2012 Jury Panel
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.
Robert de Warren
Robert de Warren has had a distinguished career as a dancer, choreographer, producer, ballet director, and costume and scenery designer. A graduate of the Royal Ballet School he joined the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden as a dancer and began his choreographic experiences. He was to choreograph over 100 ballets in his career. The list of ballet companies for whom de Warren danced, include the Stuttgart and Frankfurt Ballets while he also guested in Berlin, Italy and France. He spent 11 years as head of the National Ballet of Iran and founded the National Folklore Organization and company that toured the world. He became the Artistic Director of the Northern Ballet in England and obtained the patronage of Princess Margaret and Rudolph Nureyev as artist laureate.
Nureyev was to become de Warren's collaborator and life-long friend. It was he who recommended de Warren for the position of Director of the Ballet at La Scala. Before joining the Sarasota Ballet of Florida, de Warren spent 7 years in Milan, Italy, as Artistic Director of the La Scala Ballet and Controller of the La Scala Ballet School. He was outstanding in his role as Artistic Director of the Sarasota Ballet for 13 years. He retired in 2007.
In 2010 he founded in Sarasota, Florida, The Carreno Dance Festival in partnership with super star Jose Manuel Carreno of American Ballet Theater and worldwide. Their mission is to encourage and coach talented pre-professional dancers in the art of being a company member and understanding style, artistry and technique. The 2011 August residency had over fifty carefully selected dancers and a faculty of international extraordinary master teachers.
Robert de Warren has received numerous honors and is active in many international ballet activities: Varna Jury, Honorary Committee USA Ballet International Competition, nominated best designer for the Olivier Awards in London, Member of the Royal Academy of Dance and much more.
Ms. Sorzano is originally from Trinidad, she received her primary instruction from New World School of the Arts, The Miami Conservatory, and The Dance Theater of Harlem. She attended the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program and in her junior year was invited to join Ailey II. She has been a member of Morphoses, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Alvin Aliey American Dance Theater, and TU Dance under the direction of Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands. Ms. Sorzano has performed works by Ulysses Dove, Mauro Bigonzetti and Ron K Brown. As well as, with recording artists Wynton Marsalis, Beyonce Knowles, and Rihanna. She was a guest artist on Dancing with the Stars and has most recently starred as the lead dancer in the independent film "You Me and The Circus". When not performing Ms.Sorzano enjoys teaching both nationally and internationally, and is an esteemed faculty member of the Joffrey Ballet School, Jazz & Contemporary Program.
Yi Lei Cai, recently retired from the stage, has had quite an impressive performance career. Native of Shanghai, China, Mr. Cai received his early ballet training from the National School in Shanghai. He later moved to London in 1988 to join the Royal Ballet School. While under the tutelage of this esteemed school, Yi Lei was awarded the Bronze Medal at both the Varna International Ballet Competition, and the Chinese National Ballet Competition. One year later, Mr. Cai earned the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne.
In 1990, Yi Lei Cai joined the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, and in 1991 was promoted to Soloist of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. During his ten years with the company, Yi Lei has accumulated an expansive performance repertoire, including, several television appearances for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in productions such as: Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Le Corsaire & Don Quixote.
In 1998, Yi Lei accepted a Principal Contract with the Scottish Ballet. After three years in Scotland, he returned to his home town in Shanghai, and joined the Shanghai Ballet as a guest Principal dancer.
Yi Lei has performed and taught all over the world including: Japan, China, Hong Kong, UK, Canada, Korea, Spain, Germany, USA, Australia, New Zealand & South Africa.
Additional Teaching Staff
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.
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 fourteenth 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.