James Sofranko assumed the position of Artistic Director of Grand Rapids Ballet for the 2018/2019 season after an 18-year career as a soloist with the San Francisco Ballet. He is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and received his dance training at The Harid Conservatory in Florida and later at The Juilliard School in New York City, where he received his BFA in dance.
At San Francisco Ballet, he danced in numerous works and world premieres by choreographers such as Helgi Tomasson, Val Caniparoli, William Forsythe, Liam Scarlett, Justin Peck, Alexi Ratmansky, Edwaard Liang, Lar Lubovitch, Wayne Macgregor, Mark Morris, Julia Adam, Yuri Possokhov, Christopher Wheeldon, Paul Taylor, Arthur Pita, Stanton Welch, Jorma Elo, Hans Van Manen, Jiri Kylian, John Neumeier, James Kudelka, Lila York, Kenneth Macmillan, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. Some of his favorite roles include Mercutio in Tomasson’s Romeo and Juliet, Eros in Mark Morris’ Sylvia, Bugle Boy in Taylor’s Company B, and the second sailor in Robbins’ Fancy Free.
He received an Isadora Duncan award (Izzie) for best performance in 2011 in Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony. James starred in the principal role of Eddie in the Broadway touring company of Movin’ Out, a musical choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the songs of Billy Joel. In 2012 he co-founded DanceFAR (Dance For A Reason), an annual benefit performance and after-party that brings the Bay Area dance community together to support the work of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC).
In 2014, he formed a new contemporary repertory company in San Francisco, SFDanceworks. The company has presented works by Alejandro Cerrudo, Lar Lubovitch, José Limón, Nacho Duato, Christopher Bruce, and world premieres by Penny Saunders, James Graham, Danielle Rowe, Dana Genshaft, and Sofranko himself.
He has created many original choreographic works, including for Grand Rapids Ballet (Two Tangos, Ballade, The Sweet By and By, A Dreamer), the San Francisco Ballet School (Rendezvous, Means to an End, Mozart Symphony), SFDanceworks (Z, Homing), Long Beach Ballet (Brandenberg), and Marin Dance Theater (The Beaten Path). James has also worked as a repetiteur for Yuri Possokhov, resident choreographer for San Francisco Ballet, and has staged his ballets on Cincinnati Ballet, Colorado Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.
In the two years since assuming the directorship of Grand Rapids Ballet, the company has performed works by some of the most sought after choreographers working today, including Yuri Possokhov, Alejandro Cerrudo, Penny Saunders, Trey McIntyre, Val Caniparoli, Adam Hougland, Danielle Rowe, Nicolas Blanc, and Brian Enos. He also instituted a program entitled Jumpstart which allows new choreographic talent to emerge from within the ranks of the dancers. The company collaborates frequently with other cultural organizations in the city, including with the Grand Rapids Symphony, ArtPrize, Festival of the Arts, DisArt, and performed for the first time ever at the amphitheater at the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
James would like to thank his wife Cynthia Sheppard Sofranko for her ongoing support and creative input in all of his work.