Stoner Winslett is the founding artistic director of Richmond Ballet, The State Ballet of Virginia. When she arrived in Richmond in 1980, Richmond Ballet was a thriving civic company featuring students from the then five-year-old School of Richmond Ballet along with guest artists from major New York companies. Ms. Winslett oversaw the merging of these two not-for-profit dance organizations and founded the Richmond Ballet professional company in 1984. Richmond Ballet was declared The State Ballet of Virginia in 1992 by then Governor Douglas Wilder.
Ms. Winslett is the longest tenured artistic director 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.
During her 40 years as artistic director of Richmond Ballet, Ms. Winslett has built the Company into one of the most respected dance organizations in the United States. She has led the Company through six 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 Motion program 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.
Ms. Winslett received her early training from Ann Brodie, Aldofina Suarez, and Michael Land 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.
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 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. The promotion of equitable representation throughout the ballet industry remains ever-present at the heart of Richmond Ballet.
The Covid pandemic closed down most performing arts organizations, but under Ms. Winslett’s leadership Richmond Ballet 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 re-opened in the summer of 2020 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.
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.
The Richmond Ballet Studio Company is the highest level of the Pre-Professional Division of School of Richmond Ballet, featuring exceptional student dancers from across the country. The eleven-month program includes a diverse range of performance opportunities such as Lecture Demonstrations, Richmond Ballet Company mainstage performances, and the end-of-season showcase with the Richmond Ballet Trainees.
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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.
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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.