Michael Pastreich isn’t shy about making one big admission: He took the job as the new executive director of The Washington Ballet in part because he wanted to work with Julie Kent. Smart man. The legendary ballerina is now the creative director of the company, and Pastreich, who has been president and CEO of the Florida Orchestra for the past 11 years, says the experience has been fascinating. “Excellence is the core of everything she does, and I’m convinced that excellence always wins. She’s one of the few female artistic directors, and she’s dedicated to growing the art form and expanding the repertoire of the company.” Pastreich and the company are hitting their collective stride this fall. NEXTSteps opened at Sidney Harman Hall in October, and the seasonal juggernaut, The Nutcracker, rounds out the year. Here, we ask Pastreich, a man who fell in love with dance while in college, about everything from his heroes to his canine sidekick.
1. What has surprised you most about DC?
I expected everything to be far more politicized. I have no idea of the political leanings of most of my board members—and I don’t need to. Everyone comes together to make great ballet and checks their political affiliations at the door.
2. What’s your professional mantra for leadership?
Part of leadership is about knowing how to develop and when to spend social capital.
3. What’s your go-to dining and cocktail spot before or after a show?
Kafe Leopold in Georgetown. The food is wonderful and a little offbeat, and I get to listen to a dozen languages being spoken all around me.
4. Who are your artistic heroes?
Yo-Yo Ma. In a conversation, he's fascinated by what everyone else is saying and is constantly looking or what is real and good. He’s also an apostle for great art. Georgia O’Keeffe also ranks pretty high for her dedication to being who she was, no matter what the world wanted her to be, and for her dedication to redefining what painting was allowed to be.
5. Insiders have told us that your dog has become a superstar around the office, yes?
Colby is our 3-year-old English boxer and my son’s best friend. He comes with me to work whenever my wife, Stephanie, is traveling, and he has become a bit of a mascot at The Washington Ballet. Our favorite family activity is throwing the ball for him in Rock Creek Park. I have never before in my life experienced such a ball-crazy dog!