Arts & Theater

Sacramento Ballet introduces new artistic director, pledges innovation

The Sacramento Ballet introduced new artistic director Amy Seiwert to the public at a windy event outside city hall Wednesday afternoon.

Seiwert, who was a Sacramento Ballet dancer for eight years in the 1990s and created a ballet company in San Francisco, will succeed co-artistic directors Ron Cunningham and Carinne Binda, a husband-and-wife pair who choreographed performances for 30 years . Seiwert's term begins July 1.

"In every organization, there is a time for tradition and there is a time for change, to celebrate those who have built the foundation and then to turn it over to new leadership so that the future is even brighter," Mayor Darrell Steinberg told a group of about 30 attendees. "We are so honored to have you lead the company for the 2018-19 season, and hopefully for many years to come."

Seiwert announced the ballet's upcoming schedule and promised the company would remain audacious under her guidance.

"We will continue to foster risk and exploration, and by doing so, we will be innovators in our field," she told the audience. "Through that step, the Sacramento Ballet remains relevant and vital to the community we serve. And I am so excited to be a part of that."

Despite the change at the top, the ballet will maintain some continuity by returning 23 of last year's 24 dancers.

The company's leadership transition is not without controversy. When the ballet's board of directors announced last January that they would not renew Cunningham's and Binda's contracts, the couple voiced their displeasure and made it clear they were not retiring or resigning.

"No, we’re not ready. We’re not at all ready," Binda told The Bee at the time.

In a letter to the editor, the artistic directors said the ballet's budget has shrunk over the last few years and the board wanted the company to "operate within its means," which affected the artistic directors' ability "to maintain our high artistic standards."

In 2015, the ballet laid off all its dancers and canceled its final series of performances weeks before the end of the season. Nancy Garton, then-chairwoman of the board, said the company didn't have the $80,000 needed to cover the staff's remaining salaries.

But Anthony Krutzkamp, who became the ballet's new executive director last December, is excited for Seiwert's upcoming tenure and a "very robust season" to come. He thinks the company is in a better place today – financially and otherwise – than it has been for several years.

"We looked at this transition, where we're going and how we can fundraise as we move to the future. The challenges, we're overcoming them. We have a strategic plan rolling out," he said. "We're moving forward in very smart ways."

The ballet's upcoming season is titled "Roots and Wings," which Seiwert described as "continuing our tradition but also exploring as innovators." The company will present five programs:

  • "Telling Stories," which features four short ballets with a narrative base, will be hosted at the Sofia Tsakopoulos Center for the Arts Sept. 27-30.

  • "The Nutcracker," which Seiwert is "eager to put (her) stamp on," will still include hundreds of local children and a collaboration with the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera Orchestra. It will be featured at the Sacramento Community Center Theater Dec. 15-23.
  • "Hamlet" will be presented at the Sacramento Community Center Theater Feb. 15-17, 2019.
  • "Beer and Ballet," which allows dancers to choreograph with their peers, will feature a "curatorial and mentorship component" for the dancers next year, Seiwert said. That program takes place March 21 to April 7, 2019, on the Cunningham-Binda Stage.
  • "Fast Forward," a set of three short ballets that "show how this art form is evolving and thriving," will play at the Tsakopoulos Center May 16-19, 2019.