Ballet Memphis gets new ballet master

James Ady (front), dancing in Val Caniporoli’s “Lambarena” with the Pennsylvania Ballet, is the new ballet master for Ballet Memphis.

Alexander Iziliaev for Pennsylvania Ballet

James Ady (front), dancing in Val Caniporoli’s “Lambarena” with the Pennsylvania Ballet, is the new ballet master for Ballet Memphis.

There’s a flurry of personnel changes at Ballet Memphis.

The organization announced that James Ady is its new ballet master. He, along with veteran ballet mistress Tamara Hoffman, will coach the dancers and be involved in productions.

The company has also brought in Charles Cooper, Anwen David, Alberto Gaspar and Ben Slayen as dancers and promoted Elizabeth Mensah from trainee to dancer. Michelle Presley and Ashley Hannah Davis are joining as trainees.

Ady attended the North Carolina School for the Arts and then joined Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia as an apprentice. In 2002 he joined American Ballet Theatre and returned to Pennsylvania Ballet in 2003 where he was named principal dancer in 2005.

Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founder and artistic director of Ballet Memphis, said she called around the country for recommendations. “James was a top candidate,” she said, “and when he came in, the dancers evaluated him and our staff people felt great about him.”

Ady took a break from his dancing career when he went back to school and graduated magna cum laude from Boise State University in 2012 with a degree in journalism. “But he wanted to come back to the ballet world,” Pugh said, “and we’re pleased to have him.”

Ady replaces Karl Condon, who was the associate artistic director until he left Ballet Memphis this year to return to school.

Mensah, who has been a trainee for two seasons, comes to her first season as a full company member with considerable strengths.

“She’s almost a template for a different kind of dancer that is needed more and more in the nation,” Pugh said, “a dancer with skills not only as an athlete and artist, but also understands the changing culture and demographics in America.”

Mensah was a trainee with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and has performed several pieces with Ballet Memphis. She participates in the Ballet Memphis Cares outreach program and received an emerging artist grant from the Jeniam Foundation in 2012.

“Dancers and artists need to understand we’re in service to others, not just career builders. We have to be multifaceted and Elizabeth’s clearly that way.”

Ballet Memphis is also being represented in Japan later this month. Company members Hideko Karasawa and Kendall G. Britt Jr. will perform at the juried Ballet Asteras 2013 Gala in Tokyo on July 21.

The celebration of Japanese dancers who perform outside Japan invited eight couples from around the world to perform at the New National Theatre in Tokyo. Ballet Memphis is the only company from the United States that is represented.

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