By Steve Sucato for Pointe Magazine
In his 33 years with Nashville Ballet, artistic director Paul Vasterling has left an indelible mark on the organization. This month, he retires from the company, marking the end of an era.
A Louisiana-bayou native, Vasterling joined Nashville Ballet in 1989 as a dancer. After a back injury cut short his performance career, he became the company’s ballet master and choreographer; he was appointed artistic director in 1998. During his 25-year tenure as director he transformed the dozen-member troupe into the largest professional ballet company in Tennessee, with 33 dancers and a presence on the national stage. In addition, Vasterling founded Nashville Ballet’s second company, NB2, and grew its affiliated ballet school into one that attracts students from across the country.
As one of the company’s primary choreographers, Vasterling created over 40 original ballets, including Lucy Negro Redux, which was featured on PBS’s Great Performances television series (as Black Lucy and the Bard). He also led the company to commission over 22 original scores from Nashville singer-songwriters and nationally known musicians, such as Ben Folds and Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy Award–winning artist Rhiannon Giddens.
Vasterling’s final season ends this month with his production of The Sleeping Beauty. Pointe spoke with him about his career, what’s next for him, and the future of ballet.