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Kirk Peterson was the innovative Artistic Director of the Hartford Ballet for five years and his choreography has been seen with San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Washington Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, BalletMet, San Francisco Opera and The Royal Ballet School.
Peterson has had a long and distinguished career as a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet. He was also a principal dancer with London Festival Ballet, Harkness Ballet and the National Ballet of Washington. Peterson’s extensive repertoire as a dancer included all the full-length classics and he appeared in a wide range of works by the world’s leading choreographers. Peterson began his ballet studies at the age of three in his native New Orleans, where he studied for fifteen years with Lelia Haller, a distinguished pedagogue from the Paris Opera Ballet.
During the summer of 1999, Peterson appeared in, served as Ballet Master and consultant, and staged classroom segments for the feature film Center Stage.
He began choreographing while still a member of American Ballet Theatre and created the ballet Floating Weeds for ballerina Cynthia Harvey. His first work for the San Francisco Ballet, Cloudless Sulphur, created for ballerina Evelyn Cisneros and commissioned by artistic director Michael Smuin, led to his being named a resident choreographer of the company. In 1985, he then created a one act Othello to the music of Carl Ruggles. He was a founding member of the San Francisco based OMO Dances and was later appointed Assistant Artistic Director of the Washington Ballet.
Peterson has to date choreographed over 50 ballets. His varied and challenging works, such as the often-performed Belling the Slayer and his trilogy of ballets to the music of Philip Glass, The Eyes That Gently Touch, Vortex and Amazed in Burning Dreams, have received consistently high acclaim. His more recently created Carmen, Fandango Furioso, to the music of legendary film composer Bernard Hermann, and the passionately scintillating The Howling Cat (Imaginary Tango), have added to the long list of his imaginative works.
Peterson is a specialist in re-staging the full-length classical repertoire such as Giselle and Don Quixote and has had a particular success with his The Sleeping Beauty. He has also created original versions of Coppélia and The Nutcracker. His ballet Dancing with Monet (A Gathering at Argenteuil), which premiered in June 2002, was created for the Pennsylvania Ballet. This past season he collaborated with violinist Sarah Chang on his new Carmen Fantasy for American Ballet Theatre.
Peterson collaborated with Michael Smuin on two Broadway productions. The first, Anything Goes, starred Patti LuPone. In 1990, he was co-choreographer with Smuin of a lavish musical based on James Clavell’s novel Shogun.
The Hartford Ballet appointed Peterson its Artistic Director in 1993. During his five years with Hartford, Peterson created or re-staged nearly 20 works including Reinin’ in the Hurricane and new versions of The Firebird, Le Sacre du Printemps and L’Apres Midi d’un Faune. Peterson is presently Resident Choreographer of the Cincinnati Ballet.
Peterson rejoined American Ballet Theatre as Ballet Master in August 1999. In addition to his duties as Ballet Master, Peterson performs the roles of Dr. Coppélius in Coppélia, the Widow Simone in La Fille mal gardée, the Charlatan in Petrouchka, the Seneschal in Raymonda, Escalus and Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet and the Tutor and Master of Ceremonies in Swan Lake. For the Company he re-staged George Balanchine’s original version of Theme and Variations.