Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos to retire

Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos, pictured here in 2012, announced he will retire from the company at the end of its 2017-18 season.
Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos, pictured here in 2012, announced he will retire from the company at the end of its 2017-18 season. Idaho Statesman file

Choreographer and artistic director Peter Anastos came to Boise in 2008 to helm a re-invented Ballet Idaho. When he retires at the end of next season, he will have been with the company for 10 years.

“It’s time,” Anastos says. “It’s been an honor and privilege to spend 10 wonderful years with this organization. I’m ready to open myself up to my next chapter.”

Anastos plans to seek freelance choreography opportunities, he says. The national search is on for Anastos’ replacement. The board wants to have someone in place by January 2018 to transition the company’s leadership smoothly.

The announcement is bittersweet, says Ballet Idaho Board President Randy Anderson.

“We are extremely saddened to see him go, but we are excited for him to begin his next chapter,” Anderson says. “He’s a one-of-a-kind talent and person (and) we wish him the best.”

When Anastos arrived in 2008, Ballet Idaho had been in a longtime alliance with Eugene Ballet. The two companies shared Toni Pimble’s artistic direction, dancers, choreography, sets, costumes and administration.

“Starting a new company from scratch is certainly not for sissies,” he says.

Anastos, 69, brought a depth of experience both as a choreographer and as administrator, creating a fledgling company from scratch and building it into a strong regional company.

He hired a batch of young dancers — some of whom, such as Jessica Sulikowski, still dance with the company — and a few more-seasoned pros, including principal ballerina Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti who stayed on from the previous Ballet Idaho incarnation.

In his first season, Anastos whipped together a production of “The Nutcracker” that the company still performs. During his tenure, he has staged successful full-length productions of “Swan Lake,” “The Sleeping Beauty” and other major story ballets, and established Ballet Idaho as a company that performs masterworks by George Balanchine. In 2016, Anastos brought Twyla Tharp’s American modern dance masterpiece “Nine Sinatra Songs” to the company.

He started a focus on new choreography that nurtured and developed young choreographers within the company, such as Daniel Ojeda and Nathan Powell, and within the community, such as Lauren Edson and Lydia Sakolsky-Basquill.

The company has operated in the black for the past three seasons.

In 2012, Anastos received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the highest artistic honor in Idaho.

Originally planning on a career as a pianist, Anastos decided to pursue dance after he saw his first ballet. He has choreographed around the world, learned from and worked with luminaries of dance, including choreographing a television special for longtime friend Mikhail Baryshnikov. He has been the artistic director of three previous companies: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, a groundbreaking all-male classical company that has enlivened the international ballet scene since the 1970s, Cincinnati Ballet and Garden State Ballet in New Jersey.