New York Times, 7 janvier 2016.

 

Cynthia Harvey, the ballerina and teacher, has a busy year ahead. In addition to consulting work, she is to serve as a coach at the Prix de Lausanne, the global competition for young dancers, and continues to run her ballet nonprofit group, En Avant Foundation. But in the spring she will take on one of her biggest projects yet: She has been named the next artistic director of American Ballet Theater’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, effective in May.

Her appointment comes with the retirement in April of the current artistic director, Franco De Vita, who became the school’s principal in 2005 before taking on the directorship in 2013.

Ballet Theater’s artistic director, Kevin McKenzie, first asked Ms. Harvey to accept the job in July. She said she was taken aback; she and her foundation are based in London, where she also teaches and has “a great deal of freedom.” But eventually, she added, she said yes because “I’m like a bull to a red cloth when there’s a challenge in front of me.”

The appointment is a homecoming of sorts for Ms. Harvey. She joined Ballet Theater in 1974, becoming a soloist in 1978 and a principal dancer in 1982. There, she danced lead roles in classics of the repertory, such as “Swan Lake,” “Giselle” and “Romeo and Juliet.” In 1986, she was the first American to be invited to join the Royal Ballet as a principal dancer. Ms. Harvey rejoined Ballet Theater in 1988, and stayed there until her retirement from performance in 1996.

Among Ms. Harvey’s goals for her directorship is to emphasize what she called the “nurturing aspect” of the school, among the faculty and possibly with Ballet Theater company members who could provide support for young dancers. Her top priority, though, is to ensure the students have an ever-important classical base, with room for the versatility new choreography demands.

As for Mr. De Vita, he said he would very likely stay on at the school as a guest teacher. After all, he added, he is at his happiest when teaching, which he has done for more than 30 years. In retiring, he said, he is mostly pulling away from the administrative aspects of his work. “I’m 65,” he said. “It’s time for me to slow down.”

In his time as principal and artistic director, Mr. De Vita has created Ballet Theater’s National Training Curriculum, and has brought numerous honors to the school, including its status as a partner with the Prix de Lausanne. He said the school is in good hands with Ms. Harvey. “She knows a lot of people in the world of dancing,” he said, adding that her personal network will be essential in helping graduating dancers find jobs. “She will be excellent for the school.”

Joshua Barone

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Michel Odin

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