In 1972, Suzanne and Sidney Johnston founded the New Mexico Ballet Company in order to provide a means of study and an opportunity for advancement for dancers throughout New Mexico. Ms. Johnston served as the NMBC Artistic Director from 1972 to 1975. During this era, the company performed and toured in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee as a member of the Southwest Regional Ballet Association. In addition, they produced the first Nutcracker production in New Mexico to live orchestra, a tradition that continues today.
NMBC continued to grow and redefine itself under the Artistic Directorship of Rebecca Peltz (1975-1976), Lana Kroth (1976-1977), Alan Baker (1977-1978), Jon Christophori (1979) and Lorenzo Luckie (1981-1982). During this era, the company focused on goals of training local dancers to build a strong corps in addition to promoting the art of dance to New Mexico audiences. This period of growth culminated with Lorenzo Luckie’s presentation of Renaissance, including internationally acclaimed ballet star Fernando Bujones.
Acclaim and Pageantry…1982-1987
Suzanne Johnston resumed her position as Artistic Director from 1982 to 1987. Highlights during this era include world renowned guest performers including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Robert La Fosse, Susan Jaffe, Melissa Hayden, Juliet Prowse and David Chavez. During this time Melissa Hayden of New York City Ballet was brought in to teach master classes to artists of NMBC and an acclaimed production of Paquita was presented with dancers from around the city.
“Anyone interested in viewing some of the best technique in ballet should…see… The New Mexico Ballet’s Gift of Dance.” Mazur, The Albuquerque Journal, 1985.
Artistry and Imagination…1988-1996
David Chavez assumed the role of Artistic Director from 1988 to 1996. During
his tenure, NMBC produced eleven original productions including Carmina Burana, Dia de los Muertos, A Christmas Carol, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Vision Quest, The Jungle Book, The Red Shoes, and A Stravinsky Dance Festival. Through the help of grants awarded by the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund of the City of Albuquerque, NMBC was able to provide public school children with free access to many of these performances.
“Chavez’s “Rite of Spring”…was total theater, and true to the violent, primitivistic rhythms used by Stravinsky…”
Jennifer Noyer, The Albuquerque Journal, 1995.
Former NMBC Dancers Allison Tillery, Jackie Oliver and current NMBC Executive Director Emily Fine in NMBCʼs production of Dracula.
David Chavez stepped down from NMBC in 1997 and during this transitionary era, NMBC continued founder Suzanne Johnston’s vision to provide New Mexico audiences with access to esteemed guest artists from major companies under the artistic vision of Bill Evans and later Patricia Dickinson. In addition, NMBC was approved by the George Balanchine Trust and New York City Ballet to perform Balanchine’s works Serenade and Concerto Barocco under the guidance of former New York City Ballet ballerina and Balanchine repetiteur Jillana. NMBC’s regular performances of The Nutcracker Ballet continued its tradition as a mainstay of the NM holiday season and popular novelties such as NMBC’s Dracula drew different audiences. These programs allowed the company to commit resources to new productions and prepare for the greater things in store for the company.
Classical and Experimental…2009-2015
Jolie Sutton-Simballa was appointed Artistic Director in 2009 after a decade of dancing with NMBC and six years as NMBC’s Assistant Artistic Director and resident choreographer. Sutton-Simballa’s continued desire to provide NM audiences with the best classical dancing resulted in bringing in world-reknown stars from American Ballet Theatre (Sarah Lane, Luis Ribagorda, Stella Abrera), New York City Ballet (Philip Neal, Maria Kowroski, Tyler Angle), Pilobolus (Peter Pucci) and Martha Graham (Peggy Lyman) to dance, set works and teach. These years of growth have seen the expansion of the company’s Balanchine Repertoire with productions of Valse Fantasie and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux along with the guest artist performances of Balanchine’s grande pas de deux from the Nutcracker. This era was also the start of the collaboration between NMBC and the NM Philharmonic. Together they dazzled audiences with Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote and Spartacus.
Jolie Sutton-Simballa works with Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle on NMBCʼs The Nutcracker
Antionette Segura performing for children at the Cottonwood Mall as part of NMBCʼs educational series
Natalie Harris moved from Resident Choreographer to Artistic Director of NMBC in the summer of 2015. Miss Harris’s new Nutcracker Ballet premiered Thanksgiving weekend at Popejoy Hall with the New Mexico Philharmonic. She was thrilled to provide the audience new choreography and allow our talented dancers the opportunity to expand their artistry by performing in a variety of roles. This February, NMBC will perform an excerpt of George Balanchine’s Serenade for NDI NM and on April 9, 2016 NMBC will bring an all new full length Alice in Wonderland to Popejoy Hall accompanied by the professionals of the NM Philharmonic, conducted by David Felberg.
In the Community
The New Mexico Ballet Company is well-grounded in the New Mexico community to continue to achieve our goals of:
-Bringing innovative, high-caliber productions to New Mexico stages with the assistance of local dancers, choreographers, musicians, artists, costumers and technical stage crew.
-Supporting Arts in Education for New Mexico school children through school shows, exclusively updated and accurate History of Dance for Schools programs, and outreach to Title I schools, all completely revamped and taught by a masters-educated university Dance History lecturer on staff with NMBC
-Providing a means for young dancers to launch professional dance careers through training, performance and the chance to work with world-renowned guest artists.
As with any arts organization, NMBC relies on the support of volunteers and corporate and private donors to achieve these goals. Please consider supporting NMBC through financial donations or by volunteering your valuable time or skills. We look forward to seeing you at our next performance!