Turn Around: John McFall, Ballet Philippines’ New Guest Choreographer and Mentor, Believes Arts Education is Transformative - Lifestyle Asia

The Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education founder will be joining the CCP-based company for its 52nd season.

Ballet Philippines (BP) is privileged to welcome John McFall as guest choreographer and mentor for Ballet Philippines’ 52nd Season.

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Kathleen Liechtenstein, president of the Cultural Center of the Philippines-housed company, says Ballet Philippines couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome McFall.

“It is a true honor to be working with a visionary such as McFall who, beyond his experience as artistic director, guest teacher, and choreographer over the last 38 years, has also advocated and promoted engagement in the arts while helping to define and shape the future of the arts,” she says.

In his earliest years, McFall was trained and mentored by Tatiana Dokoudovska who was a protégé of the Fokine era. From 1964 to 1985, the artist began his professional career as danseur and choreographer for the San Francisco Ballet, joining the company at 17 years old. He became a principal dancer there and stayed for 20 years.

Those McFall trained under include the Christensen brothers, Anatole Vilzak, Erik Bruhn, Terry Westmoreland, Sasha Minsk, Kathleen Crofton, and Sally Streets. Through these prolific mentors, he learned virtuosic technique filled with brightness and more importantly learning from their illustrious experience and deep sensibility.

This paved the way for his artistic development as both a dancer and choreographer for companies such as American Ballet Theater, Dance Theater of Harlem, National Ballet of Canada, Hubbard Street Dance Company, San Francisco Opera, Oakland Ballet, Seattle Opera and of course, San Francisco Ballet.

He halso ad the privilege of working with exceptionally talented dancers such as Fernando Bujones, Cynthia Gregory, Kevin McKenzie, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Virginia Johnson, and Robert LaFosse.

Artistic expansion

From 1986 to 1994 McFall worked as artistic director, teacher and choreographer for BalletMet.

Realizing the importance of dance education, he built a large facility. He expanded the Dance Academy and assembled a repertoire of new premieres that attracted significant touring opportunities. This also expanded the number of weeks the dancers were employed while doubling the budget during his tenure.

McFall also founded the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education in 1994, recognizing that teaching is at the heart of developing artists and promoting excellent dance theater.

“We needed to create a shape and an infrastructure for an organization that was going to be here for at least another generation or two,” he says in a piece for Dance Informa about that time of his life.

His teaching approach and leadership transformed students into superb dancers, becoming members of professional companies, including Atlanta Ballet, collaborating and presenting choreography on stages around the world; choreography by Wayne McGregor, Ohad Naharin, James Kudelka, Alexander Ekman, Twla Tharp, Jorma Elo, Annabelle Lopez Ohoa, and many more. McFall served as Artistic Director, CEO and choreographer for the Atlanta Ballet from 1994 to 2018.

Life enrichment

From 1983 to present, McFall has applied his experience as student, professional dancer, choreographer, member of the Board of Governors of the Union, and other alliances to inspire cities and philanthropic leaders to invest substantially in building arts infrastructure.

He has led three campaigns to build arts facilities for dance schools that empower artistic vision in major metropolitan cities. He has choreographed productions that included students thereby contributing to the story telling, resulting in enchanting performance development.

“The arts are here to enrich us, to inform us, to help us respond to our feelings, and what’s going on inside of each of us,” emphasizes McFall in the Dance Informa article. “And that matters a lot.” 

Through his work and advocacy, McFall has proven that the synergy of a professional dance company with outstanding repertoire representing the best choreographers in the world. This, coupled with a dance center of 1,400 students, is a powerful voice for the arts.

Banner Photo by Paige McFall, courtesy of Ballet Philippines

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