Boston Ballet is expanding its roster for the 2014-15 season. It will have 60 dancers in the main company, up from 56 at the end of last season. There will also be nine dancers in the second company, Boston Ballet II, for a total of 69.
Thirteen dancers have been promoted: Dusty Button, Whitney Jensen, and John Lam are rising from soloist to principal dancer; Isaac Akiba, Anaïs Chalendard, and Seo Hye Han are rising from second soloist to soloist; Paul Craig and Roddy Doble are moving up from the corps to second soloist; and Emily Entingh, Brett Fukuda, Andres Garcia, Kathryn McDonald, and Marcus Romeo are moving from Boston Ballet II to the corps.
Former principal dancer Paulo Arrais, who left last year for the Norwegian National Ballet, is returning as a principal. And Yury Yanowsky, the company’s oldest and longest-tenured dancer, will transition from principal to principal guest artist.
In addition to the dancers being promoted from Boston Ballet II, the corps will have seven new dancers joining the company. Seven other new dancers are joining Boston Ballet II.
The promotions of Button, Jensen, and Lam were not a surprise, as the trio had been performing principal roles this season. Lam danced opposite Kathleen Breen Combes in “Symphony in Three Movements” and “Rubies” and was featured in “Études.” Button and Jensen were both prominent in “La Bayadère” and “Rubies”; they were also featured in “Resonance,” and Button was one of the Fairy Godmothers in “Cinderella.”
Just back from a brief vacation in Finland and Italy, Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen describes Lam, who has been with the company since 2004, as “a very very solid dancer with a wide palette who can do both classical and contemporary” repertoire. Jensen, who arrived in 2009, has “excelled since day one,” he says, “and all the choreographers want to use her. She, too, has a wide range.” Button came in 2012 and has, according to Nissinen, “improved steadily.” He describes the promotions as a validation of their work and says that now “it’s a question of what sort of artistry do you provide?” and about “what sort of leadership you provide onstage and behind the scenes for the rest of the company.”
Of Arrais’s return, Nissinen says that one reason the Brazilian-born principal left for Norway, where he had danced previously, was that he wanted to be closer to his mother, who lives in Paris. But Arrais called Nissinen and said he missed Boston and the company’s repertoire, and Nissinen said he’d be glad to have him back. Nissinen is also excited about the progress of Akiba, who came up through the company’s farm system, as it were, having been part of Boston Ballet’s Citydance program at age 9 before training at the company’s school, joining Boston Ballet II in 2007, and then being promoted to the main company in 2009.
Regarding Yanowsky, who is celebrating his 22d season with Boston Ballet, Nissinen says as principal guest artist he will dance in just three productions and thus have more time to pursue his budding career as a choreographer. We can expect to see him as Rothbart in “Swan Lake,” Drosselmeier and the Prince in “The Nutcracker,” and Armand in Val Caniparoli’s “Lady of the Camellias.”
Every ballet company marks the end of its season with departures as well as arrivals. Those not returning this season include principals Lorna Feijóo and Nelson Madrigal, a married couple who had been with Boston Ballet since 2003, soloists Avetik Karapetyan and Alejandro Virelles, second soloist Aidos Zakan, and corps members Yoko Callegari, Robert Kretz, András Rónai, and Kimberly Uphoff. Virelles will be joining the English National Ballet as a principal dancer. Nissinen speaks appreciatively of the “solid contribution” Feijóo and Madrigal made in their years with the company and describes Virelles, who had previously been with the Cuban National Ballet, as “a very talented dancer” whom he enjoyed having in Boston.
The season opens Oct. 30 at the Boston Opera House with Nissinen’s new production of “Swan Lake.”Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at email@example.com.