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Ballet Hartford's new artistic director is a 'big win' for the growing company

Ballet Hartford has announced that Claire Kretzschmar will become its artistic director in August. The dancer retired in 2022 after 12 years with the New York City Ballet.
Sean McCullough
Ballet Hartford
Ballet Hartford has announced that Claire Kretzschmar will become its artistic director in August. The dancer retired in 2022 after 12 years with the New York City Ballet.

Ballet Hartford announced that Claire Kretzschmar will become the company’s artistic director in August. Kretzschmar retired from dancing in 2022 after 12 years with the New York City Ballet.

Kretzschmar will replace Leyna Doran, who will become Ballet Hartford’s first executive director. Doran will also continue as a company dancer.

Kretzschmar’s appointment comes at a pivotal time for the up-and-coming ballet company. In just four years, the company has grown from eight dancers, to its current roster of 25 dancers. Ballet Hartford was established in 2016, first calling itself Vivid Ballet.

Ballet Hartford made the announcement at a press conference earlier this month at the organization’s rehearsal facility at 224 EcoSpace in Hartford that included remarks from Hartford Mayor Arunan Arulampalam, the Rev. Dr. Shelley D. Best, CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council and MetroHartford Alliance President & CEO David Griggs.

Arulampalam said Kretzschmar’s appointment was a “big win” for the arts community in Hartford.

“Given her impressive background with the New York City Ballet, Claire could have taken opportunities anywhere else in the country,” Arulampalam said. “We are so lucky that she has chosen Hartford to continue her career. We are so excited about the future of Ballet Hartford.”

Kretzschmar spent 12 years with the storied New York City Ballet, rising to the rank of soloist dancer before retiring from dancing in 2022 to pursue teaching and choreography. Last year, Kretzschmar created “A Ceremony of Carols” for Ballet Hartford, a new dance based on Benjamin Britten’s choral work.

At the press conference, Kretzschmar said she plans to build on the momentum Ballet Hartford has established over the last several years.

“I hope to deepen and expand Ballet Hartford’s presence in the Hartford region and also the Northeast in general,” Kretzschmar said. “I hope to create really good ballet performances, to create new works of my own, as well as to bring in existing classics.”

Ballet audiences can soon get a glimpse of Kretzschmar’s choreography. On May 3, Ballet Hartford will be performing “Planets,” a series of dances based on British composer Gustav Holst’s famous orchestral work. Kretzschmar has choreographed a ballet based on the “Venus” movement of the work. The performance is at 7 p.m. at the University of Saint Joseph’s Hoffman Auditorium in West Hartford.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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