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2007 Jury Panel

Ben Stevenson

During the 2009 – 2010 Season, Texas Ballet Theater salutes Artistic Director Ben Stevenson, O.B.E. for achieving another significant milestone in his amazing career.  This season marks his 40th Anniversary as one of the most influential figures in American Ballet.


Mr. Stevenson, a native of Portsmouth, England, received his dance training at the Arts Educational School in London. Upon his graduation Mr.he was awarded the prestigious Adeline Genee Gold Medal, the highest award given to a dancer by the Royal Academy of Dancing. At the age of eighteen he partnered Alicia Markova in Where the Rainbow Ends and soon after was invited to join the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet by Dame Ninette de Valois, where he worked closely with Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, and John Cranko. A few years later Sir Anton Dolin invited him to dance with London Festival Ballet where, as a Principal Dancer, he performed leading roles in all the classic ballets. 


In 1967 English National Ballet asked Mr. Stevenson to stage his first, and highly successful, production of The Sleeping Beauty which starred Margot Fonteyn.  In 1968 Rebekah Harkness invited him to New York to direct the newly formed Harkness Ballet.  After choreographing Cinderella in 1970 for the National Ballet in Washington, D.C., he joined the company in 1971 as Co-Artistic Director with Frederic Franklin. That same year he staged a new production of The Sleeping Beauty in celebration of the inaugural season of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.


In 1976 Mr. Stevenson was appointed the Artistic Director for Houston Ballet.  For twenty-seven years Mr. Stevenson nurtured the company from a small provincial ensemble to one of the nation’s largest dance companies that has performed to critical acclaim throughout the world. He developed Houston Ballet’s repertoire by acquiring the works of the world’s most respected choreographers, commissioning new works, staging the classics and choreographing original works.


In 1978 during his tenure with the Houston Ballet, Mr. Stevenson traveled to China on behalf of the United States government as part of a cultural exchange program. Since then he has returned almost every year at the invitation of the Chinese government to teach at the Beijing Dance Academy and introduce Western dance forms including jazz and modern dance, to their students.  He was instrumental in the creation of the Choreographic Department at the Beijing Dance Academy in 1985 and is the only foreigner to have been made an Honorary Faculty Member at both the Beijing Dance Academy and the Shenyang Conservatory of Music.


In July 2003 Mr. Stevenson became Artistic Director of Texas Ballet Theater.  Over the past six years, Texas Ballet Theater has experienced tremendous growth.  Budget size has increased each year and now exceeds $7.3 million annually.  He has continued to expand the company’s repertoire, staging both the classics and choreographing original works.  The international Company now includes dancers from countries around the world, including England, Cuba, Ukraine, Israel, Brazil and the United States. Texas Ballet Theater’s education programs have also grown, as enrollment at the Dallas and Fort Worth Academies have reached full capacity. As of October 2009 Texas Ballet Theater will be the resident ballet company at the two premier performance venues in North Texas, the Nancy Lee & Perry R. Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth and the new AT&T Performing Arts Center Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House in Dallas.  


As a choreographer Mr. Stevenson has created some of the world’s most breathtaking ballets, including the full-length works Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and original productions of Peer Gynt (which opened Norway’s Bergen Festival Gala in 1983), Coppélia, Don Quixote, Dracula, The Snow Maiden and Cleopatra.  His repertoire of original works also includes both romantic and neoclassic pas de deux that have received critical acclaim and international awards.  Additionally, he has staged his ballets for English National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, La Scala in Milan, Munich State Opera Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, London City Ballet, Ballet de Santiago, and for many companies in the United States.


As a teacher, Mr. Stevenson has trained and influenced thousands of dancers from around the globe.  His students have performed with the world’s most renowned companies, including The Royal Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet, Les Grandes Ballets Canadien, The National Ballet of China, Birmingham Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and more.


For his contributions to the world of international dance, Mr. Stevenson was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honors List in December 1999. He has received numerous awards for his choreography including three Gold medals at the International Ballet Competitions of 1972, 1982, and 1986.  In April 2000, he was presented with the Dance Magazine Award, one of the most prestigious honors on the American dance scene. In 2005, he was awarded the Texas Medal of Arts. 

Paul Thrussell

Born in Hull, England.  He trained at The Royal Ballet School in London.  Paul joined Northern Ballet Theatre in 1987, and was quickly promoted to soloist.  In 1990 he joined London City Ballet as a Principal dancer, and had the privilege of performing for Queen Elizabeth, and Diana, the Princess of Wales.  In 1993 Paul joined Boston Ballet.  As a principal dancer he performed numerous leading roles with choreography by Balanchine, McMillan, Cranko, Nacho Duato, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor and Rudi Van Dantzig.  Paul has had works created on him by Twyla Tharp, Mark Godden, Christopher Wheeldon and Daniel Pelzig.  In 1996 he danced at Vail's International Dance Festival and that same year The Boston Globe named Paul in their list of Boston's Top 10 of Dance.  He re-staged Christopher Wheeldon's Corybantic Ecstasies on Boston Ballet, and was a member of the faculty of Boston Ballet's Summer Dance Program. Paul has taught master classes at Tulane University, The Boston Conservatory, Boston Ballet, Walnut Hill School and Boston College. Mr. Thrussell joined Ballet Gammonet in August 2004.

Barbara Riggins

One of Orlando Ballet's founders, Barbara Riggins was the driving force behind the company for 23 years where she served as its artistic director. Ms. Riggins began her training with Edith Royal in Florida and continued her training in New York at the George Balanchine's School of American Ballet. After dancing professionally she returned to Orlando and founded the Southern Ballet Theatre company, apprentice program, and school in 1974. The company was the first professional ballet company in the central florida area. She developed many arts in education programs during her tenure (the most notable program being S.T.E.P.S., Scholarship for The Enrichment for Primary Students, the first program of its kind dedicated to bringing ballet to "at risk" children in central florida). Ms. Riggins choreographed the company's first full length ballet, Cinderella, and is responsible for bringing several prominent choreographers to Orlando. Ms. Riggins started and toured the company for fifteen years. She was also an active member of the Florida Dance Association, and still maintains a place on its Board of Directors. She was a member of the Advisory Board for the Boca Ballet Theatre and was awarded the prestigious Nancy Smith Award for Excellence in Dance for the State of Florida. Ms. Riggins also serves as a member of the Florida Alliance for Arts Education (ACE).

Additional Teaching Staff

Orlando Molina

Orlando Molina was born in Guane, Pinar del Rio-Cuba. He began his ballet training at the age of 10 at the Vocational School of Art where he studied for five years. In 1987 he was accepted into the National Ballet School in Habana. After 3 years he received his Diploma as a Dancer/Teacher from the Cuban School of Ballet.

In 1993 after been released from the Cuban military he joined the Ballet Clasico de la Habana (formerly Joven Guardia under the direction of Laura Alonzo). 


In 1995 Orlando toured to Peru where he stayed and worked with the Ballet School of Chiclayo and I.N.C. School of Ballet.


In 1996 at the age of 24 he became Ballet Master of the I.N.C. Ballet Company. During this period Orlando restaged various ballets such as Don Quixote, Coppelia, Diana and Acteon, Le Fille Mal Gardee, La Sylphide, Pas de Quatre, and other contemporary works.


From 1997 to 1998 Orlando joined the Ballet Municipal de Lima as a principal dancer under the direction of Lucy Telge and trained with the renown Russian teacher Mikhail Koukharev. During this time he performed many classical and modern ballets in which he danced these important roles:


In July 1998 Orlando competed at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.  At the end of the competition he was offered a contract from the renown choreographer and artistic director Denis Nahat to join the Cleveland San Jose Ballet. In October 2000 after two seasons with CSJB Orlando auditioned for the Orlando Ballet ( formerly Southern Ballet Theatre) under the direction of Fernando Bujones. For the 2002-2003 season Orlando was appointed by Mr. Bujones as Ballet Master of Orlando Ballet. In 2003 Orlando coached Joseph Gatti (Senior Soloist Corella Ballet, Spain).


In October 2007 Mr. Molina left Orlando Ballet and joined Focus Performing Arts Center and Pulse Performing Arts Studio in Orlando, FL as ballet master. During this time Mr. Molina coached various students as Ryan Nusear ( Harid Conservatory 2008) Jessica Hayes (Orlando Ballet School 2008) and Gabriel Maxwell (Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, GA 2008) In August 2008 Mr. Molina joined Metropolitan Ballet Theatre in Alpharetta, GA. under the direction of Maniya Barredo.


Mr. Orlando Molina is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has succesfully completed the ABT Teacher Training Intensive in Primary through level 7 and Partnering of the ABT National Training Curriculum.

Eddy Tovar

Eddy Tovar received his ballet training at the Cuban National Ballet School. In 1997, he won the gold medal in the Alicia Alonso Ballet Competition, and in 1998 he was awarded the Juan Poix Award in Brazil. His Talents also earned him a gold medal at the Youth America Grand Prix. Eddy joined Orlando Ballet in 1999 and danced his first principal role as Franz in Coppelia in 2000. Since then he has performed many principal roles in ballet's such as La Fille Mal Gardee, Don Quixote, Camelot, and Spartacus as well as pieces of Contemporary and Balanchine.  In 2006, he was a finalist at the International Ballet Competition in New York City, Helsinki and Jackson, MS. Eddy is in his ninth season with Orlando Ballet. 

Chiaki Yasukawa

Chiaki began her training in Osaka, Japan, and attended the Academy of Dance Classic Princess Grace of Monaco. Later she trained at the School of American Ballet and Joffrey Ballet on full scholarship. Chiaki won a bronze medal in Italy at the International Competition, was a finalist in the Korea International Competition and a semi-finalist in the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS. Chiaki has performed numerous repertoire such as Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room and George Balanchine's Who Cares, among others. Chiaki is in her tenth season dancing for Orlando Ballet.

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