Silas Farley, a former New York City Ballet dancer who surprised many by leaving the company early in his dancing career last year, will succeed Jenifer Ringer on July 1 as the head of the dance program at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, the school announced on Wednesday. He will be dean of the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, and Darleen Callaghan, the former director of the North Carolina Dance Theater School and the Miami City Ballet School, will succeed James Fayette as associate dean.
Ringer and Fayette, who are married and are both former City Ballet principals, began their tenure at the Colburn School in 2014, and have raised the dance department’s profile in teaching and professional circles. In a telephone interview, Ringer said she and Fayette want to spend more time with their young children, and to be close to her family in South Carolina, but will retain a relationship with the school and return frequently to teach.
Ringer said that Farley, 26, who created a piece with the students during the school’s virtual summer intensive and choreographed a section of its virtual production of “The Nutcracker,” came immediately to mind as a leader for the school. He was also suggested as a candidate by Sel Kardan, the president of the Colburn School.
“It felt like the right next step,” Farley said in a phone interview from Dallas, where he has spent the past year as artist-in-residence in the dance division at the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.
The Colburn School, Farley said, is already a world-class center, with a music school. “And the hope is that the name will be synonymous with the best in dance training,” he said, “as if the Paris Opera Ballet School and the Paris Conservatoire were together in one spot.”
Farley, who said he has always wanted to play a leadership role in the dance world, isn’t daunted by taking on a major position at a young age. He said he knew he would be helped by Callaghan, who was his first ballet teacher when he was 8 and with whom he still has a close relationship.
“She will be an incredible collaborator and she will be teaching me about that budgetary, administrative dimension of being an arts leader,” he said.
Since his early teens, Farley has been watching, reading and learning everything he can about ballet, choreography and dance history. He began to teach at the School of American Ballet in 2012, and has taught at many institutions, including Ballet Austin and the Boston Ballet School. He has also served on the board of the George Balanchine Foundation since 2019, and since last year has been the knowledgeable and affable host of City Ballet’s podcast, “Hear the Dance.”
“He is young but he has been teaching for a long time, and I love how passionate he is about dance and dance history,” Ringer said. “He both wants to learn and has a wealth of expertise.” She added that she was excited that Farley “will be a beacon in the dance world as a man of color in that role.”
Farley said he wanted to cultivate agency in students at the Colburn School and develop whole dancers. “I don’t want automatons who are programmed to execute dance steps,” he said. Dance history, he added, should be an immersive part of a dancer’s training, “not a 30-minutes-a-week add-on.”
Diversity issues, he said, had to be addressed across all fronts, in what kinds of ballets are performed, what music is chosen, and who is teaching as well as who has access to the school. “The broader a net we cast, the richer an art form we have,” he said. “Ballet is a big tent, with a big embrace, and there is the space to welcome everyone.”