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Photo: Patrick Frenette.
October 20, 2020
Who is your mentor?

"I have been blessed to have many mentors – people who not only believed in me, but quietly guided me towards my 40+ years as a member of ABT’s Artistic Staff."

By Susan Jones

Susan Jones as the Cowgirl in <i>Rodeo</i>. Photo: Kenn Duncan.
Susan Jones as the Cowgirl in Rodeo. Photo: Kenn Duncan.

In my many years with ABT, I have been blessed to have many mentors – people who not only believed in me, but quietly guided me towards my 40+ years as a member of ABT’s Artistic Staff.

As a dancer, choreographer Agnes DeMille chose me to dance The Cowgirl in Rodeo, against director Lucia Chase’s preference for a soloist dancer. Of course, Agnes won that “battle.” Her belief in me brought out my inner voice as an artist while teaching me stagecraft: timing, the importance of stillness, and honesty in one’s intent.

Twyla Tharp was next. I was still in the cast of Push Comes to Shove when she chose me to maintain the ballet. ABT’s management picked up on that, and within a year I became an assistant ballet master. The path was clear.

Misha Baryshnikov made it clearer when he became Artistic Director of ABT. His guidance became my mantra during tough times: “It comes with the job.” His assistant, Charles France, mentored in a different way. He taught me to stand up passionately for my point of view and beliefs.

And last, but certainly not least, Natasha Makarova’s trust in me has helped me to raise the bar and keep it aloft. I’ve learned so much from her – about technique, artistry and the marriage between the two.

All of these remarkable people have left their mark on me and how I work. They established the standards that I adhere to, and they are with me when I enter the studio. Lessons of a lifetime.

Susan Jones serves as Regisseur at ABT. January 2021 will mark 50 years since she joined ABT.

Susan shared stories of working alongside Natalia Makarova in a video for ABT OffStage: A 2020 Virtual Season, available on YouTube!