Charlotte Ballet is entering a new era.
After 20 years, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux has stepped down as Artistic Director, and he did so on a high note: Last season was the company’s most successful yet. While the city broke box office records in an effort to say goodbye to the man who redefined Charlotte dance, the ballet company welcomed a new Artistic Director: Hope Muir, formerly Assistant Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, is taking the reins, and she’s got quite the season in store for us.
New to Charlotte but hardly new to ballet, Muir has worked in both classical and contemporary dance for 27 years throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. Her uniquely diverse career has seen her create and perform roles for some of the world’s most prolific choreographers, including Christopher Bruce CBE, Twyla Tharp, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Robert Cohan, Javier De Frutos, and Mats Ek. She’s also, of course, familiar with and respectful of the growth brought to Charlotte’s ballet in recent years.
“Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride have built a family of artists, produced exciting and varied work, and grown a loyal audience,” she says of her predecessors. “I relish the opportunity to build on the company’s tradition of excellence and lead it forward for the next generation.”
For her inaugural season as artistic director, Muir has drawn on her wide international dance experience to curate a range of choreographic voices that reflect her passion for both the existing masters and mentoring of new talent. The 2017/2018 season includes the introduction of seven new choreographers to Charlotte Ballet’s repertoire, five world premieres, and two American premieres.
This year’s Fall Works, in particular, looks to be a more than palatable introduction to Muir and her plans for the future of the ballet. The season kicks off with “an introduction to a new voice” in Johan Inger’s Walking Mad, a contemporary work that Muir calls “a stylistic game changer.” This performance will be followed up by George Balanchine’s Apollo, staged by none other than legendary Balanchine dancer and Kennedy Center Honoree Patricia McBride.
“I’ve included Apollo as an acknowledgement of the amazing legacy Patty and Jean-Pierre have built here,” Muir says. “I didn’t want to come in and ignore everything that’s come before. I have a great respect for the company.”
The final ballet being performed, on the other hand, is a personal venture for the new Artistic Director. Choreographed by Javier de Frutos, Elsa Canasta was originally created with Muir in the starring role. A dark, funny, sexy evocation of the world of Cole Porter, the ballet will feature a collaboration with Charlotte’s Jazz Arts Initiative and live music by Tony-award winning singer and songwriter Levi Kreisr. This performance marks the first time Elsa Canasta has been performed in the United States.
It concludes a fall schedule that, Muir insists, should serve as an ideal introduction to the kinds of contemporary work she’ll be implementing in the company’s repertoire.
“I have to bring in new work at the right time, not only for the audiences, but also for the dancers,” Muir says. “They have to have been exposed to it for some time so that they can respond to the work in the most thoughtful and informed way. That improves everyone’s experience of the work. I’m not out to shock. Also, the program has to be balanced. The beginning of this season is basically an introduction to me and where we’re going while also being respectful of the past.”
The new Artistic Director has plenty of new directives in mind for Charlotte Ballet, including a renewed focus on touring and an initiative for grooming new choreographic talent. The company is naturally destined to keep evolving as the city and its arts do so, and Hope Muir feels she has stepped in at an opportune moment.
“I am thrilled and honored to have been invited to be the new Artistic Director of Charlotte Ballet at such an exciting time in the company’s development,” Muir says. “I envision a pioneering and innovative future for Charlotte Ballet in the US and abroad.”