As a boy, Charles Askegard danced as the Littlest Mouse in Loyce Houlton's Nutcracker Fantasy. Now the celebrated star of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre is returning home in the role of associate artistic director for the company that Houlton founded, Minnesota Dance Theatre.
One of Minnesota's most prominent exports to the top echelons of ballet, Askegard's performance career has spanned more than 35 years. Most recently he was a principal dancer for New York City Ballet, from which he retired in 2011, and before that he was a soloist with American Ballet Theatre. He has performed for and with many of the most prestigious names in both classical and modern dance, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Twlya Tharp and Jerome Robbins.
After leaving NYCB, Askegard co-founded the New York-based company Ballet Next. He also made headlines when he married “Sex and the City” author Candace Bushnell in 2002. The couple divorced in 2011.
Askegard, 44, said that he’s looking forward to helping MDT artistic director Lise Houlton with fundraising, shaping programming and upping MDT’s profile. “Minneapolis is such a cultural city, with so much dance, it’s going to be great.”
Lise Houlton, Loyce Houlton's daughter, said she has "stayed close with Chuck. There's a special connection around the history of MDT among some of us who grew up here. Some people forget their pasts, but he has always valued the gifts he received in his training here."
Noting that Askegard has danced with her own daughter, Kaitlyn Gilliland, when he was with NYCB, Houlton recalled her own return home from a New York dance career.
"I came back kicking and screaming, not wanting to leave Manhattan, but I was interested in giving back, and I know that's first and foremost on his mind too. We're fortunate that he wants to jump right back in the studio. Being fresh off the stage and with all his connections, I'm interested in the new energy he'll bring."
Askegard begins his new job the last week of July.