Former ballerina Susan Jaffe to lead American Ballet Theatre

When she was 18, she was handpicked by Mikhail Baryshnikov to dance a high-profile role at American Ballet Theatre, launching a celebrated career as one of the world’s top ballerinas. Now, 40 years later, Susan Jaffe has been named to lead the company.

Jaffe takes over in December as artistic director at ABT, succeeding Kevin McKenzie as the first new director in 30 years. Jaffe says her goals include making the overwhelmingly white ballet world more accessible and inclusive.

“I’m going to preserve the beauty and the depth of classical ballet,” Jaffe said in an interview, “but with an eye toward where we are today in in the ballet world. And we want to be mindful of making sure that we are inclusive and doing everything we can to try to make ballet accessible and loved by everyone — because I love ballet and I want everyone to love it.”

Besides finding ways to recruit a more diverse pool of dancers, Jaffe, 59, said the company would reassess some ballet classics (or parts of classics) that may no longer be appropriate for modern sensibilities. “For example, a ballet that’s all about slavery and the enslavement of women maybe might not be something we want to save,” she said, referring to “Le Corsaire,” a traditional favorite for its bravura choreography.