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2013 Jury Panel

Christopher Ruud

A native of San Francisco, Christopher began his training at the San Francisco Ballet School, where he studied for six years and performed numerous children’s roles in the SF Ballet repertoire. He received additional training at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, before training at the University of Utah Ballet Department. 

Christopher joined Ballet West in 1998, was promoted to Soloist in 2001 and Principal in 2004. 


With Ballet West, Christopher has toured throughout the United States and abroad including multi-city tours in China and in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Festival. Some of his notable roles include “Petruchio” in John Cranko's The Taming of the Shrew; the Second Pas de Deux in Antony Tudor's The Leaves Are Fading; Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances; William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated; Val Caniparoli’s Lamberana, and Book of Alleged Dances; and “Romeo” in Jonas Koge’s Romeo and Juliet. 

Christopher has performed the principal roles in multiple versions of such classics as Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Cinderella, Don Quixote and Le Corsaire Pas de Deux. He has also danced leading roles in works by Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Jiri Kylian, Antony Tudor, Hans van Manen and Nicolo Fonte. Christopher’s favorite Balanchine credits include “Liza” in Who Cares?; “Puck” in A Midsummer Night's Dream; Serenade; “Melancholic” and “Sanguinic” in The Four Temperaments; Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux; “El Capitan” in Stars and Stripes; and the principal in Theme and Variations. Recently he has had works created on him by Nicolo Fonte in The Immeasurable Cadences Within, Helen Picket in But Never Doubt I Love, and Charlotte Boye-Christensen in Row, and Val Caniparoli in The Lottery.


Son of respected dancer and choreographer Tomm Ruud, Christopher is responsible for his father’s works. He has set and performed his father’s ballets, such as MOBILE, for companies including Stuttgart Ballet, Ballet West and Joffrey Ballet Co. He can be seen as a guest artist in frequent performances throughout the US.


After 15 years as a dancer with Ballet West, Christopher has added choreographer and Director of Ballet West 2 to his responsibilities. His works Without Fall, and Trapped were performed at the 2012 Gala, and Innovations program. In 2012 he was awarded a Fellowship Initiative grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, enabling him to create his latest piece, Strum. 

As Director of Ballet West 2, he is honored to carry the responsibility of teaching and training the future dancers of Ballet West. 

YiLei Cai

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. 

Charles Askegard

Charles Askegard has had a distinguished performing career, which began with the American Ballet Theatre, where he performed as a soloist, and continued with the New York City Ballet as a Principal Dancer.  


During his career he has performed leading roles in the full-length ballets “Giselle”, “La Bayadere”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Coppelia”, “Swan Lake”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Jewels” and “Manon”.  


While at American Ballet Theatre, he worked with Agnes de Mille and performed lead roles in “Rodeo”, “Fall River Legend”, and “The Other”.   Other choreographers he worked with during that time include Glen Tetley, Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch, and James Kudelka.


At the New York City Ballet, he had the great opportunity to work with Jerome Robbins and performed in his ballets “In Memory Of…”, “The Four Seasons”, “Ives, Songs”, “In the Night”, “Les Noces”, and “Glass Pieces”.  He also performed lead roles in many of George Balanchine’s ballets, including “Theme and Variations”, “Diamonds”, “Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #2”, “Stars and Stripes”, “Apollo”, “Serenade”, “The Four Temperaments”, “Scotch Symphony”, “Cortege Hongrois”, “Swan Lake”, and “Firebird”.   

He created ballets with Peter Martins, Christopher Wheeldon, Eliot Feld, Robert La Fosse, and Helgi Tomasson.


Mr. Askegard has been a guest artist performing in companies around the world including, The Dutch National Ballet, Bavarian State Opera, The National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Philippine Ballet Theatre, and has been a guest of many dance festivals worldwide.  


Mr. Askegard is also a co-founder and director of a new ballet company, Ballet Next.    

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.

Additional Teaching Staff

Yan Chen

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 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 fourteenth season dancing for Orlando Ballet.

Sheri Metcalf

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.

Arcadian Broad

Arcadian began dancing at age 9, and was a finalist for the featured role of "Billy" in the Broadway Musical, Billy Elliot. At age 13, he made his TV debut as a semi-finalist on NBC's America's Got Talent, and on the ELLEN Show. Arcadian has been awarded numerous medals at both American Dance Competition & YAGP, including ADC Grand Prix from 2006-2011. Currently, only age 17, Arcadian has trained on full scholarship at the Julliard School, Orlando Ballet School, and the Carreno Dance Festival. Arcadian joined Orlando Ballet II in 2011, and in 2012 as a Full Company Member.

Jo Matos

Director, Children & Youth Dancer Program at Joffrey Ballet School


Ms. Matos trained at the school of the Hartford Ballet & performed with Dance Now! In 1996, she received a BFA in Dance for Children from the University of Hartford. Ms. Matos has over 30 years experience as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and arts administrator at many prestigious institutions, including Ballet Hispanico and the University of Hartford. She is also the co-founder of "Dancing Day" a school that brings dance to disabled children & adults. Her work with autism and dance was featured in PBS documentaries in 1999 & 2004.

Danita Emma

Ms. Emma has more than 30 years of experience as a dance teacher, coach, choreographer, adjudicator, and administrator. A master teacher in great demand, Ms. Emma taught company classes at the National Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria (2011), as well as at the National Opera House in Bourgas Bulgaria (November 2010.) In April 2012, she returned to Bulgaria to be assistant choreographer and coach to a new work, Scriabin Quintet, choreographed by Momchil Mladenov and performed by a mixed cast of principal dancers from the National Opera and Ballet and Bulgarian dancers based in the United States. In addition, she taught daily company class. Her teaching, which was shaped and inspired by her lifelong relationship with her mentor, the world-renowned Madame Darvash, has been compared to that of the legendary Russian masters. Ms. Emma's approach to technique is both demanding and articulate, combining the best of ballet tradition with a deep understanding of the body. Her students have gone on to perform with companies such as Atlanta Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, and Orlando Ballet. After training at the Pennsylvania Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Boston Conservatory of Music, Ms. Emma earned a B.F.A. in dance from Brenau University. She has taught at the New Dance Group in New York City, Garden State Ballet Company, and Atlanta Ballet, and in studios, performing arts high schools, colleges, and regional companies throughout the Eastern Seaboard. For the past ten years she has taught at both the Southeast and Northeast Conferences of Universities and Colleges in Dance. She served as audition teacher and adjudicator for the Oakland Ballet. Throughout her career she has taught all levels of ballet technique, pointe, partnering, variations, performance, composition, dance history, world dances, and reconstruction work in studio, professional, and university settings. Ms. Emma has been assistant professor of dance at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a visiting artist at Brenau University and the University of Georgia. She designed and launched Syracuse University's premiere pre-professional summer dance intensive, where she continues as artistic director. In August 2012, she formed her own organization, International Ballet Intensive. IBI is dedicated to sharing the elegant science of classical ballet technique with professional and pre-professional dancers to enhance their capacity as performing artists through educational programs, performance opportunities and international cultural exchanges. International Ballet Intensive is also a vehicle for artistic director Danita Emma's choreographic exploration

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