Leading with Head and Heart
The Portland Ballet Youth Company taps Anne Mueller to head its career track.
The transition from center stage to behind the scenes can be tough for some dancers, but former Oregon Ballet Theatre principal Anne Mueller began preparing for it early in her career. She begins her new role this month as co-artistic director of The Portland Ballet, which serves dancers ages 3 to 22.
“I have these two, some might say, opposing, sides to my personality,” Mueller says of her interest in both the artistic and administrative aspects of company life. “And a position where I can exercise both sides is really attractive to me.”
Mueller was a co-founder of the Trey McIntyre Project, where she also served as a dancer and manager, and she did administrative work and taught at OBT while still dancing. In 2012, after the departure of OBT’s then artistic director, Christopher Stowell, Mueller served as interim artistic director.
“I knew the company inside and out,” she says. “I started building a dance identity for myself that wasn’t as a dancer—that was very helpful in that transition that every dancer has to make.” After Kevin Irving was named artistic director of OBT, Mueller took a break from dance, serving as managing director of the nonprofit theater company Bag&Baggage Productions.
Her new position is an outgrowth of conversations with Portland Ballet artistic director Nancy Davis and managing director Jim Lane, after teaching and choreographing for their advanced students. Thanks to the success of a recent capital campaign, the company added new studio space and created its Career Track program.
“We expanded our studio space by 75 percent last year, due to increased demand for our programs,” Davis explains. “This year enrollment increased by 35 percent. We have known for some time that there was a desire from our students to create a professional division–type program that would run during the day, to give dancers 14 to 22, who are either home-schooled or able to do online high school or college classes, the ability to put in those extra hours of training, rehearsing and performing.”
Mueller will be those students’ primary teacher, running afternoon classes and rehearsals, creating choreography, coaching them through work in repertoire, providing them with career counseling and preparing them for auditions. “The goal is to keep it small, so that students get lots of one-on-one,” she says.
Davis is confident that Mueller is up to the task. “Her talent speaks for itself,” Davis says. “She’s a wonderful teacher and choreographer. Her work ethic and aesthetic mirrors mine.”
“I’ve spent more than 28 years in this artform and acquired a lot of information,” Mueller says. “I kind of burn to pass that on.” DT
For more: theportlandballet.org
Heather Wisner writes about dance from the Portland, OR, area.
Photos by Joni Kabana and Blaine Truitt, both courtesy of The Portland Ballet