He retired from New York City Ballet last month with considerable fanfare. She slipped away from American Ballet Theatre earlier this year so unexpectedly that even dance insiders had no idea she’d given her final performance. Now these former principal dancers, Charles Askegard and Michele Wiles, are ready for their next move: a new venture called, appropriately enough, Ballet Next.
These two veterans of our largest ballet companies are currently thinking on a smaller and more intimate scale, launching what could be termed a chamber ballet company. They have eight dancers—including themselves—for Ballet Next’s official debut: a single performance on Monday at the Joyce Theater. The evening juxtaposes Petipa and Balanchine classical pas de deux with new choreography created for this occasion.
In this initial phase, Ballet Next consists of dancers who have ongoing permanent affiliations with major companies. ABT soloists Misty Copeland and Jared Matthews—having had a week to catch their breath following ABT’s recent City Center season—will join NYCB principals Jennie Somogyi and Joaquin De Luz, just before they launch into their company’s Nutcracker marathon. Also performing is Maria Kochetkova,
an elegant principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, and Drew Jacoby, a busy freelance artist and co-founder of Jacoby & Pronk.
The program’s first half features the familiar classics: Swan Lake’s second act pas de deux (Wiles & Askegard), Sleeping Beauty’s culminating pas de deux (Kochetkova and De Luz), and Balanchine’s sparkling Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (Copeland and Matthews). After intermission, the fare is all brand-new: Entwined, a sleek, sinuous Margo Sappington duet to Satie for Somogyi and Askegard; Mauro Bigonzetti’s La Follia, set to Vivaldi, which pairs Wiles and Jacoby; a solo for Copeland by Robert Sher-Machherndl, and Kochetkova performing a solo by Jorma Elo.
Ballet Next already has one welcome priority: live music. At the Joyce, musical director and concert cellist Elad Kabilio will lead a classical ensemble of musicians performing live.
When he offered what amounted to a sneak peak of Ballet Next at the 92nd Street Y last week, the amiable, lanky Askegard outlined the venture’s aims and repertory focus: “It’s important to embrace tradition, but also to push forward with the art form. You want to set a course that is focused, not scattershot.”
He and Wiles plan for a New York-based company that tours. “We will be borrowing dancers for a while. We envision a company of our own dancers—not a set number, but depending on repertory. We’re going to grow it organically and incrementally.”
Nov. 21, Joyce Theater, 175 8th Ave. (at 19th St.), www.joyce.org; 7:30pm, $50 & $90.