Stoner Winslett is the founding Artistic Director of the Richmond Ballet professional company. Her unique, strong partnership with the community has built a fine civic organization into an important national dance force through working toward a clear and shared vision. In the 41 years under Ms. Winslett’s direction, Richmond Ballet has established the first major company of professional dancers in the Commonwealth of Virginia, commissioned nearly 75 original works from over 35 choreographers from around the world, introduced the much-acclaimed Minds In Motion program into Virginia schools and now Israel, and renovated and occupied its landmark downtown building on Canal Street. She led the Company through its New York debut at The Joyce Theater in 2005, with return productions in 2008, 2010, and most recently in May 2017, and directed its international debut in London in 2012, in a highly acclaimed run at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. The Company conducted its first tour to China in May of 2015, with performances at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing and the Shanghai Grand Theatre.
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’s vision for the organization has always encompassed not only performing but also the training of artists and the education of the community, which are necessary to both preserve the heritage and explore new directions for the Company. Richmond Ballet reaches over 100,000 people annually across the Commonwealth and beyond, and boasts an impressive repertory with a foundation of full-length classics and 20th-century masters (George Balanchine, John Butler, Agnes de Mille, Jose Limón, and Anthony Tudor, among others), coupled with a strong commitment to new works, nine of which are are Ms. Winslett’s own choreography and include her highly-acclaimed version of The Nutcracker. The Ballet’s scope also includes a school, the School of Richmond Ballet, which opened its dance studios 46 years ago and now serves more than 900 students annually; and many outreach programs featuring the unique Minds In Motion program now in its 26th year. The organization operates from a state-of-the-art training and performance center on Canal Street, developed in 2000 under the direction of Ms. Winslett and the Ballet’s Board.
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 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 3-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. Although sessions with this alliance of 21 ballet companies including The State Ballet of Virginia concluded January 2020, the promotion of equitable representation throughout the ballet industry remains ever-present at the heart of Richmond Ballet. Despite these many distinctions, Ms. Winslett often states 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.