Entertainment

Who Should Run City Ballet? A Job Posting, Explained.

Posted August 14, 2018 6:08 p.m. EDT

NEW YORK — New York City Ballet and its affiliated academy, the School of American Ballet, released a job description on Tuesday that helps flesh out their thinking about who should succeed Peter Martins, a former star dancer and Balanchine protégé who led both institutions for decades but abruptly retired earlier this year amid an investigation into allegations of abuse.

175 people inside and outside the company talked to the search committee and Phillips Oppenheim, the recruitment firm it hired. Out of that came a five-page job description — a “wish list,” in the words of Barbara M. Vogelstein, the chairwoman for the school’s board and one of the leaders of the committee.

Here are a few excerpts from the job listing, and what they suggest:

‘The Company and the School’

The Artistic Director for NYCB and SAB will provide the overall creative leadership for the Company and the School, including the training and development of dancers and ensuring that the Balanchine and Robbins repertory and aesthetic are maintained and remain relevant for generations to come.

The casual balletgoer might not realize the extent to which the company is tied to the school. The choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein started the school before they founded City Ballet — “But first, a school,” Balanchine reportedly said — and the school remains central to the company’s ethos. More than 95 percent of the current roster trained there, which helps City Ballet maintain its distinctive Balanchine style at a moment when many companies are becoming more similar, and international, stylistically.

But the school and company remain two separate organizations, each with its own annual budget ($89 million for the company, $16 million for the school); endowment ($222 million for the company, $71 million for the school); staff and governing board. The two boards agreed more than a decade ago that they wanted their next artistic director to continue to lead both organizations.

But City Ballet has a majority of the votes on the 13-member search committee, which is made up of seven members of its board and six of the school’s.

‘A Humane Leader’

The Artistic Director will be a humane leader for whom people wish to perform their best. The individual will ideally also be an alumna/us of SAB and NYCB who will have:

— A deep and passionate commitment to the Balanchine and Robbins aesthetic and repertory;

— Demonstrated artistic leadership success as a programmer and/or company leader for an organization known for quality and excellence;

The call for a humane leader is notable after Martins’ retirement as the company investigated allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse.

That investigation, the dance company later said, did not corroborate the allegations.

Martins’ departure left City Ballet and the dance world divided, with some upset at his hasty leave-taking but others upset that he had not been held to account. This job posting honors Martins — it calls elsewhere for choosing someone who will build on his legacy — but also makes clear that a duty of the next leader is to oversee dancers’ well-being.

Also notable: The posting says the candidate would “ideally” come from the company and school, but that language leaves the door open just a bit for an outsider to be considered. And the job title is changing, too: Martins was the company’s ballet master in chief, a grand, perhaps grandiose title; the new leader will be an artistic director.

Not Necessarily a Choreographer

— An eye for talent; the ability to select the best dancers, choreographers, teachers, and coaches and encourage their development ...

Notably, “choreographer” is not in the new job description, here or elsewhere — just the ability to select good ones. That is something of a break from the company’s history — Balanchine, after all, was one of the greatest choreographers of the 20th century. But it is more in line with recent history. Martins, whose own choreography often got mixed reviews, had moved in recent years to commissioning, successfully, new works from people like Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon and Justin Peck, a soloist who became the company’s resident choreographer.

Now the search committee is ready to invite candidates to apply for the job. It hopes to begin interviews in early fall.