Jenna Rae Herrera in The Nutcracker

Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Ballet West Announces 3 Promotions, 3 Retirements and 3 New Hires for the 20-21 Season

At Ballet West, news seems to come in threes. Artistic director Adam Sklute just announced the roster for the 2020-21 season, and it includes three prominent company promotions, three retirements and three new hires.

This news comes fast on the heels of Boston Ballet's promotions, announced in late March. At a time when it can be hard to visualize what a post-quarantine world will look like for ballet companies, it's heartening to hear that troupes are moving ahead with plans, and celebrating their hardworking dancers.

Read on for the changes coming to Ballet West.


Promotions

Diniz leaps in the air against a brown painted backdrop onstage, in a gold and brown mesh top and white grecian skirt.

Hadriel Diniz in Prodigal Son

Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Soloists Jenna Rae Herrera and Hadriel Diniz will be promoted to first soloist. Originally from Ontario, California, Herrera first joined Ballet West II in 2007, and the main company in 2010. Diniz hails from Minas Gerais, Brazil. He started with the company in 2015, and has swiftly climbed the ranks; he was promoted to soloist just last season.

Neale in a greenish romantic tutu with leaves on the front, in a renvers\u00e9 on pointe onstage.

Emily Neale in Giselle

Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Demi-soloist Emily Neale is being promoted to soloist. You might recognize the Acton, Massachusetts native from our Summer 2019 cover. Neale joined Ballet West as a trainee in 2015. She was promoted from the corps to demi-soloist in 2018.

"These three dancers are elegant and dedicated artists," said Sklute in a statement. "All three have so much potential for the future."

Retirements

Ohtaki in a white leotard and skirt in an arabesque on pointe onstage with her arms in fifth position.

Sayaka Ohtaki in Apollo

Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

After dancing with the company for 10 years, first soloist Sayaka Ohtaki is ending her career to move back to her native Japan. Ohkati's most celebrated roles include Juliet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, Cio Cio San in Stanton Welch's Madame Butterfly, the titular character in Sklute's Giselle and George Balanchine's "Emeralds." "Sayaka is a rare and gifted artist whose unique combination of delicacy and strength made her infinitely fascinating as a performer," said Sklute.

Naumann kneels onstage in purple pants and a vest and headpiece, playing a wooden flute.

Trevor Naumann in The Nutcracker

Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Demi-soloist Trevor Naumann will also take his final bow this season. Naumann joined Ballet West in 2009, and is also a burgeoning choreographer. "Trevor is a beautiful dancer and deeply committed member of the company," said Sklute.

Christopher Sellars, formerly a first soloist, retired in the midst of last season after 15 years with the company. He has already joined Ballet West Academy as a principal faculty member. "I am thrilled to be able to keep Christopher in the family," said Sklute.

New Hires

Three Ballet West II dancers, all of whom started as members of the Ballet West Academy Professional Training Division, will ascend to the corps de ballet: Nicole Fannéy hails from Cary, North Carolina; Noel Jensen is originally from Carlsbad, California; and Vinicius Lima is from Vitoria, Brazil.

Ballet West II 

"Ballet West II is also welcoming six new dancers. The list includes Ballet West Academy graduates Amelia Dencker, Jacob Hancock, Roland Jones and Ella Schultze, as well as Austin Dabney and Rylee Rogers.

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks