David Palmer leads Rochester City Ballet as its Artistic Director. Established in 1987 by its founding artistic director Timothy M. Draper, the company has developed a reputation for its excellence, versatility, and singular repertoire, which includes award-winning contemporary ballets and masterworks. The company performs at the Nazareth College Arts Center and Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. In July 2010, RCB presented its first New York City season. In July 2013, RCB was selected to perform in the Inside/Out performance series at the prestigious Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts.
Since the company offered its first professional contract in 2003, Jamey Leverett served as Artistic Director. During her tenure, Leverett choreographed more than 20 new works including Images, a commission from the Rochester Philaharmonic Orchestra to music by Jeff Tyzik, 4Play, A Common Thread, Bravo! Colorado, LumaVoce, Gershwin Preludes, Respect, Pedestal, How to Break a Heart, An Intimate Portrait, and Peter and the Wolf, as well as the critically acclaimed full-length ballet The Blood Countess. In a review by Philip Gardner, he describes Leverett's choreography: "Ms. Leverett's choreography seizes the eye continually and the dancers sweep on and off in exciting combinations, creating vibrant patterns and maintaining a steady flow of energy."
Leverett announced in the Spring of 2015 she would step down to focus on choreography and training students in her role as Artistic Director of RCB's partner school, the Timothy Draper Center for Dance Education. The board launched a national search and Palmer joined the company in November that same year.
Since retiring as a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and The Joffrey, Palmer has created more than 40 ballets for companies including San Francisco Ballet, The Australian Ballet, The Washington Ballet, Miami City Ballet and others. A winner of the Choo-San Goh Award for choreography, he also led his own company Maximum Dance Company for nine years. Palmer led Maximum Dance Company on four international tours and many national tours. In 2004 Palmer was awarded The New World School of the Arts Achievement Award.
Palmer, most recently Associate Artistic Director of The Washington Ballet, became a choreographer after an international career dancing most of the prince roles in classical ballet and leading roles in contemporary works Leading choreographers Mark Morris, Stanton Welch, Julia Adam, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, and Gerald Arpino created roles for Palmer. He was renowned as a leading dancer in Balanchine works including, Apollo, Prodigal Son, Rubies, The Four Temperaments, Square Dance. Western Symphony and Who Cares. He has also worked with many of today’s other masters such as Paul Taylor, Jiri Kylian, Christopher Bruce and William Forsythe.
Many RCB productions are presented with live music or through artistic collaboration with a vibrant array of musicians and ensembles such as the Cello Divas, Stephen Kennedy, Deborah Fox, Hans Davidsson and the Eastman Rochester Orchestra Initiative, Arabesque Winds, The Ying Quartet, pianist Elinor Freer, and Jeff Tyzik and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO.) In January 2013, Leverett choreographed to Tyzik's New York CityScape and the company performed live with the RPO. The performance received critical acclaim. Paloma Capanna posted a review of the concert and stated, "The brilliance of pairing Leverett's choreography with Tyzik's composition cannot be overstated... Leverett took the far more complicated approach of using a troupe of dancers to express the complexities of rhythm, tone, and instrument solos so brilliantly captured by Tyzik." Other Rochester City Ballet collaborations of note include work with artist Steve Carpenter, the Memorial Art Gallery, and a new collaboration with artist Brian O'Neill.
RCB has invited celebrated guest choreographers like Inma Rubio Thomas, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Gwirtzman, Bill Evans, and Edward Ellison to set work on the company. RCB also has performed American masterworks by George Balanchine (Serenade) and Gerald Arpino (Valentine).
RCB is committed to enriching the quality of life in the greater Rochester community. In May 2015, it held its first annual Sensory-Friendly performance for children on the Autism Spectrum. For numerous years, the company has performed for the entire second grade of the Rochester City School District, as well as taking dance into the schools through interactive performances and creative problem solving workshops. RCB donates thousands of tickets to underserved youth affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club, Sojourner House, Wilson Commencement Park, East House, and Hillside Children's Center. Additionally, RCB conducts outreach activities at Barnes and Noble, Strong National Museum of Play, Stepping Stones Learning Center, and public libraries in Monroe and Ontario counties.
RCB's In Studio Series has exposed community members to an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the creative process and an opportunity to experience dance at a very low cost.