Choreographer Val Caniparoli

October 12, 2015

Val Caniparoli’s versatility has made him one of the most sought after American choreographers in the United States and abroad.

He has contributed to the repertories of more than forty dance companies, including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Ballet West (resident choreographer 1993-97), Washington Ballet, Israel Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, State Theatre Ballet of South Africa, Smuin Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet and Tulsa Ballet, where he also was appointed resident choreographer. When Boston Ballet danced the company premiere of Caniparoli’s full-length Lady of the Camellias in 2004, the critic for the Boston Herald wrote, “Why have we had to wait so long to see a ballet by this gifted choreographer?”

Caniparoli is most closely associated with San Francisco Ballet, his artistic home for over forty years. He began his career under the artistic directorship of Lew Christensen, and in the 1980s was appointed resident choreographer of San Francisco Ballet. He continues to choreograph for the company under Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson.

Caniparoli has created a body of work that is rooted in classicism but influenced by all forms of movement: modern dance, ethnic dance, social dancing, and even ice-skating. His extensive knowledge and appreciation of music is reflected in the range of composers that have inspired his choreography: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (Béla Bartók), Gustav’s Rooster (Hoven Droven), The Bridge (Dmitri Shostakovich), boink! (Juan Garcia Esquivel), Aria (George Frederic Handel), Open Veins (Robert Moran), Prawn-watching (Michael Nyman), Torque (Michael Torke), Jaybird Lounge (Uri Caine), Hamlet and Ophelia, pas de deux (Bohuslav Martinu), Bird’s Nest (Charlie Parker), Death of a Moth (Carlos Surinach), Going for Baroque (Antonio Vivaldi), Aquilarco (Giovanni Sollima), Book of Alleged Dances (John Adams), Aubade (Francis Poulenc), Slow (Graham Fitkin), Djangology (Django Reinhardt), Vivace (Franz Schubert), and one of his most performed works, Lambarena (Johann Sebastian Bach and traditional African rhythms and music), which is performed by 16 companies and has become an international sensation.

Lady of the Camellias, choreographed in 1994 and co-produced by Ballet Florida and Ballet West, was Caniparoli’s first full-length work. He has also choreographed The Nutcracker (2001) for Cincinnati Ballet, The Nutcracker (2009) for Louisville Ballet, Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story, danced to themes by Richard Rodgers, for Royal Winnipeg Ballet (2004), and in 2014, created a new version of The Nutcracker for Grand Rapids Ballet.  Caniparoli has choreographed operas for three of this country’s major companies: Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. In addition, he has worked on several occasions with the San Francisco Symphony, most memorably on the Rimsky-Korsakov opera-ballet Mlada, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, a major success of the 2002 Russian Festival. In 2005, he received rave reviews for his choreography in Carey Perloff’s new production of A Christmas Carol at San Francisco’s esteemed American Conservatory Theatre (A.C.T.). Additional work with A.C.T. includes choreography for Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Arcadia, A Little Night Music and the creation, with Carey Perloff, of a new movement-theatre piece, Tosca Cafe.

The recipient of ten grants for choreography from the National Endowment for the Arts, Caniparoli was also awarded an artist fellowship from the California Arts Council in 1991. He has twice received the Choo-San Goh Award from the Choo-San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation: in 1994 for Lambarena, choreographed for San Francisco Ballet, and in 1997 for Open Veins, created for Atlanta Ballet. Lambarena was also nominated for the Benois de la Danse Award from the International Dance Association at a gala at the National Theater of Warsaw, Poland, in 1997. Dance Bay Area acknowledged Caniparoli’s contributions to the local dance scene with an Isadora Duncan Award (or Izzy) for Sustained Achievement in 1996. In addition, he has twice won Izzies for Outstanding Choreography. He was also honored to have been selected to choreograph a pas de deux for Evelyn Hart and Rex Harrington for the Royal Jubilee Gala for Queen Elizabeth in Toronto.

Born in Renton, Washington, Caniparoli opted for a professional dance career after studying music and theatre at Washington State University. In 1972, he received a Ford Foundation Scholarship to attend San Francisco Ballet School. He performed with San Francisco Opera Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet in 1973. He continues to perform with the company as a principal character dancer.

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