Magazine article Pointe

Alabama Ballet

Magazine article Pointe

Alabama Ballet

Article excerpt

A dynamic environment and a driven director make Alabama Ballet a vibrant company.

The renowned Dame Sonia Arova and her husband. Thor Sutowski, founded and co-directed Alabama Ballet for 15 years, building it into a company of distinction before passing the torch to Wes Chapman in 1996. Chapman, a former American Ballet Theatre principal who worked under Mikhail Baryshnikov, has since become the driving force behind the Birmingham-based company's success.

The Alabama native has been a popular addition to the company, bringing in dancers such as Jenna McKerrow, niece of American Ballet Theatre principal Amanda McKerrow, and dancer-turned-resident-choreographer Roger Van Fleteren, a former ABT soloist. McKerrow says Chapman generates a positive atmosphere for his dancers, helping her, in particular, prepare for her role as the Sugar Plum Fairy in George Balanchine 's The Nutcracker. "It was by far the most challenging thing I've done," says McKerrow. "But I figured that if the people in charge thought I could do it, then I could, and [Wes] really believed in my abilities."

Van Fleteren agrees, saying that the company's upbeat attitude makes it stand out from other organizations. "Our outlook is to always stay positive and nurturing and not [be] degrading," he says. "That has been a big difference in the way people work here. They actually want to stay here and dance."

Alabama Ballet doesn't have a ranking system, to the delight of some of its members. Some say this has accounted for the low turnover. …

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