2011 Jury Panel
Michael Owen is Director of Ballet at Walnut Hill, which includes the Ballet Department and Walnut Hill Summer Dance. Mr. Owen studied with Marcia Dale Weary at the Pennsylvania Ballet School and continued his studies at the School of American Ballet. He is former principal danseur of American Ballet Theatre where he had a distinguished 26-year career. Owen has made guest appearances with companies across the globe, has appeared in television and film, and performed for every U.S. President from Jimmy Carter to Bill Clinton. As Director of Ballet at Walnut Hill for the past 12 years, Mr. Owen has meticulously moved the department into the forefront in excellence of training. In addition, he is an international master teacher with periodic engagements across the United States, including Hawaii, as well as in Canada, Japan, and China
Liudmila Polonskaya was born in Russia in the region of Crimeia. In 1967, at the age of ten, she joined the Vaganova Ballet Academy School in St. Petersburg. She graduated there under the orientation of the maitre Natalia Dudinskaya in 1974. Ms. Polonskaya then became first ballerina of the Maly Opera Theater in St. Petersburg, where she interpreted the leading roles of the classic repertoire such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Le Corsaire, Paquita, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. During this period she had the opportunity to travel with the company to France, England, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Italy and Holland. In 1995, Ms. Polonskaya graduated in Ballet Pedagogy at the Vaganova Academy Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia with a diploma of Choreographer and Teacher of Classical Ballet, Character and Historical Dance.
Ms. Polonskaya was then hired by the Vaganova Academy of Ballet where she taught classical ballet from 1995-2000. During this time she was invited to teach at ballet schools in Australia, Japan, Korea and Brazil. In 2000, Ms. Polonskaya was invited to give classical ballet lessons and choreograph for the Maria Olenewa Dance School of Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She also organized a workshop promoted by Maria Olenewa School of Dance. In 2004 and 2005 Ms. Polonskaya was invited to teach pointe technique for the 1st and 2nd Season of the Russia Ballet in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She was also invited as maitre by the Black Swan Company.
Over the years, her students have been awarded important prizes in national and international competitions such as the Grand Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix, and scholarships to Canada's National Ballet School and The Harid Conservatory. They can also be found dancing professionally for Royal Ballet, Munique Ballet Theater, and Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Ms. Polonskaya is now the School Principal & Second Company Director for Tulsa Ballet.
Rolando Yanes is a native of Villa Clara, Cuba. He received training at the Professional School of the Arts and the Vocational School of Ballet in Santa Clara, Cuba. While in Cuba, Mr. Yanes was a principal dancer with Joven Guardias Centro ProDanza under the direction of Lauren Alonso and Ballet de Camaguey. In 1995, he was awarded the Silver Medal at the prestigious International Ballet Competition in Brasilia, Brazil. Mr. Yanes came to the United States in 1996 as a principal dancer with Milwaukee Ballet Company.
As a principal dancer with Milwaukee Ballet, Mr. Yanes expanded his diverse classical and contemporary repertoire dancing leading roles in such ballets as Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Coppelia, The Nutcracker, and Giselle. His powerful technique and unparalleled partnering skills led to principal roles in La Esmeralda, Spartacus, Troy Game, Who Cares?, Diana and Acteon, and Le Corsaire, as well as major works from leading choreographers like George Balanchine, Choo-San Goh, Robert Joffrey, and Kathryn Posin, among others.
Mr. Yanes is in great demand as a guest artist. He has performed with numerous companies including performances of La Fille Mal Gardee with Ballet Taller de San Juan (Puerto Rico) and The International Ballet Festivals in Havana, Cuba and Maracaibo, Venezuela. Mr. Yanes has also performed with the Rockford Ballet, Pamiro Opera (Green Bay), the Florentine Opera, and on international tours to Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Jamaica.
This marks Mr. Yanes’ fifth year as the director of Milwaukee Ballet II, the official pre-professional program of the Milwaukee Ballet. In addition to performing with Milwaukee Ballet Company, young dancers will continue their development as they perform classical and original choreography in performances and community outreach events in and around Southeast Wisconsin.
Since 2004, Mr. Yanes has been directing Milwaukee Ballet School. His original choreography has been performed by Milwaukee Ballet School’s pre-professional summer program students and Milwaukee Ballet II.
Yan Chen, former soloist at American Ballet Theatre. "You had to be between eleven and twelve," she says, recalling her admission to the Shanghai Dance School in 1981. "I was very lucky." (Her easy command of English enables her to sum up life's big events in this terse, often unimprovable fashion; she recounts her husband's whirlwind courtship, "We met on a beach in Thailand, and that was that.") A delight in what she calls "all kinds of dancing as a kid" rapidly developed into a dedication to ballet under the stem tutelage of Chinese instructors trained in the Vaganova method. Even in China she drew the usual inspiration from watching The Red Shoes and The Turning Point, but by then she was already caught up in the discipline of ballet and the satisfaction of meeting its demands.
By 1985 the school considered her sufficiently advanced to represent China as an exchange student with San Francisco Ballet--Shanghai and San Francisco had attained the status of "sister cities"--and to dispatch her to the Prix de Lausanne . In 1988 Washington Ballet artistic director Choo-San Goh offered her a scholarship; over the next five years, she added contemporary works to her repertory and progressed from apprentice to principal.
Along the way, she attracted the attention of ABT principal Kevin McKenzie, a regular guest artist with Washington. McKenzie recalls, "She was struggling with English then, and with the same dedication she brings to everything. Her dancing was impressive, but so was the intensity with which she would get caught up in every new experience." After McKenzie assumed direction of ABT in 1993, she phoned him about joining the company. She was the only Washington dancer he brought to ABT; he assigned her to the corps but made the role of Clara in his Nutcracker on her. Twyla Tharp later gave her a featured part in How Near Heaven, In 1995 she was promoted to soloist.
Her dancing shows no trace of that unavoidable bromide for Asian ballerinas, the porcelain figurine. Her proportions are so exquisite, her technique is so secure, her line so expressive, and her musicality so pervasive that no Yan Chen performance is less than a full-scale achievement. --- Dance Magazine
Yan Chen is currently Ballet Mistress for the Orlando Ballet.
As a young adult Sheri moved to Los Angeles on a dance scholarship. While in L.A. her dancing and acting led her to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Some of Sheri's credits include A League of their Own, Color of Night, and Melrose Place. Sheri then traveled to the east coast to do a variety show called "Panache", where she held the position of dance captain. At the end of the contract she returned to Florida and made it her home base. Since then she has been performing and choreographing for industrials, commercials and television throughout the United States and South America. Some of her credits include BET's Vibe Awards, Gullah Gullah Island, MGM, Universal Studios, Seventeen Magazine, Bell South Mobility, and Pepsi to list a few. She has worked with such artists as Donna Summers, The Village People, Bill Cosby, Ed McMahon, 3LW, Sisqo and tours with Denny Terrio from the T.V. show Dance Fever. Sheri has been a dance educator for several years and also travels nationally as a professional performer and guest artist. Through her travels and her studio Sheri's choreography has won several top billings.
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 thirteenth season dancing for Orlando Ballet.
Balazs studied at the Hungarian Dance Academy and later danced with North Carolina Dance Theatre II, Columbia Classical Ballet and Tulsa Ballet. He was awarded the third prize at the 2004 International Ballet Competition of Vienna and was a finalist at the 2010 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.