Ballet BC is losing the executive director who's helped rebuild the company and raise its international profile. But the City of Vancouver is gaining a new managing director of cultural services.
Today, the City announced Branislav Henselmann, who came to Ballet BC from London’s edgy Michael Clark Company in 2012, will now move to the post that leads the shaping of Vancouver's arts and culture and oversees a budget of $11.5 million for cultural groups in 2017.
“We are thrilled to welcome Branislav Henselmann to the City of Vancouver. He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and creativity to the City having spent time as part of the arts community in New York, London and Munich,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a press statement today.
“Arts and culture plays a huge role in Vancouver’s economy and livability and we look forward to Branislav helping us do even more to continue to support our thriving arts and culture community.”
Henselmann, a German-born dancer who has a masters of fine arts in dance and business, has worked extensively in London and New York. As well as helming Ballet BC with artistic director Emily Molnar through a period of growing touring and audience support, he also serves as the Chair of Canadian Ballet Companies for the National Dance Council and a Board Director for the Canadian Dance Assembly.
Both Molnar and Henselmann shared a background as classically trained ballet dancers who became interested in contemporary dance. (Henselmann began his training in Munich, then moved on to the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London, eventually studying with the Merce Cunningham Foundation.)
When he arrived at Ballet BC, he told the Straight: “I’m really fascinated about what [artistic director] Emily [Molnar] has been able to do. I believe it’s one of the best rep companies that I have seen in a long time and definitely there’s a place for it on the world stage. But also crucial to that is the regional and national level too. Now we have to build the infrastructure around it.”
Henselmann said in a press statement today that he looks forward to helping build the local scene that he has gotten to know so well over the past several years here.
"I am thrilled to join Vancouver’s Community Services team as the Managing Director of Cultural Services, where I will have a distinct privilege and a unique opportunity to build on the successes of existing programs that have nurtured some of the most distinct artistic voices in the country—voices such as Ballet BC, where I will be ending my tenure as Executive Director,” he said.
“Public investment in arts and culture, with a firm focus on creating social capital through breaking down barriers and providing an opportunity for cultural dialogue and social interaction is at the heart of any vibrant city.
“In my new role, I look forward to identifying collaborative, community oriented, and innovative strategies for Vancouver’s cultural sector—strategies that will ensure ongoing vitality of Vancouver’s civic life, built around and defined by the shared civic culture and values. This targeted, collective investment in the cultural sector will be key in fulfilling Vancouver’s current and future aspirations."
Ballet BC is set to launch an international search for its new leader. “Branislav has been an extraordinary Executive Director at Ballet BC during an important period in which Ballet BC has emerged as a company of increasing international importance,” said Dr. Kevin Leslie, chair and president of the Ballet BC board of directors, in a press statement.
“His unique vision and energy will be missed and will not go unremembered. The Board has already commenced a search to fill the Executive Director position and aims for an efficient transition. We congratulate Branislav and wish him the very best in his new position with the City.”
In July of this year, the City announced that Richard Newirth would be leaving his post as managing director of cultural services.
Among its roles, cultural services oversees civic and private sector public-art programs; allocates grants to arts and cultural organizations; supports and develops creative spaces for cultural organizations; and manages City-owned facilities like the Vanier Park cultural institutions, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Cultch.
The Vision-led council has said it's making arts a priority, boosting Vancouver’s Public Art program, with $1.5 million to be spent through 2018, and pledging to increase grants to cultural organizations by $300,000 over two years.