Nacho Duato

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Born in Valencia/Spain, Nacho Duato began his professional dance education at the age of 18 at the Rambert School in London. He continued his studies at the Mudra School of Maurice Béjart and eventually completed his education at the Ailey American Dance Center in New York.

In 1980, Nacho Duato signed his first contract at the Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm. A year later, Jiří Kylián hired him for the Nederlands Dans Theter in Den Haag. For his achievements as a dancer, Nacho Duato was awarded the “VSCD Gouden Dansprijs” in 1987. His talent soon led Nacho Duato beyond being a dancer to devote himself to choreography, too. His first choreography for the Nederlands Dans Theater in 1983, “Jardí Tancat,” featuring Spanish-Catalonian music by Maria del Mar Bonet became a highly praised success and earned him the 1st prize of the International Choreographic Competition in Cologne.

In 1986, Nacho Duato was appointed house choreographer of the Nederlands Dans Theater together with Hans van Manen and Jiří Kylián. During his tenure, he created more than a dozen choreographies including “Danza y Ritmo“ (Carlos Chávez), “Ucelli“ (Ottorino Respighi), “Synaphai“ (Iannis Xenakis/ Germanos Vangelis), “Boléro“ (Maurice Ravel), “Arenal“ (Maria del Mar Bonet), “Chansons Madécasses“ (Maurice Ravel), “Raptus“ (to Richard Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder), “Dreams of Ether“ (Marcel Landowsky), “Lament“ (Henryk Górecki). For most of his productions he collaborated with stage designer Walter Nobbe.

In 1990, the Culture Ministry in Madrid invited Nacho Duato to return to Spain and offered him the leadership of the Compañía Nacional de Danza. There, he formed a large œuvre and gained worldwide recognition with his ensemble. During his 20 years with the Compañía, he created more than 30 productions for its repertory, among others: “Cor perdut“ (Mar del Mar Bonet, 1989), “Concierto Madrigal“ (Joaquín Rodrigo, 1990), “Opus piat“ (Ludwig von Beethoven, 1990), “Rassemblement“ (Toto Bissainthe, 1990), “Na Floresta“ (Heitor Villa-Lobos/ Wagner Tisso, 1990), “Kaburias“ (Leo Brouwer, 1991), “Duende“ (Claude Debussy, 1991), “Empty“ (Musikcollage, 1991), “Coming together“ (Frederic A. Rzewski, 1991), “Mediterrania“ (Musikcollage, 1992), “Cautiva“ (Alberto Iglesias, 1993), “Alone, for a second“ (Erik Satie, 1994), “Tabulae“ (Alberto Iglesias, 1995), “Ecos“ (Stephan Micus, 1994), “Cero sobre cero“ (Alberto Iglesias, 1995), “Por vos muero“ (Musik des 16. Jahrhunderts, 1996), “Self“ (Alberto Iglesias, 1997), “Ofrenda de sombras“ (Musik des 16. Jahrhunderts, 2000), „Arcangelo“ (Arcangelo Corelli u.a., 2000), „White Darkness“ (Karl Jenkins, 2001), “Txalaparta“ (Kepa Junkera, 2001), “Castrati“ (Antonio Vivaldi/Karl Jenkins, 2002), “L’ Homme“ (G György Kurtág, 2003), “Herrumbre“ (Pedro Alcalde/Segio Caballero, 2004), “Diecisiete“ (Pedro Alcalde/ Segio Caballero, 2005), “Hevel“ (Pedro Alcalde/Sergio Caballero, 2007), “O domina nostra“ (Henryk Górecki, 2008) and “Cobalto“ (Pedro Alcalde/Sergio Caballero, 2009).

During his time at the Compañía Nacional de Danza, Nacho Duato also worked for other companies. In 1992, he created “Duende” for the Nederlands Dans Theater featuring music by Claude Debussy. At the American Ballet Theatre, he created “Remanso” featuring music by Enrique Granados in 1997 and “Without Words“ (Franz Schubert) in 1998. In the same year, he choreographed “Romeo and Juliet“ (Sergei Prokofiev), his first full-length ballet. “Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness“ (Johann S. Bach, 2000), “Alas“ (2006), “Infinite Garden“ (2010) succeeded. In Berlin, Nacho Duato adapted “Duende“ for the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1995, “Without Words“ for the Ballert of Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 2002, and “Arcangelo“ with the Staatsballett Berlin in 2012.

One year after his 20th anniversary at the Compañía Nacional de Danza, Duato left Spain and was appointed Artistic Director of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 1st, 2011. There, he staged two world premieres in 2011, “Nunc Dimittis“ and “Invisible“, and developed his own versions of “Sleeping Beauty”, “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Nutcracker”.

In 2014, he created “DepakIne“ for the Martha Graham Dance Company. By now, his work is included in the repertories of the most important ballet companies worldwide, including the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris, the Cullberg Ballet, the Nederlands Dans Theater, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the Australian Ballet, the Stuttgarter Ballett, the Ballet Gulbenkian, the Finnish Opera Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, the Royal Ballet Covent Garden, the Bolshoi Ballett, the Boston Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, the Staatsballett Berlin, and the Ballet of the Mikhailovsky Theatre St. Petersburg.

Nacho Duato received multiple awards as a choreographer: “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” from the French embassy in Spain in 1995, the gold medal for Fine Arts from the Spanish government in 1998, “Benois de la danse” for his choreography “Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness“ in 2000, and “Premio Nacional de Danza” for choreography in 2003. Furthermore, the Spanish Department of Foreign Affairs awarded him the “Medalla al Merito Civil”. In 2015, he received the prize of the city of Alcalá for arts and literature. In 2016, he became honorary citizen of his home town Valencia.

Starting with the 2014 / 2015 season, Nacho Duato has become Artistic Director of the Staatsballett Berlin. After staging his choreographies “Sleeping Beauty”, “Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness”, “White Darkness”, “Herrumbre”, “Castrati”, “The Nutcracker” and the new pieces called “Static Time” and “Erde”, he will present “Romeo and Juliet” and “Por vos muero” in the ongoing season.


Penny Saunders

photo by Tom Maday

photo by Tom Maday

Penny Saunders, originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, graduated from the Harid Conservatory in 1995, and began her professional career with The American Repertory Ballet under the direction of Septime Webre. She went on to dance with Ballet Arizona, MOMIX Dance Theater, Cedar Lake Ensemble and in 2004 she joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. In 2011, Saunders won the International Commissioning Project which launched her choreographic career, creating pieces for Hubbard Streets’ main and second company, Whim W’Him, SFDanceworks, Neos Dance Theater, Owen Cox Dance Group, and The Nexus Project. Saunders is honored to be the choreographer in residence at The Grand Rapids Ballet, receiving support from The New York City Ballet Choreographic Commissions Initiative, and to be the recipient of the 2016 Princess Grace Choreographic Fellowship. In the 2017-2018 season, Saunders is excited to be collaborating with The Cincinnati Ballet, BalletX, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Tulsa Ballet 2, as well as making her first full length for The Grand Rapids Ballet. 


 Danielle Rowe

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Born in Adelaide, Australia, Danielle Rowe trained at the Australian Ballet School before joining the Australian Ballet in 2001, where she danced for ten years as a Principal. In 2011, Danielle left Australia to join the Houston Ballet and in 2012 moved again to join the prestigious Nederlands Dans Theater. Rowe has performed in a large variety of works and worked intimately with many acclaimed choreographers, notably Jiri Kylian, Medhi Walerski, Crystal Pite, Wayne McGregor, Paul Lightfoot, Sol Leon and Alexander Eckman. Since moving to San Francisco in July 2015, she has worked with the San Francisco Dance Film Festival dancing in a short film titled Mad Scene 2.0, danced and choreographed for DanceFAR and choreographed for Berkeley Ballet Theater.


James Sofranko

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James Sofranko is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and received his dance training at The Harid Conservatory in Florida and later at The Juilliard School in New York City, where he received his BFA in dance. Upon graduation, he joined San Francisco Ballet, and was promoted to soloist in 2007.

He has danced in numerous works and world premieres by choreographers such as Helgi Tomasson, Val Caniparoli, William Forsythe, Liam Scarlett, Justin Peck, Alexi Ratmansky, Edwaard Liang, Lar Lubovitch, Wayne Macgregor, Mark Morris, Julia Adam, Yuri Possokhov, Christopher Wheeldon, Paul Taylor, Arthur Pita, Stanton Welch, Jorma Elo, Hans Van Manen, Jiri Kylian, John Neumeier, James Kudelka, Lila York, Kenneth Macmillan, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. Some of his favorite roles include ‘Mercutio’ in Tomasson’s “Romeo and Juliet,” ‘Eros’ in Mark Morris’ “Sylvia,” ‘Bugle Boy’ in Taylor’s “Company B,” and the second sailor in Robbins’ “Fancy Free.”

He received an Isadora Duncan award (“Izzie”) for best performance in 2011 in Yuri Possokhov’s “Classical Symphony.”

James was featured in the principal role of ‘Eddie’ in the Broadway touring company of “Movin’ Out,” a musical choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the songs of Billy Joel.

In 2012 he co-founded DanceFAR (Dance For A Reason), an annual benefit performance and after-party that brings the Bay Area dance community together to support the work of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC). In 2014 he received the Inspiration Award from CPIC. To date, DanceFAR has raised over $450,000 in support of their programs and initiatives to prevent cancer.

In 2014, he formed a new contemporary repertory company in San Francisco, SFDanceworks. The first two seasons have played to sold out houses and the company has presented works by Alejandro Cerrudo, Lar Lubovitch, José Limón, and world premieres by Penny Saunders, James Graham, Danielle Rowe, Dana Genshaft, and James Sofranko.

He has created many original choreographic works, including two for the San Francisco Ballet School Trainee program (Means to an End, Mozart Symphony), SFDanceworks (Z), Long Beach Ballet (Brandenberg), and Marin Dance Theater (The Beaten Path).  James also works as a repetiteur for Yuri Possokhov, resident choreographer for San Francisco Ballet, and has staged his ballets on Cincinnati Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.

In July of 2018, Sofranko will assume the position of artistic director of the Grand Rapids Ballet in Michigan, while continuing to develop and direct SFDanceworks.