For a ballet company that has recently reshaped its profile around cutting-edge contemporary works, it’s surprising—and refreshing—to see dancers in the studio rehearsing the gypsy-flavored styling and symmetrical lines of Paquita, a 19th-century classic. For Gennadi Nedvigin, in his first season as Atlanta Ballet’s artistic director, incorporating more classicism is part of a larger plan. In rehearsals the Russian-born dancer demonstrates steps with an unassuming elegance, a reflection of his training at the tradition-steeped Bolshoi Ballet Academy and a 19-year career at the top levels of the San Francisco Ballet. There he danced an extraordinary breadth of styles, from early classics to modern masterworks to newly created pieces from today’s top choreographers.
Nedvigin’s access to those choreographers, along with his first-class training and experience, made him the Board of Trustees’ top choice to lead the company when longtime artistic director John McFall announced his retirement last season, says chairman of the board Allen Nelson. As the Atlanta Ballet’s first new artistic director in two decades, Nedvigin enters at a pivotal point in the organization’s 87-year history. Infrastructure is strong. Dancers show remarkable versatility. The company culture, based on individual creativity and collaboration, gives its performers a unique radiance onstage. Now it’s Nedvigin’s task to take the company to new heights.
His vision requires an exacting new approach to training, so dancers can further extend their artistry. He is implementing the Vaganova method, a technique and training system created in Russia and adopted by ballet companies worldwide, which emphasizes meticulous attention to detail, athleticism, and emotional expressiveness. Building the dancers’ technique will lay the groundwork for more first-class repertory, says Nedvigin. In revivals like George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and new acquisitions such as Liam Scarlett’s Vespertine, he says audiences can look for dancing that’s “stronger, quicker, and more precise.”
More: After 22 seasons with the Atlanta Ballet, dancer John Welker will retire from performing at the end of this year. Read our exit interview with him here.
This article originally appeared in our December 2016 issue.