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From left: Jonathan Stafford; Photo by Paul Kolnik; Wendy Whelan, Photo by Lindsey Thomas

Well over a year after the retirement of Peter Martins, New York City Ballet has announced that former principal dancer Jonathan Stafford will lead the company and its affiliated School of American Ballet as artistic director. Fellow former principal Wendy Whelan will serve as associate artistic director.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Passing dance history on to the next generation is a bit like handing down the family jewels, says Wendy Whelan, seen here teaching. Photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy Whelan.

When I was a young dancer in Louisville, Kentucky, my ballet teacher used to speak a lot about Merrill Ashley. She brought neoclassical technique to exquisite new heights under Balanchine, and as a technician, she famously paved the way for today's balletic whiz kids. (Later, when I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to have her as a teacher.) Today, as I travel around the country giving master classes, I often find myself bringing up the names of quintessential American ballerinas, dancers like Merrill. But now, if I mention her name, I can't help but notice my students' eyes widening as they look to each other wondering who exactly this famous ballerina named Merrill is.

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Dance News
The Museum Workout. Photo by Paula Lobo, courtesy of the Met

As you tally up the reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on a few of the world premieres that broke new ground this year. Some changed our perspective on dance, and others were just plain fierce, but they all got our attention and inspired our work as dance teachers.

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Isabella Boylston and Calvin Royal III in Christopher Wheeldon's This Bitter Earth. Photo by Erin Baiano, courtesy of New York City Center

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Damian Woetzel's leadership at the Vail International Dance Festival, a new four-day event will be held in New York City, November 3–6. Vail Dance Festival: ReMix NYC brings three programs to New York City Center, along with a special lecture/demonstration focused on footwork, hosted by Woetzel. Featured performers include: Lil Buck, Michelle Dorrance, Wendy Whelan, Robert Fairchild, Matthew Rushing and Yo-Yo Ma. Works by George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky, José Limón, Martha Graham, Larry Keigwin and Christopher Wheeldon will be performed. Vvf.org/arts/vail-international-dance-festival

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Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall in After the Rain

Yesssss After the Rain. There can never be enough of that heart-wrenching Christopher Wheeldon ballet. And for those of you lucky enough to be in New York City this weekend, you’ll have a chance to see it live, for free, performed by none other than the soon-to-retire Wendy Whelan, with New York City Ballet soloist Craig Hall.

The pair will present the piece September 21 at Lincoln Center’s Hearst Plaza as part of an International Day of Peace celebration. Buddhist organization Shinnyo-en will host the event, called Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace. The public is invited to share and celebrate peace through live music, dance and floating paper lanterns on the Paul Milstein Reflecting Pool. Students from The Juilliard School and trumpet player Alphonso Horne will also perform.

Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB

Photo by Nisian Hughes

It may seem that the stork dropped Wendy Whelan at New York City Ballet's doorstep--but she was actually born in the small city of Louisville, Kentucky. Though she never got the chance to meet Balanchine, she was familiar with his neoclassical style when she arrived at the School of American Ballet. She credits Robbie Dicello at the University of Louisville Dance Academy for instilling in her a working knowledge and love of the famous ballet-maker.

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