first time to perform at the Kennedy Center in June 2013.

It’s part of the third installment of Ballet Across America, which premiered in 2008 and was held again in 2010, as a showcase survey of the breadth of ballet throughout the country. Nine companies are chosen for three programs with three companies in each, and each company performing one piece. “We’re the opening night program and we are onstage with Oregon Ballet Theatre and Boston Ballet,” Winslett says.

She concluded, “Sitting here telling you all this I think: This sounds so good. And it’s all true!”

This is the kind of news Richmond should be known for.

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