In December 2019, Richmond Ballet celebrated Stoner Winslett’s 40th anniversary as artistic director with the successful completion of a $10 million capital campaign and a surprise fundraising effort in her honor called the Ruby Slipper Project. Three months later the world closed down with the coronavirus pandemic and Richmond Ballet, under Ms. Winslett’s leadership, resolved to keep fulfilling the mission of awakening and uplifting the human spirit for both dancers and audiences in any possible safe way during one of our planet’s darkest hours. Unlike most dance organizations, Richmond Ballet opened its School in July 2020 and its professional company returned to work In August 2020, all with the guidance of a superb medical task force. During that time the organization served young dancers with training and audiences with uplifting performances under extremely difficult circumstances to maintain safety. Ms. Winslett now believes that perhaps this is Richmond Ballet‘s highest achievement under her four decades of leadership.
During her first 40 years as artistic director, Winslett founded the professional company, led the company through five seasons in New York City, its international debut in London in 2012, and the company’s Asian debut in China in May 2015. She also founded the Minds In Motionprogram in 1995 and was instrumental in moving the Ballet to 407 East Canal Street in 2000. Richmond Ballet boasts an impressive repertory with a foundation of full-length classics and 20th-century masters (George Balanchine, John Butler, Agnes de Mille, José Limón, and Anthony Tudor, among others), coupled with a strong commitment to new works, nine of which are Ms. Winslett’s own choreography and include her highly acclaimed version of The Nutcracker, which premieres new scenery by Alain Vaës this season.
Ms. Winslett received her early training from Ann Brodie, Aldofina Suarez, and Michael Lland in Columbia, South Carolina, and later trained at the American Ballet Theatre School and the North Carolina School of the Arts on scholarship. After knee injuries curtailed her performing career, she pursued a course of independent study at Smith College, where she graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2005, she was awarded the Smith Medal, which is the highest honor the College can confer on an alumna.
Ms. Winslett is one of the longest tenured artistic directors of a major ballet company and one of the few female artistic directors in the United States. She has received countless awards and recognitions at local, state, and national levels, and remains an active leader in the country’s performing arts community that includes serving as a former Vice Chair of Dance/USA, as the President of the John Butler Foundation, and a U.S. delegate to the 2014 U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange in Beijing.
Recognized as a decades-long leader in diversity and inclusion in the ballet field, in 2017 Ms. Winslett was part of a small group of artistic directors invited by Dance Theatre of Harlem to begin discussions addressing these issues throughout the field. This two-day exchange of ideas launched The Equity Project, a three-year cohort led by Dance Theatre of Harlem, International Association of Blacks in Dance, and Dance/USA and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The promotion of equitable representation throughout the ballet industry remains ever-present at the heart of Richmond Ballet.
Despite her many awards and distinctions, Ms. Winslett has often stated that her highest honor has been the privilege to work with the talented professionals and dedicated community members who have made a real difference in the world by building Richmond Ballet. Never has that been more poignant than during the challenges of the recent times.
Our professional company is made up of elite dancers from around the world who have helped earn Richmond Ballet critical acclaim. Dance/USA says Richmond Ballet is “a jewel among U.S. dance companies,” while The Washington Post calls it “a company to which dance fans everywhere ought to pay attention.” We’re proud of all that our company dancers bring to Richmond, and the world.
Richmond Ballet II, our second performing company, is comprised of talented young dancers between the ages of 18 and 22. RBII members perform their own diverse repertoire on tour across the Commonwealth as well as alongside the main company in mainstage productions.
RBII Apprentices are the top level of the Pre-Professional Division of School of Richmond Ballet. They receive an intensive training program, full scholarship, living stipend and are the bridge to RBII, our second company. Their time is divided between RBII rehearsals and the Trainee Program, performing in Lecture Demonstrations, Richmond Ballet Company mainstage performances and the end of season showcase performance with RB Trainees.
Richmond Ballet II Apprentices
Seated (L-R): Gianna DeMassio, Rachel Nash
Standing (L-R): Michael Duncan, Hannah MacLeod, Darius Mealy
Founded in 1993, the nationally recognized Richmond Ballet Trainee Program offers select advanced students a transitional experience to bridge the gap between the academic ballet setting and the world of professional dance. The Richmond Ballet Trainee Program is one of the few in this country that enables aspiring dancers to pursue formal dance training and gain valuable performance experience with a professional company.
Richmond Ballet Trainees - Second and Third Years
First Row- Senior Trainees: Kennady Jackson, Sarah Shaw, Gabrielle Goodson
Second Row: Katrina May Thomas, Sheridan Brown, Anna Orzulak, Parker Edmondson, Kendall Taylor, Ella Warren
Third Row: Carter Bush, Gavin Haas, Cade Bolz, Garrett Janiak, Daniel Miller
Richmond Ballet Trainees - First Year
First Row: Anne Pearson Gremer, Kristen Soyars Green, Isabella Vanik
Second Row: Gillian Carr, BriAnna Binzak, Savannah Wyatt, Claire Kehoe, Alexis Dawson, Kinsey Phelps, Chelsea Hacking
Third Row: Kiera Luci Dulog, Gillian Grossman, Oliver Gardner, Sydney Stutzman, Benjamin Piner
The Artistic Staff at Richmond Ballet is made up of international professionals who each bring incredible talent, expertise, and credentials to their respective roles. With impressive backgrounds and world experience, they offer a unique perspective that has helped shape our organization over the years. For over 40 years, Stoner Winslett has served as the founding Artistic Director of Richmond Ballet, the first major company of professional dancers in the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is one of the longest tenured artistic directors of a major ballet company and one of the country’s few female artistic directors. In June 2020, acclaimed choreographer Ma Cong joined Richmond Ballet as its first ever Associate Artistic Director.