- Under Vasterling’s leadership, Nashville Ballet has become Tennessee's largest professional ballet company.
- Associate Artistic Director Nick Mullikin has been named CEO and will succeed Vasterling in 2023
- Nashville Ballet’s board of directors has named Vasterling artistic director emeritus in honor
After 33 years with Nashville Ballet, 25 as the company’s artistic director, Paul Vasterling has decided to retire at the end of the 2022-23 season.
“I am excited and happy about where the company is right now organizationally, and I am confident of where we are going next,” Vasterling told The Tennessean. “I wanted to pull back and have a little more time for my husband, my family and my puppies.”
Nashville Ballet’s board of directors has named Vasterling artistic director emeritus in honor of his being the longest-serving artistic director in the history of Nashville Ballet.
Current Associate Artistic Director Nick Mullikin has been named CEO beginning Aug. 26 and will succeed Vasterling as artistic director and CEO in June of 2023.
“I am excited to keep working with the company and I’m excited about Nick taking over this position,” Vasterling said. “We have been working together for seven years and it feels really good to have someone I have confidence in to give this organization over to. I know Nick is going to take care of the ballet and I am happy that he has the fire in his belly to do this big, exciting job.”
Under Vasterling’s leadership, Nashville Ballet has transformed from a troupe of 12 dancers to become the largest professional ballet company in Tennessee with 33 professional company dancers, a second company and ballet school attracting dancers from all over the United States.
Vasterling joined Nashville Ballet as a company dancer in 1989 and was appointed Nashville Ballet artistic director in 1998. During his tenure, he created more than 40 original ballets, including “Firebird,” “Seasons,” “Lucy Negro Redux,” “Carmina Burana,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Peter Pan,” “Lizzie Borden,” “Dracula,” “Appalachian Spring,” and “Nashville’s Nutcracker.”
Additionally, Vasterling fueled his passion for supporting up-and-coming choreographers by creating the Emergence series in 2004 which gave numerous choreographers an opportunity to create new works and work alongside musicians as they created more than 22 original scores.
He has highlighted the artistry and history of Nashville by partnering with institutions such as Nashville Children’s Theatre, The Bluebird Café and the Nashville Symphony. Under his direction, the company has toured in South America, in Europe and throughout the United States, debuting at the Kennedy Center in 2017.
The one thing Vasterling can’t do is decide which of his Nashville Ballet career accomplishments he’s most proud of.
“That’s a really hard one,” he said. “It’s nebulous because I am really proud of the artists and administrators who are emerging from our organization to take it to the next level. Generally, I am most proud of what this organization has produced.”
Milliken said after working closely with Vasterling the last several years, he is excited to build on what Vasterling has done and amplify it.
“My hope is to continue to take the idea of what ballet was and continue to move toward what it will be,” he said. “I think ballet is sitting at the precipice and I am excited to be sitting at the forefront of that. I’m really excited to be part of an organization that’s taking dance and asking what it can be, not what it is and not accepting what it has been.”
Melonee Hurt covers growth and development (and ballet) at The Tennessean, part of the USA Today Network — Tennessee. Reach Melonee at email@example.com.