OBT Announces Its New Artistic Director

Oregon Ballet Theatre selects international dancer and artistic director Kevin Irving to lead its company.

By Aaron Scott June 7, 2013

Image: I-DANCE

Generally sunny Friday afternoons are reserved for the press announcements that organizations want the press to ignore, but big news just came out from Oregon Ballet Theatre. After six months under interim artistic director Anne Mueller (the previous director, Christopher Stowell, left at the end of last year), the company has hired a new artistic director: Kevin Irving.

Irving has danced with and worked in an artistic capacity for a range of internationally celebrated companies, many of whom have come through Portland, including Alvin Ailey, Twyla Thwarp Dance, Compañia Nacional de Danza, and the Goteborg Ballet. He also happens to be partners with dancer Nicolo Fonte, who has previously choreographed for OBT to high marks—“Bolero” in 2008 and “Left Unsaid” 2009—meaning Portland might be getting two dance greats for the price of one.

We’ll certainly have a bigger introduction to Irving soon. But until then, here’s his bio from I-DANCE (Inspiring Dance: American Nation Choreographic Exchange), a non-profit he founded:

Kevin Irving began dancing with jazz classes in his hometown dance school (Long Island, New York), and subsequently joined the school and training ensemble of Alvin Ailey. From 1982-1985 he was a soloist with The Elisa Monte Dance Company of New York but at the age of 24 he took a sharp turn towards classical dance and joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, in Montreal. He was quickly recognized for his clean line, charisma and musicality and cast in leading roles in ballets by Balanchine, Tudor and even Petipa. Promoted first to soloist and then to principal dancer, Kevin Irving became a mainstay and well-known figure wherever LGBC performed for eight seasons. Upon leaving LGBC in 1993, Kevin joined Twyla Tharp Dance for a project that included performances at L'Opera de Paris and the television film of "In The Upper Room".

In 1994, Kevin retired from the stage in order to take a position as ballet master with Nacho Duato's Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid, Spain. Over the course of eight seasons in Madrid Irving worked side by side with the acclaimed Spanish choreographer. From 2002- 2007 Kevin Irving was artistic director of The Göteborg Ballet in western Sweden. The company, under Irving's tenure as director, initiated a number of innovative and successful ventures and in 2006 The Göteborg Ballet was named the most important dance company in Sweden in Ballett International's critics' poll.

Since 2007 Kevin has been based in the US, although he continues his presence in Scandinavia as a frequent guest ballet master with The Royal Danish Ballet, invited regularly to coach the dancers of this esteemed company in works by Kylian, Balanchine, Robbins and Duato, among others. Irving has been a guest teacher with companies and schools such as The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Juilliard School, Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, Rotterdam Academy, etc. and he continues to stage ballets by Nacho Duato as well as American choreographer Nicolo Fonte. In 2010 Irving founded I-DANCE (Inspiring Dance: American Nation Choreographic Exchange) a non-profit organization that sends teachers and choreographers to Latin American dance communities. The US Embassy in Nicaragua has recognized his volunteer work in Managua as fundamentally contributing to the cultural landscape of that Latin American country.

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