English National Ballet first soloist James Streeter is the first mentee in the company's Dancer Leaders of the Future program.

Karolina Kuras, Courtesy English National Ballet (2)

English National Ballet Preps Future Dance Leaders With Its New Mentorship Program

English National Ballet first soloist James Streeter has practically grown up with the company. Since completing his training at the English National Ballet School, he went on to join the main company in 2004, rising up the ranks to first soloist in 2018. He's danced his favorite roles, including Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet and Albrecht in Akram Khan's Giselle. He even met his wife while dancing with the company, ENB lead principal Erina Takahashi. What's left to do when you've accomplished so much as an artist? For Streeter, it meant learning more about the business side of the company. In November 2019, Streeter was named the first mentee of ENB's Dance Leaders of the Future mentorship program. The program offers ENB's dancers the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a greater understanding of the running of an arts organization.


Streeter says he wants to give back to the art form. "I've always been interested in how the company works as a whole," he explains during a phone call from London. "I have a desire to enable this art form to continue and be able to do something bigger than what I can as an artist."

Filling a Gap

The inspiration for the program came from a need to help more dancers prepare for the next step in their careers.

"One of the aspects that I felt was lacking in the industry was towards leadership," says ENB artistic director Tamara Rojo. "Dancers rarely get the opportunity to experience all the other aspects that are necessary for a show to go on, like marketing, fundraising and finance. We wanted to offer those in the company who have leadership aspirations to shadow myself, be present at board discussions, converse with different departments, and then eventually produce something."

Prior to taking the helm of ENB, Rojo shadowed National Ballet of Canada artistic director Karen Kain through a program called Rural Retreats, organized by UK organization Dance East. The program brings together international dance leaders to discuss and prepare for the future of the industry. It was an enlightening experience for Rojo, which she hopes to pass on through ENB's mentorship program.

Tamara Rojo, in a white dance dress, and James Streeter, wearing a gray shirt and pants, face each other and crouch down, holding hands. A group of costumed dancers surround them in a half circle.

Artistic director and lead principal Tamara Rojo with Streeter in Akram Khan's Giselle

Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB

"What was a revelation for me was seeing all the other areas of a ballet organization and how intrinsically linked they are," she says. "I learned that a good artistic vision will inspire the marketing department; will allow the development department to fundraise successfully; will allow a finance department to make the sums add up. A healthy ecosystem between all the different departments is what makes a strong organization."

Learning the Ropes

For Streeter, preparing for a leadership role began as soon as he applied for the program. All applicants had to submit a curriculum vitae and undergo a panel interview.

"They were really giving us insight into what to expect for the future," Streeter.

Once he was selected, he was immediately immersed in the various facets of ENB's business. In addition to working with Rojo, Streeter also shadowed executive director Patrick Harrison and chief operating officer Grace Chan.

"One of my first meetings was with some of the trustees who were reviewing the company's finances," says Streeter. "One of my big questions has been 'How can we maintain our artistic value while still meeting our financial needs in order to sustain as a company? How do we decide on repertoire that strikes that balance?' Being in that meeting was eye-opening in understanding how to persuade someone who may not necessarily understand the artistic value of something but can understand the financial value. They are two different things but need to be understood equally. Grace Chan, our COO, is absolutely incredible at doing that."

His big project was working as producer of the Emerging Dancer competition, held via livestream in September due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was a full-circle moment for Streeter, who had had a lot of experience with the competition as both a finalist and a mentor in previous years.

"I oversaw the whole workings of it, from the stage to marketing to ensuring that guests were 'COVID-secure' on arrival. We spent a long time making sure the building was extremely safe for everyone," says Streeter. "My role was to tie all the departments together, making sure everyone was on the same page and enabling them to do their job while being supported by the other departments."

Wearing green tights and tight green T-shirt, James Streeter jumps up in fifth position with his arms up in a V-shape.

Streeter in William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated

Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB

Preparing to Lead

For dancers interested in learning more about leadership, Rojo's advice is twofold. If you have an interest in a certain area of your company (e.g., marketing, development), reach out to individuals in those departments to gain more knowledge or offer help. Second, be aware and learn from other art forms so you are not just a "ballet specialist."

Streeter says the experience with Dance Leaders of the Future has made an impact in how he approaches his career moving forward.

"The more understanding you have of how things work, the more you can appreciate people for what they're doing," he says. "So when things don't necessarily go the way you feel they should have, you can understand the reasons for why that may have happened, and you can work with those people to either rectify or work around it."

Rojo believes it's imperative to invest in future leaders. "It's one of the aspects that is not considered and often we think it's a natural progression, but it's not always that simple. It's good to inspire those that have that ambition and invest in their knowledge so that when the time comes, they are prepared to lead the next generation."

Latest Posts


Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

NYCB's Maria Kowroski Reflects on the Challenges, Joys and Mysteries of Balanchine’s "Mozartiana"

The first time I was called to learn Mozartiana, I didn't think I would actually get to do it. It's a coveted ballerina role in the company, and I was still early in my career. But I got to dance it once or twice, and then not again for many years. The ballet isn't in our repertoire that often, so each time we've performed it I've been at a different level as a person and as an artist.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Melina Nastazia, Courtesy Jessica Flynn

Former “Baby Ballerina” Jessica Flynn on Her YA Novel and the Secrets to Surviving in Ballet

Most young dancers dream about how Jessica Flynn's ballet career began. After performing several lead roles at School of American Ballet's Workshop and winning the prestigious Mae L. Wien Award in 2002, she got an apprenticeship with New York City Ballet at age 16 and her corps contract less than a year later. Some soloist roles followed, and she appeared to have a bright future at the company. But just before her three-year mark, she left NYCB and never performed professionally again.

Flynn is now a ballet teacher, a holistic health coach for performing artists, a candidate for a master's in social work, a wife and a new mom. She's also an author. In 2016, she published Dancing in Time, the fictional tale of Charlie, a 37-year-old marketing executive who can't shake the failure of her ballet career. She wakes up one morning in her 17-year-old body, and has the chance to redo her career with the benefit of hindsight. The book deals with themes of extreme competition, body image and weight, disempowering relationships, and how all of these factors can suck the joy out of dancing—yet it's surprisingly humorous and entertaining.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Rachel Neville, courtesy Wimpye

Destiny Wimpye Is Leaping Into the Professional Division at Pacific Northwest Ballet

Almost two years ago, Destiny Wimpye shared her goals and dreams with Dance Spirit, and left readers with this quote: "Following your dreams is definitely difficult, especially if you're a ballet dancer of color. You have to work twice as hard, but hard work always pays off!"

Who could have guessed that right now—yes, even in the midst of a pandemic—we'd be seeing that hard work pay off for her? Wimpye, now 17, was invited to train in the Professional Division at Pacific Northwest Ballet, and we're fouettéing with excitement! We caught up with her to chat about this exciting new chapter in her life, how she's training through pandemic restrictions, and her overall experience transitioning from student to professional dancer.

Be sure to keep up with her journey at PNB and beyond @destinywimpye.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks