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Stoner Winslett Retiring as Artistic Director of Richmond Ballet

Associate Artistic Director Ma Cong named incoming artistic director as Winslett moves into advisory role.


After four decades as artistic director, Stoner Winslett has announced that she will step away as artistic director of the Richmond Ballet at the conclusion of the 2023/2024 season. After 44 years at the helm, she will take on a new role as founding artistic director of the Richmond Ballet, the State Ballet of Virginia, on July 1, 2024 . Ma Cong, current associate artistic director, will assume the main creative and leadership role for the organization.

“On behalf of the board of trustees, I want to extend our most sincere gratitude and admiration to Stoner,” said Margaret Clinard, president of the Richmond Ballet board of trustees, in a press release. “Over the past 43 years, she has built, maintained, and championed an outstanding professional company, a world-class ballet school and an inspiring community engagement program. We are very pleased to name her Founding Artistic Director, a truly deserved distinction that will live with her in perpetuity. As a community, we should be very proud of our Richmond."

Here's more from a press release that went out today:

"Winslett is the longest-tenured artistic director and one of the few female artistic directors of a major ballet company in the United States in her era. When she arrived in Richmond in 1980 at the age of 21, Richmond Ballet was a civic company featuring students from the then five-year-old School of Richmond Ballet along with guest artists from major New York companies. She oversaw the merger of these two not-for-profit dance organizations and founded the Richmond Ballet professional company in 1984. In 1992, Richmond Ballet was declared the State Ballet of Virginia by then Governor Douglas Wilder.

During her four decades as artistic director, Winslett has built Richmond Ballet into one of the most respected dance organizations in the United States. She has led the Company through six seasons in New York City, its international debut in London in 2012, and the Company's Asian debut in China in May 2015. She also founded the Minds In Motion community engagement program in 1995 and was instrumental in moving the Ballet to 407 East Canal Street in 2000.

Recognized as a decades-long leader in diversity and inclusion in the ballet field, in 2017 Winslett was part of a small group of artistic directors invited by Dance Theatre of Harlem to begin discussions addressing these issues throughout the field. This two-day exchange of ideas launched The Equity Project, a 3-year cohort led by Dance Theatre of Harlem, International Association of Blacks in Dance, and Dance/USA and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

While the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most performing arts organizations, Richmond Ballet took a different path. Under Winslett’s leadership and with meticulous guidance and safety protocols set by a superb medical task force, the Ballet successfully reopened in summer 2020 to serve young dancers with training and to provide audiences with uplifting performances under extremely difficult circumstances.

During her time at Richmond Ballet, Winslett has developed an impressive repertory for the Company, with a foundation of full-length classics and 20th-century masterworks coupled with a strong commitment to new works, nine of which are her own choreography and include her highly acclaimed version of The Nutcracker.

She has received countless awards and recognitions at local, state, and national levels, including the YWCA “Woman of the Year” for Arts, the Richmond Times-Dispatch “Person of the Year Hall of Fame,” Style Weekly’s “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century,” the Governor’s Award for the Arts and the Smith College Medal. Winslett has been an active leader in the country's performing arts community and has served as Vice Chair of Dance/USA, President of The John Butler Foundation, and as a U.S. Delegate to the Peoples Republic of China People-to-People Exchange in 2014."