Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen announced today the company’s 2009-2010 dancer roster along with the appointment of new Assistant Artistic Director Russell Kaiser. Nissinen continues Boston Ballet’s tradition of developing a strong, versatile company by cultivating talent from within the Company and Boston Ballet School and recruiting from all over the world.
“Boston Ballet’s 2009-2010 season will truly present the next generation of dancers to our audiences,” said Nissinen. “We have five new principal dancers who have developed their craft and are ready to shine, as well as seasoned artists who bring depth and maturity to our stage and studios. Additionally, we’ll welcome six new dancers to the Company whose individual strengths will contribute to the high caliber of dance Boston Ballet is recognized for.”
Boston Ballet soloists Kathleen Breen Combes, Pavel Gurevich, Melissa Hough, Misa Kuranaga and James Whiteside have been promoted to principal; Altankhuyag Dugaraa has been promoted to second soloist; two dancers from Boston Ballet II have been promoted to the corps de ballet: Isaac Akiba and Brittany Summer. Nissinen announced the addition of Lia Cirio to soloist; Whitney Jensen and Jeffrey Cirio to corps de ballet; Austin Bodek, Yurika Kitano, Lawrence Rines, and Patrick Yocum to Boston Ballet II. Kitano and Yocum are Boston Ballet School alumni.
Assistant Artistic Director:
Russell Kaiser joins Boston Ballet in the role of Assistant Artistic Director to Mikko Nissinen. Kaiser, former dancer with New York City Ballet, danced a variety of works by notable choreographers that include George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Twyla Tharp, among others.
Upon his retirement from dancing in 1996, Kaiser was invited to become a Ballet Master by Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief of New York City Ballet, where he rehearsed ballets by Balanchine, Robbins, Christopher Wheeldon and Eliot Feld, assisted with scheduling of performances and taught company class. Kaiser has staged Mr. Martins' works on companies around the world including Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Ballet Florida and Atlanta Ballet as well as staging Balanchine works for the Balanchine Trust. Kaiser joined Boston Ballet in 2009 as Assistant Artistic Director, also overseeing Boston Ballet II, Boston Ballet’s second company.
Dancers who have been promoted within the company are:
Kathleen Breen Combes joined Boston Ballet in 2003 as a member of the corps de ballet and was promoted to soloist in 2007. Breen Combes was hailed by The New York Times as “a ballerina of colossal scale and boldness” and ranked her “among the country’s foremost Balanchine exponents.” Dance critic Alastair Macaulay described her as “the archetypal Balanchine ballerina, but above all [having] piquant rhythm and a style made up of major contrasts.” Breen Combes has been called “a standout” by The Boston Globe and has consistently wowed audiences with her powerful, precise and distinguished abilities. She was also featured on the cover of Dance magazine’s October 2007 issue.
Pavel Gurevich joined Boston Ballet in 2003 from the Milwaukee Ballet. His Boston Ballet repertoire includes principal and soloist roles in varied works including Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty, James Kudelka’s Cinderella, Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and Sarabande, and Mark Morris’ Up and Down. Gurevich was hailed for his standout performance as Prince Desire in Boston Ballet’s 2009 production of The Sleeping Beauty. The Phoenix said his performance brought “electricity to the audience” and The New York Times noted his “gallant” performance.
Melissa Hough joined the Company in 2004, after a year with Boston Ballet II. Promoted to soloist in 2007, she has risen through Boston Ballet, excelling with confidence in the company’s wide range of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works. Hough, along with Whiteside, was praised by The New York Times for a “sharp, clean” performance in Balanchine’s Jewels and The Boston Globe highlighted her performance of Dew Drop in the 2007 The Nutcracker. Hough has also choreographed works for BBII, RAW Dance, and Boston Ballet’s Choreographic Workshop.
Misa Kuranaga joined the company in 2003 and was promoted to soloist in 2007. This February, Kuranaga was highlighted by The Boston Globe for her shining individual performance in Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. Weeks later, in a stand-out review in The New York Times, Macaulay wrote, “Ms. Kuranaga led Rubies audaciously and vividly… with Kuranaga, the ballet becomes itself.” Recently, Kuranaga was a guest performer at the School of American Ballet’s 75th Anniversary Tribute with New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center and was called a “revelation” by Dance View Times for her performance in Serenade. Her artistry and devotion to excellence has won her attention from audiences and international recognition at competitions such as the Moscow International Ballet Competition and the USA International Ballet Competition.
James Whiteside joined Boston Ballet in 2003 as a member of the corps de ballet before being promoted to soloist in 2007. A sterling example of Boston Ballet School’s preparation for pre-professional dancers, Whiteside first participated in Boston Ballet School’s Summer Dance Program receiving an invitation to join Boston Ballet II in 2002. The Boston Globe said of his recent performance in Jewels, “Whiteside attacks the principal male role with a riveting mix of precision and brio.” He has also excelled in soloist roles in classics Cinderella and Swan Lake and contemporary works such as Jorma Elo’s World Premiere of Brake the Eyes and Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room.
Altan Dugaraa joined Boston Ballet in 2007 as a member of the corps de ballet. Altan has won numerous awards at international competitions, including a gold medal in the 2001 Asian Pacific International Ballet Competition in Japan, silver medal at the Arabesque International Ballet Competition in Perm, Russia, and a bronze medal in the 2003 Japan International Ballet Competition and the 2005 International Ballet Competition in New York City. His Boston Ballet repertoire includes the role of Faun in Afternoon of a Faun and Black Swan solo in the 2007 Night of Stars.
Isaac Akiba joined Boston Ballet in 2009 after two years with Boston Ballet II. Isaac first began his training with Boston Ballet in 1998 as part of the Citydance program. He is the first Citydance alumni to join Boston Ballet. Akiba has also studied at summer intensive programs such as School of American Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. Most recently, Akiba won the silver medal at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida.
Brittany Summer joined Boston Ballet in 2009 after two years with Boston Ballet II. Summer attended the North Carolina School of the Arts from 2003 – 2007. Her Boston Ballet repertoire includes La Sylphide and George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. In 2008, Summer attended the Festival Dance program at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada.
The new company dancers are:
Lia Cirio returns to Boston Ballet as a soloist after a year performing with the Trey McIntyre Project. Cirio first joined Boston Ballet in 2004 as a member of Boston Ballet II, was promoted to corps de ballet in 2004, to second soloist in 2006 and returns as soloist for the 2009-2010 season. Cirio has appeared in leading roles in Jorma Elo’s Carmen, Helen Pickett’s Etesian, Mikko Nissinen’s Swan Lake and George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. Lia appeared on the cover of Pointe Magazine’s February 2009 issue.
Jeffrey Cirio joins Boston Ballet’s corps de ballet from Orlando Ballet School. Cirio previously studied at Boston Ballet School on the Harry Wilcott Scholarship during 2003-2004, as a trainee for the 2006-2007 school year and as a member of Boston Ballet II for the 2007-2008 season. Cirio won the Grand Prix at the 2009 Youth America Grand Prix and 1st place at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition. Jeffrey is the brother of soloist Lia Cirio.
Whitney Jensen began her ballet training in Salt Lake City, Utah and continued her training in New York City with Valentina Kozlova’s Dance Conservatory. Whitney has won seven gold medals at competitions including the Youth America Grand Prix, American Ballet Competition and The World Ballet Competition. She also participated in the 23rd Varna International Ballet Competition where she won the Special Distinction Medal and Diploma, the highest award possible. Most recently, Whitney performed the principal role of Maria in the Hungarian National Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. She joins Boston Ballet for the 2009 season.
Dancers joining Boston Ballet II:
Austin Bodek began her training at Marin Dance Theater and San Francisco Ballet School, both on full scholarship. While with San Francisco Ballet School, Austin trained with Lola De Avila, Gloria Govrin, Lynne Charles and Parrish Maynard. She has danced Jewels, Swan Lake, Stars and Stripes, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Don Quixote and The Sleeping Beauty with San Francisco Ballet. Bodek also attended summer programs at the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre School.
Yurika Kitano has trained with Boston Ballet School through the trainee program and Summer Dance Program. Kitano has danced with Boston Ballet in The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty. She has also trained with Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and Kanazawa City Ballet in Ishikawa, Japan. Kitano joins BBII for the 2009 season.
Lawrence Rines trained with The School of American Ballet and The Rock School for Dance Education. Rines participated in summer intensives at The School of American Ballet, Ellison Ballet, The Kirov Academy of Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and The Royal Ballet School. Rines joins BBII for the 2009 season.
Patrick Yocum joins Boston Ballet II after training with Boston Ballet School’s trainee program during the 2008-2009 school year as a Sydney Leonard Scholar. He has performed in Boston Ballet productions including James Kudelka’s Cinderella, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker, George Balanchine’s Diamonds and Prodigal Son.
Since 1963, Boston Ballet has been one of the leading dance companies in the world on stage, in the studio and in the community. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen and Executive Director Barry Hughson, the Company maintains an internationally acclaimed repertoire and the largest ballet school in North America, Boston Ballet School.
Boston Ballet maintains a repertoire of classical, neo-classical and contemporary works, ranging from full-length story ballets to new works by some of today's finest choreographers. Boston Ballet's second company, Boston Ballet II, is comprised of pre-professional dancers who gain experience by performing with the Company and independently, presenting lecture-demonstrations and special programs to audiences throughout the Northeast.
Boston Ballet School, the official school of Boston Ballet, has a long-standing dedication to excellence and access and reaches more than 10,000 students ages 2-adult each year through Boston Ballet School classes, Summer Dance Workshop, Summer Dance Program, Citydance, Taking Steps, and Adaptive Dance. The wide array of dance programs are held at four studio locations in Boston, Newton, Norwell and Marblehead, as well as community centers and in Boston Public Schools.