En Pointe

Ballet star trades New York City for Dallas to join SMU for year-long residency

Ballet star trades NYC for Dallas to join SMU for year-long residency

Silas Farley
Silas Farley in Songs from the Spirit. Photo courtesy of SMU Meadows Division of Dance

Live performances may be on hold for a bit, but students at the Division of Dance at SMU Meadows School of the Arts will still get a front-row seat to greatness during the 2020-21 school year.

A gift from SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences 1982 alumni Liz Martin Armstrong and Bill Armstrong has created a one-year residency for recently retired New York City Ballet dancer and choreographer Silas Farley.

Farley will teach advanced levels of ballet, pointe, and classical partnering, as well as a module on George Balanchine for a dance history class. In addition, he will choreograph a new work for a Meadows dance concert.

"We are thrilled to welcome Silas Farley as a visiting artist this year, and grateful to the Armstrongs for making it possible," says Christopher Dolder, chair of the Meadows Division of Dance, in a release. "At SMU, we have a rich tradition of teaching foundational dance techniques, notably those of Martha Graham and George Balanchine.

"Our associate professor Leslie Peck was a member of New York City Ballet under George Balanchine and is an official stager of Balanchine ballets for The George Balanchine Trust. The Armstrongs' gift recognizes and continues the Balanchine legacy at SMU by helping us bring Farley — a skilled exponent of the performance tradition, technical teaching, and academic scholarship of Balanchine's work — to Meadows."

A national dance star who has been profiled in The New York Times, Dance Magazine, The New Yorker, and Vogue, Farley joined New York City Ballet in 2012 and danced with the company until 2020. He performed principal roles in the works of George Balanchine and Christopher Wheeldon, and originated roles in ballets by Wheeldon, Lauren Lovette, and Justin Peck. In addition to teaching at SMU Meadows, he is a guest teacher at The School of American Ballet, which is the official school of NYCB, and has also guest taught with companies around the globe.

A choreographer since age 11, Farley has created ballets for SAB, Ballet Academy East, The New York Choreographic Institute, and Columbia Ballet Collaborative at Columbia University. In fall 2017, Farley was commissioned by MetLiveArts to create a new site-specific ballet, Songs from the Spirit, which premiered in March 2019 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In spring 2020, he was commissioned by the performing arts series Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum to choreograph for its Virtual Commissions initiative. In addition, The Washington Ballet has commissioned Farley to choreograph a new ballet for its 2020-21 season.

The Armstrongs have been major supporters of ballet and the Balanchine legacy. Liz Armstrong is the former chair of the board of Colorado Ballet and currently serves on both the advisory council and board of directors of The School of American Ballet. The Armstrongs are also passionate supporters and leaders of their alma mater. Bill Armstrong serves on SMU’s board of trustees and Liz Armstrong serves on the executive board of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Their past contributions to SMU include gifts for the Armstrong Residential Commons and Armstrong Fieldhouse, part of the SMU Mustangs Indoor Performance Center.

"We are thrilled to fund this position in Meadows' Division of Dance for the coming year, as it combines our love for SMU and passion for ballet," says Liz Armstrong. "We are excited that students in Dallas will have the opportunity to study under Silas Farley, one of the most talented dancers and choreographers of today’s generation."