By Logan McSwain
Charlotte, N.C. – Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, president and artistic director of Charlotte Ballet, announces he will transition to the role of artistic director emeritus in June 2017. Charlotte Ballet plans to spend the 2016/2017 Season, Bonnefoux’s last, celebrating his legacy and contributions.
“It has been an exciting 20 years building this company with the help of committed and talented dancers, board members and staff,” Bonnefoux said. “I’m looking forward to becoming artistic director emeritus, and outside of that role, I’m eager to begin creating a program to help classical ballet dancers become better equipped to perform contemporary ballet.”
Background on Bonnefoux
Bonnefoux is Charlotte Ballet’s third and longest serving artistic director. He and wife Patricia McBride joined Charlotte Ballet in 1996, just six years after the company moved from Winston-Salem, N.C. McBride will continue serving as associate artistic director, master teacher for Charlotte Ballet Academy and a répétiteur for George Balanchine works.
Bonnefoux’s professional career includes dancing with the Bolshoi, Kirov and Paris Opera ballets, and in 1970, he became a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. His final performance was in 1980, after which he dedicated himself to work as an artistic director, choreographer and teacher. He has served as the artistic director at the Chautauqua Institution in New York since 1983.
During his tenure with Charlotte Ballet, Bonnefoux has built an annual season including five performance series and attracted talented dancers from all over the world. Bonnefoux’s choreographic repertoire includes Shindig,Carmina Burana, Cinderella, Nutcracker, Peter Pan, Romeo & Juliet and Sleeping Beauty. He started the popular Innovative Works series and under his direction, the company has performed countless new ballets and masterworks by choreographers including Mark Godden, Jiri Kylian and Dwight Rhoden. Charlotte Ballet has toured nationally including appearances at the Joyce Theater in New York City and Ballet Across America at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Both appearances led to rave reviews for Bonnefoux’s iconic bluegrass ballet Shindig, including The New York Times’ Alastair Macaulay writing, “Lucky North Carolina” in response.
In recent years, Bonnefoux worked closely with Executive Director Doug Singleton to champion the effort to build a new facility and in June of 2010, Charlotte Ballet opened the Patricia McBride & Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance located in uptown Charlotte. He established a relationship with the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C., where the company will perform regularly starting in December 2015. It was also through Bonnefoux’s vision that the company made the bold decision to change its name to Charlotte Ballet in 2014.
“Jean-Pierre has built a reputation of honoring the tradition of ballet, while fostering the evolution of the art form,” Singleton said. “His dedication to diverse programing and compassion for the artists has propelled tremendous progress for the company, and I look forward to having his counsel and wisdom as a continued part of Charlotte Ballet’s growth.”
When Bonnefoux came to Charlotte Ballet fewer than 150 students attended the Charlotte Ballet Academy. Today the Academy instructs over 700 dancers annually and graduates students to some of the top ballet companies. Bonnefoux remains committed to building diversity in ballet. He helped the company begin Reach, which provides dance training to students with financial need, and a partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem, which brings conservatory graduates to Charlotte to perform as members of Charlotte Ballet II.
Bonnefoux and McBride received The Arts & Science Council of Charlotte’s inaugural ASC Honors lifetime achievement award in 2008 and in 2011, they were chosen as the first recipients of the New York International Ballet Competition’s Ilona Copen Award.
The Board of Trustees has formed a search committee to hire a new artistic director and is working with Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates to identify qualified candidates.
“Our board of trustees looks forward to working with Jean-Pierre over the next two exciting seasons to make them the best yet,” Board of Trustees Chair Mark Maraffi said. “Jean-Pierre has built one of the finest ballet companies in the country, and we are working hard to find an artistic director who will succeed him in continuing Charlotte Ballet’s trajectory towards a great future.”
Charlotte Ballet’s 2015/2016 Season
Charlotte Ballet kicks off its 2015/2016 Season with Fall Works, a mixed repertoire performance featuring Bonnefoux’s Shindig, in addition to a new work by Associate Artistic Director Sasha Janes and Forgotten Landby Jiri Kylian. In November, Charlotte Ballet introduces a new signature event, Charlotte Ballet Soirée, which raises money to benefit Charlotte Ballet’s scholarship programs and commitment to diversity in ballet. Held at the Knight Theater, Soirée features Charlotte Ballet performers alongside international musicians and dancers. Bonnefoux’s Nutcracker premieres in Charleston this December, followed by 17 performances in Charlotte at the Belk Theater. The company kicks off 2016 with four weekends of Innovative Works, followed by the Dancing with the Stars of Charlotte Gala, Little Mermaid and Spring Works. For more information and tickets visit charlotteballet.org.
Led by internationally acclaimed President and Artistic Director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Charlotte Ballet is known for its strong dancers and versatile repertoire, ranging from classical ballet to bold, contemporary works. The company’s 28 professional dancers annually present five performance series in Charlotte during a season spanning from October to April. During the summer, the dancers and artistic staff serve as Company in Residence at The Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., where Bonnefoux has been artistic director since 1983. Starting in December 2015, Charlotte Ballet will perform regularly at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C. The organization also operates a school, Charlotte Ballet Academy, which trains 700 students annually, and has nationally recognized educational and community programs. In 2010, the organization built the Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux Center for Dance in uptown Charlotte, N.C. The Center for Dance houses administrative and rehearsal spaces, as well as a 200-seat theater. In 2014, Associate Artistic Director Patricia McBride received a Kennedy Center Honor. For more information, visit charlotteballet.org.