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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Emily Ellis and Audra Johnson join TWB as Company members. Kara Cooper and Aurora Dickie also return as Company members. Andile Ndlovu promoted to Company member. Studio Company dancers Ayano Kimura and Amber Lewis promoted to Company apprentices.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Ballet (TWB) announces the 2011.2012 company roster, including the addition of Emily Ellis, Audra Johnson, formerly of American Repertory Ballet, who begin their first season as Company members. Additionally, Kara Cooper and Aurora Dickie return as Company dancers. Andile Ndlovu has been promoted from an apprentice to a Company member, and Studio Company members Ayano Kimura and Amber Lewis have been promoted to Company apprentices.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Emily and Audra to the Company—they are fascinating, versatile dancers and will add a new dimension to our work on stage,” said TWB Artistic Director Septime Webre. “It’s also wonderful to welcome Kara and Aurora back to our family of artists. Additionally, Andile’s promotion reflects his ability to always deliver an exciting and interesting performance.”

“It is so wonderful to see former students of The Washington School of Ballet, like Ayano and Amber, successfully pursue careers as professional dancers,” said TWSB Director Kee Juan Han. “There are now seven Company and Studio Company dancers who were formerly students at TWSB-- this not only reflects the strength of the training here, but also the talent of our students.”

New Company Members: Emily Ellis and Audra Johnson

Emily Ellis, of Hilton Head, South Carolina begins her first season with The Washington Ballet. Ms. Ellis spent the past three seasons with Dutch National Ballet performing many classical and contemporary ballets including Balanchine’s Serenade, Theme and Variations, Four Temperaments, and Concerto Barocco; William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated; and Alexei Ratmansky’s Don Quixote. She began her training with Karena Brock and John Carlyle at the Hilton Head Dance School and later attended the South Carolina Governor’s School. On scholarship, Ms. Ellis trained under Melissa Hayden, Kee Juan Han, and Warren Conover at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She then joined Cincinnati Ballet and performed featured roles in works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Trey McIntyre and Val Caniparoli. Highlights of her career include working with choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for the creation of Labyrinth, performing with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and performing internationally for galas and festivals in Beijing, the Dominican Republic, the Netherlands, Miami, Hawaii, and Manteo, North Carolina.

Audra Johnson, a New Jersey native, is in her first season with The Washington Ballet. She formerly spent seven years with American Repertory Ballet, where she danced various principal and soloist roles. Some of her classical repertory includes Sugar Plum in The Nutcracker and the title role of Raymonda in Kirk Peterson's Glazonuv Varations. She has been featured in works by Twyla Tharp, Harrison McEldowney, Graham Lustig and Kirk Peterson and has performed in original works by Laurie Stallings, Melissa Barak, Douglas Martin and Susan Shields. She received her early training in New Jersey and continued her studies at The Harid Conservatory and Atlanta Ballet Center for Dance Education. Prior to joining ARB, Ms. Johnson danced with Atlanta Ballet and New Jersey Ballet performing in George Balanchine's Serenade, Michael Pink's Dracula, Romeo and Juliet and Giselle.

Returning: Kara Cooper and Aurora Dickie

Kara Cooper, who was a guest dancer last season in The Nutcracker, Rock & Roll, Le Corsaire, and Carmen, returns as a Company dancer for the coming season. Ms. Cooper previously danced with TWB as a member of the Studio Company and Company for five seasons. Ms. Cooper has performed with ARKA Ballet and studied at The Kirov Academy of Ballet under full scholarship and The Washington School of Ballet on scholarship. Ms. Cooper has also trained privately under the direction of Dawei Zhang for many years and attended American Ballet Theatre’s summer program in 2005. Her awards and recognitions include the silver medal at the 2000 Youth America Grand Prix National competition in New York.

Aurora Dickie, who was a TWB Company apprentice from 2008-2010, returns to The Washington Ballet after dancing with São Paulo Companhia de Dança. Ms. Dickie, of Pernambuco, Brazil, began training at age five with her mother and teacher Jane Dickie. At age 11, she was awarded a five-year full scholarship at the Bolshoi School in Brazil where she studied under the tutorship of Galina Kravtchenko, and had the opportunity to take classes as a trainee with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Ms. Dickie worked with the Cisne Negro Cia de Dança, São Paulo, Brazil in 2006 and before joining The Washington Ballet’s Studio Company in 2007, she was a member of Cia de Dança de São Jose dos Campos, São Paulo under the direction of Ricardo Scheir. In April of 2007, she won the bronze medal at YAGP finals in NYC, and was invited afterward to perform at the Miami Ballet Festival in the Gala of International Young Medal Winners in September 2007.

Promotions: Andile Ndlovu, Ayano Kimura and Amber Lewis

Andile Ndlovu, of Johannesburg, South Africa, has been promoted to Company member after two seasons as an apprentice. Mr. Ndlovu, who will also choreograph a piece for the Studio Company production of Once Upon a Time, began his training in Latin American and ballroom dance at the age of 10. At 15, he began studying ballet under Martin Schöenberg, director of Ballet Theatre Afrikan. In 2007, Mr. Ndlovu performed with South African Ballet Theatre, performing the lead in Don Quixote and the Jester in Swan Lake, among other roles. He went on to dance with Cape Town City Ballet, and tied for first place in the contemporary category of the 2008 South African International Ballet Competition. Mr. Ndlovu has also been part of the 15-year anniversary of Step Afrika! as a guest artist, performed his collaborative choreography solo with Gregory Vuyani Maqoma in Beyond Skin and was a part of the South African version of Queen with Mzansi Productions, choreographed by Debbie Rakusin and Timothy Le Roux.

After two seasons with TWB’s Studio Company, Ayano Kimura joins the Company as an apprentice for the 2011.2012 season. Ms. Kimura was born in Germany and began her training at the age of nine under Soda Shizuko. In 2006, she won first place at the Youth America Grand Prix semi-final competition in Japan and placed in the Top 10 at the finals in New York City. She was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Ballet Academy School, and studied at La Scala Ballet Academy. She has performed with Roberto Bolle in the Opening Ceremonies for the Torino Olympic Games. In 2008, Ms. Kimura was a finalist at the YAGP Ballet Competition, where she was awarded a scholarship to the Essen Ballet in Germany.

Amber Lewis, of Australia, begins her first season as a Company apprentice, after one season with the Studio Company. She began training at a young age in Brisbane before moving to Sydney to begin her pre-professional training with Ecole Ballet Studios under the direction of Ashley Killar, Jane Allyn and Valerie Bayley. Ms. Lewis has completed all of her Royal Academy of Dance ballet examinations with distinctions. Prior to attending The Washington School of Ballet, she participated in the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet Summer Intensive. She trained at TWSB with Kee Juan Han, Kristy Windom and Carlos Varcárcel. In the summer of 2010, Ms. Lewis attended the Houston Ballet Summer Intensive to train with Sabrina Lenzi and Claudio Munoz.

The Washington Ballet Complete Company Roster

Ms. Ellis, Johnson, Dickie and Cooper and Mr. Ndlovu will be joining Zachary Hackstock, Nayon Iovino, Jonathan Jordan, Sona Kharatian, Tamás Krizsa, Corey Landolt, Brooklyn Mack, Jared Nelson, Maki Onuki, Jade Payette, Morgann Rose, Luis R. Torres and Dylan Ward as Company members for the 2011.2012 season. Ms. Kimura and Lewis join Sarah Walborn to complete the apprentice roster.

Other Appointments

Other appointments also include new Ballet Master Elaine Kudo and TWB Trainee Program Ballet Master Monique Meunier, who join the Ballet’s Artistic team.

Media Contact: Alyssa Porambo Public Relations and Publications Manager
202.362.3606 x115 or aporambo@washingtonballet.org

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