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Nedvigin will transition from dancer to artistic director when he comes to Atlanta August 1. (Photo by Eric Tomasson)

Nedvigin will transition from dancer to artistic director when he comes to Atlanta August 1. (Photo by Eric Tomasson)

Atlanta Ballet has hired Gennadi Nedvigin, a principal dancer from San Francisco Ballet, to become the fourth artistic director in its 87-year history, replacing the retiring John McFall. 

Nedvigin came to Atlanta last season and worked with the dancers to stage Classical Symphony, a piece by San Francisco Ballet’s resident choreographer Yuri Possokhov. 

“I am very honored and excited to have been chosen to lead Atlanta Ballet as its next artistic director,” Nedvigin said in a press release. “I came to know the company when I staged a work for them two years ago, and I was very impressed — not only by the quality of the dancers, but by their incredible enthusiasm and passion. I look forward to building on the wonderful foundation and reputation that Atlanta Ballet has already established and to use my heritage, which is steeped in traditional classical ballet, along with my experience with other styles and techniques as a principal dancer at SF Ballet to help guide the company forward.”

A native of the Russian city Kamensk, Nedvigin took his first ballet class at the age of 5. He began training with the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet School when he was 10. As a soloist with the Moscow Renaissance Ballet, Nedvigin was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the international ballet competition in Osaka, Japan, and was invited to dance with the Jeune Ballet de France in Paris.

New Atlanta Ballet artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin.

New Atlanta Ballet artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin.

He joined San Francisco Ballet in 1997, and was named principal dancer in 2000.

While in San Francisco, Nedvigin received two Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, and began teaching master classes at various ballet schools in America.  

Nedvigin begins his duties in Atlanta on August 1, and will have tall shoes to fill. In his 20 years at Atlanta Ballet, McFall guided the company to new heights. 

McFall, 70, announced his retirement in September. Nedvigin was one of three finalists for the job, a pool that included long-time company dancer John Welker.

McFall came to Atlanta Ballet in 1994 as only the third artistic director in the company’s history. The oldest ballet company in America, Atlanta Ballet was founded in 1929 by Dorothy Alexander, who remained at the helm until her retirement in 1963.

She was replaced by Robert Barnett, a native of Washington who became a soloist for New York City Ballet under the legendary George Balanchine. He married a fellow dancer, who had danced in Atlanta under the tutelage of Alexander, and Barnett came to Atlanta to join the company. He also taught and choreographed before he became artistic director.

It was a troubled time for Atlanta Ballet when Barnett suddenly resigned in 1994 after burn-out and conflicts with the ballet’s board of directors. In his resignation letter, Barnett chastised the board for the poor working conditions in the company’s Midtown building.

McFall re-energized the company. He founded the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education in 1996, now acknowledged as one of the top 10 dance education facilities in the country. The center has nearly 1,300 students. 

The company moved to a new, state-of-the-art headquarters during McFall’s tenure.

McFall also oversaw what many have described as a “golden age” for the company, showcasing cutting-edge contemporary choreographers. He said the 2014-15 season — highlighted by resident choreographer Helen Pickett’s Camino Real — was “the crown jewel of my tenure artistically.”

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