Richmond Ballet previews upcoming international debut

Richmond Ballet prepares to show London what it’s made of (i.e. muscles), and we get a sneak peek before they dance their way over to the motherland.

Local publications (this one proudly included) are always going on and on about how world-class our beloved Richmond Ballet is, but that’s easy enough to say from our cushy comped seats and our sketchy knowledge of what internationally renowned dance companies are actually like.

So it is with bliss that I say that the Royal Ballet School asked Richmond Ballet dancers to come perform at the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Theatre in Covent Garden! Oh yeah. Two royals. You read correctly. Our favorite fancy dancers have been invited by A QUEEN (more or less) to do their thing in London town.

Last year, the Royal Ballet School sent dancers to the New World for a five-day stint with Richmond Ballet. All agreed that this British invasion was more of a success than the last one (unless we’re counting the Beatles as the last one, in which case, we need to reconsider), and London returned the favor by requesting the honor of Richmond Ballet’s presence this very month.

(Governor McDonnell will be on-hand to make sure that none of Richmond’s lithest are swayed by the land of crumpets and its heady charms.)

I asked Stoner Winslett, Artistic Director, how the link was formed between the two companies on their separate continents.

During a 2010 visit to Virginia, David Norman–former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Royal Ballet School, and brother of Richmonder Selina Rainey, Richmond Ballet trustee–shared with me his vision for White Lodge, the lower school of the Royal Ballet School in Richmond-upon-Thames, England. Mr. Norman, born to a British father and Virginian mother, thought there was an extraordinary connection between Richmond, Virginia, and (sister city) Richmond-upon-Thames, and talked of future collaboration between the two Richmond ballet companies.

As a follow-up to that conversation, in February 2011 graduate students of the Royal Ballet School traveled to Richmond for a five-day residency and performed for the public with Richmond Ballet students. It was during that visit that Jay Jolley, Assistant Director of the Royal Ballet School, saw our work and suggested that Richmond Ballet should bring its work…to the Royal Opera House under the sponsorship of the Royal Ballet School.

London may be only a plane ticket away, but this marks the first time in Richmond Ballet’s 54-year history that it’s performed internationally. And what better program to storm the shores with than four works by American choreographers.

“Made in the USA: Traditions and Innovations” showcases Richmond Ballet dancers’ kaleidoscope of talents through works that you may have come across before:

  • George Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie
  • John Butler’s After Eden
  • Ma Cong’s Ershter Vals (originally commissioned by Richmond Ballet)
  • Val Caniparoli’s Swipe (originally commissioned by Richmond Ballet)

Spanning ballet’s polar opposites, the program harnesses the imaginative energy that American choreographers bring to the dance world. And if everything goes as planned, Londoners in attendance will have an “eye-opening, uplifting, and enjoyable evening,” says Winslett.

The company previews its London program Wednesday through Saturday of this week. For those of us who are familiar with the above works, the opportunity to see the dancers tackle them again is like recapturing a gorgeous memory from childhood that you never thought you’d be able to reconstruct. For everyone else, it’s a chance to experience the thrill of seeing them for the first time. I’m totally jealous of you.

Pick up tickets at or call 1-800-514-3849 to reserve. Tickets range from $30-$40, with opening night tickets costing $100 (includes post-performance hangout at–and transportation to and from–Penny Lane Pub with the charming ballet company).

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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