American Repertory Ballet Announces New Chapter
By Anne Levin
American Repertory Ballet (ARB) will become a Founding Resident Company of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) this fall. The 23-story, mixed-use project in New Brunswick’s downtown will contain two proscenium-style theaters and additional rehearsal space for the ballet company, including studios for its DANCE POWER program and an expanded New Brunswick presence for Princeton Ballet School (the school will maintain its Princeton Shopping Center and Cranbury studio locations).
The ballet company also announced this week that longtime artistic director Douglas Martin “will be pursuing other opportunities,” and a national search is underway for a new artistic director. Martin has been in the position since 2010. He was a leading dancer with the company from 1993 until becoming artistic director. “ARB thanks Mr. Martin for his longtime service and wishes him all the best on his future endeavors,” a press release reads.
During ARB’s search for a new artistic director, Executive Director Julie Diana Hench will assume artistic responsibilities “and has assembled a strong leadership team to work directly with the company,” the release reads. Hench was a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet before serving for two years as executive director of Juneau Dance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. She came to ARB in 2017.
“Having a home theater at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center enables us to provide dancers and audiences with more performances, while increasing the diversity of programming and community engagement,” Hench said in an email. “We are proud to be a Founding Resident Company alongside our fellow arts organizations that will make this incredible new facility our home.”
Guest choreographers for ARB’s 2019-2020 season will include Ethan Stiefel, formerly a principal with American Ballet Theatre and past artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet; Septime Webre, former artistic director of ARB and the Washington Ballet, and current head of the Hong Kong Ballet; Sean Mahoney, former member of ARB and The Paul Taylor Dance Company; choreographer Riccardo De Nigris; and Ana Novoa, former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba.
The ballet company is celebrating its 40th anniversary season with appearances at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center September 20-22, and later shows at the Mandell Theater at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Two River Theater in Red Bank, McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, and the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York. Annual performances of The Nutcracker will be at McCarter, Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton, the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, and Union County Playhouse in Rahway.
The $170 million state-of-the-art performing arts complex, at 11 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick, is a partnership between Philadelphia-based Pennrose developers and the City of New Brunswick, George Street Playhouse, Crossroads Theatre Company, the New Brunswick Development Corporation, and other agencies and organizations. In addition to the two theaters and rehearsal space, it will contain 30,000 square feet of office space, a bar, and 207 apartments. In addition to ARB, it will be home to Crossroads, George Street Playhouse, and Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.
One of the venues, the The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater, has 463 seats and will be designated for musical theater, dance, opera, and drama. It has an orchestra pit accommodating up to 70 musicians. The 252-seat Arthur Laurents Theater is geared primarily for theatrical and smaller dance performances. “It is anticipated that this theater will be home to a variety of performing types including dramatic theater and dance, with styles ranging from traditional to experimental,” according to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center’s website. “The theater will also provide additional flexibility to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center to accommodate lecture, community, and musical events.”
Hench said the new residency will broaden ARB’s reach. “ARB also looks forward to new collaborations with our NBPAC partnering organizations: George Street Playhouse, Crossroads Theatre Company, and Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts,” she said. “Being in a state-of-the-art facility will also provide more opportunities for our Princeton Ballet School students, including our DANCE POWER Scholars, to interact with our professional dancers and, in turn, the Company dancers will take greater roles in ARB’s community outreach efforts.”