Words by Sarah Deloach
Alabama Ballet Company celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021, and commemorating the special event, it has a very special season of performances lined up this season. This premier ballet company is also celebrating 15 years of their great Artistic Director and CEO, Tracey Alvey, and 25 years of their Resident Choreographer and Associate Artistic Director, Roger Van Fleteren. While it’s two big years for Alabama Ballet, how did they start?
Alabama Ballet opened its doors in 1981 as an outgrowth of the Birmingham Civic Ballet, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Ballet and Ballet Alabama. The company was originally under the co-artistic direction of world-renowned dancers Dame Sonia Arova and Thor Sutowski and along the way found status and recognition in the ranks of professional companies. Arova and Sutowski ran the company for an outstanding 15 years before the leadership of Roger Van Fleteren and Wes Chapman came on board in 1996.
Beginning training at the age of 12, Michigan native Roger Van Fleteren is a former American Ballet Theater soloist and has also performed as a principal dancer with the London City Ballet– where he also danced with Alabama Ballet Artistic Director Tracey Alvey. Van Fleteren has original choreography in endless ballets, including “Dracula,” “Swan Lake,” and “Bonnie and Clyde.” He even has two original pieces, “Bach Variations” and “Be Major,” that have received Panoply awards. Alabama Public Television made a documentary on Alabama Ballet’s “Romeo and Juliet” and was nominated for a Regional Emmy Award thanks to his choreography. Most recently, Van Fleteren choreographed the premiere of “Alice in Wonderland” with an original score by Les Filmer performed by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
Tracey Alvey joined the Alabama Ballet team in 2005 and became Artistic Director by 2007. Born in Kent, England, at the age of 9 Tracey Alvey began dancing and was selected to attend the Bush Davies Ballet School then went on to The Royal Ballet School. In her time dancing she played roles in “Swan Lake,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Cinderella.” Alvey has even danced for royalty, including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth II. In 1993 she was even promoted to principal dancer as the title role “Giselle.” Alvey has been teaching ballet ever since, going from the Elmhurst School of Dance to her current position as the Director of the Alabama Ballet School. The Kent native even calls Birmingham home now, with her husband, as she is enjoying the fifteenth season with Alabama Ballet.
Forty years and going strong, Alabama Ballet’s beautiful performances are indeed worth the celebration. This season Alabama Ballet has put together an incredible list of shows sure to wow the crowd. Shows this season include “Ovation,” “George Balanchine’s The NutcrackerÒ,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don Quixote.”
For tickets to any of these productions, check out Alabama Ballet’s website or click here.