Amanda McKerrow has enjoyed a career as one of America’s acclaimed ballerinas. She has the honor of being the first American to receive a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1981. Since then, she has been the recipient of numerous other awards, among them the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Fellowship and the New York Woman Award for Dance.
Ms. McKerrow was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and began her ballet training at the Twinbrook School of Ballet in Rockville, Maryland, where she completed the syllabus of the Royal Academy of Dance. She then spent two years at the Metropolitan Academy of Dance where she studied the acclaimed Vaganova syllabus. She then studied at the Washington School of Ballet, under the direction of Mary Day, where she danced with the company for two years, touring extensively throughout the United States and Europe.
Ms. McKerrow joined American Ballet Theatre in 1982 under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. She was appointed Soloist in 1983, and became a Principal Dancer in 1987. Her repertoire included the leading roles in Cinderella, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Manon, La Bayadere, Coppelia, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake,
La Sylphide, and The Nutcracker. She has received acclaim for her performances in shorter works by Antony Tudor, George Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Jerome Robbins, and Juri Killian. Ms. McKerrow has created roles in ballets by choreographers such as Agnes DeMille, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Clark Tippet, Choo San Goh, and James Kudelka. She has also appeared extensively as a guest artist with ballet companies around the world.
In 2000, after having worked closely with him during his lifetime, Ms. McKerrow began staging the works of Antony Tudor for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. She also stages the ballets of Agnes DeMille and Benjamin Millepied, as well as the full length classics such as, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, and Don Quixote. After retiring from performing in 2006, she devotes the majority of her time to teaching, coaching, and staging ballets for professional companies around the world. Among them, American Ballet Theatre, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Colorado Ballet. She is married to fellow dancer and repetiteur, John Gardner.
Former ABT Principal
Antony Tudor Ballet Trust Repetiteur
John Gardner was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he began his ballet training with Gwen Ashton. He subsequently trained at the National Academy of Dance in Champaign, Illinois, under the direction of Michael Maule. He received a scholarship to the American Ballet Theatre School summer program in 1977, and was invited to join the second company thereafter.
In 1978 Mr. Gardner joined the main company of American Ballet Theatre, and was promoted to the rank of Soloist in 1984. Mr. Gardner’s diverse repertoire included many Soloist and Principal roles, represented an extensive range of styles, and afforded him the opportunity to work with many of the master choreographers of the twentieth century, including Antony Tudor, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Agnes DeMille, Martha Graham, and Twyla Tharp.
In 1991 Mr. Gardner was invited to dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. He danced with the company for five years, and worked closely with many acclaimed modern dance choreographers, most notably Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Lar Lubovitch, and David Gordan. Mr. Gardner created numerous roles during his time with White Oak Dance Project, and toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia.
He returned to American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist in 1996, and continued to perform with the company until 2002. After retiring from the stage Mr. Gardner began to pursue a career as a teacher and coach. He taught the graded level program at Ballet Academy East in New York City for three years. During this time he also taught at various dance studios around the city, including Broadway Dance, where he had the privilege of working as a substitute teacher for the Master Teacher David Howard upon his request. Mr. Gardner has enjoyed his development as a teacher, coach, ballet master, and choreographer over the years, and has worked extensively at both the professional and student levels.
He is a sanctioned repetiteur for the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust, and also stages the ballets of Agnes DeMille and Benjamin Millepied. He has been invited to work in these many capacities for ballet companies and schools around the world, including American Ballet Theatre, Colorado Ballet, Ballet West, Houston Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, and Washington Ballet. Mr. Gardner is married to fellow dancer and repetiteur Amanda McKerrow.
Antony Tudor Ballet Trust Repetiteur
Edward Ellison has traveled the world as a dancer, teacher, choreographer and ballet master. Companies he has taught for include American Ballet Theatre, Houston Ballet, Alvin Ailey and the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. He has been a guest teacher with The Juilliard School and Joffrey Ballet School, and continues to teach open classes at STEPS on Broadway. As a ballet master, he has worked for such companies as the Boston Ballet, Norwegian National Ballet and Alberta Ballet, as well as staging Helgi Tomasson's Nutcracker for San Francisco Ballet's annual tour.
With love and devotion to his students guiding his work, his approach is infused by study and close association with renown ballet masters and directors, such as Larisa Sklyanskaya, Helgi Tomasson, Irina Jacobson and Marius Zirra. He particularly credits his years of pedagogical study with Ms. Sklyanskaya for the depth of his artistic knowledge, as well as teacher courses at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Russia and the National Ballet School in Canada. A former soloist with the San Francisco Ballet and guest artist with many companies in the U.S. and abroad, Mr. Ellison's repertoire spans the great classical works of the 19th century to neoclassical and contemporary choreography of the 20th century and today.
Mr. Ellison employs a combination of detailed technical insight — including precise verbal and physical guidance to ensure proper alignment, placement, strength and coordinaton of the body — and artistic vision to excite and advance the student's journey. “My work,” Mr. Ellison says, “is laced with the belief that my students are capable of achieving extraordinary results. The sky is the limit!”
As Founder & Artistic Director of Ellison Ballet, Mr. Ellison has crafted an intensive study program to meet the needs of gifted ballet students from around the world who wish to dance professionally. Both the Summer Intensive and the in-depth Professional Training Program offer a stepping stone approach to realize new levels of achievement.
The classes emphasize development of strong classical ballet technique, the exploration and discovery of the student's full artistic potential, and individual attention from the ballet master.
Founder & Artistic Director
Ms. Mei-Li Zhu holds the ranking of First-Class Performer, the highest ranking given by the Chinese government, and is the current Dean of the state school, Shanghai Theater Academy. Ms. Zhu enjoyed an extensive professional career of over 25 years with the Shanghai Ballet as a Principal Dancer.
In 1994, Mei-Li retrired from the stage and the following year became the Shanghai Ballet School Mistress. In 2000, she took on her current post as Dean of Ballet School for Shanghai Theater Academy. Ms. Zhu has served as a juror for several International BalletCompetitions; including, the 5th & 6th Japan Youth Ballet Competition, 5th & 7th Chinese Tao Li Cup Ballet Competition, and the 3rd Korean Seoul International Ballet Competition.
Ms. Zhu has received numerous honors for teaching. In 1997, 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009, she was recognized as “Best Teacher” by China’s National Cultural Ministry at Tao Li Cup Ballet Competition. In addition, she was named “Best Educator” by the Hu-Chu-Nan Art Foundation in 1996, 1998, and 2000. In 1999, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, & 2011 was named “Best Teacher” by the Shanghai City Municipal Education Ministry.
Ms. Zhu has had impressive success as an Intstructor. She has coached numerous students for International Ballet Competitions that have come away with medals, and dancing professionally around the world. Coached: Liang Fei Junior Gold Medalist at the 1st Shanghai International Ballet Competition, and she is now Principal of Hong Kong Ballet. Coached: Yao Wei Junior Bronze Medalist Japan International Ballet Competition, Lausanne Award at the 28th Prix de Lausaunne, and Helsinki Award at the 4th Helsinki International Ballet Competition. Yao Wei is now Principal at the Royal Danish Ballet. Coached: Zhong-Jing Fang, Nureyev Foundation Award at the 9th Paris France International Ballet Competition, Lausanne Award at the 28th Prix de Lausanne, Junior Gold Medalist at the 4th Helsinki International Ballet Competition, and named “Best Potential Ballerina ‘Nokia’ Award” at Helsinki IBC. Zhong-Jing Fang is now a current corps de ballet member for ABT. Ms. Zhu also coached Yuriko Kajiya, current Soloist with ABT, and numerous other professional dancers currently with: Shanghai Ballet, China National Ballet, GuangZhou Ballet, and Cincinnati Ballet.
Former Shanghai Ballet Principal
5th & 7th Tao Li Cup Juror
3rd Seoul IBC Juror
Born in Denver, Colorado, Mr. Cooper currently living in San Francisco. However having spent a considerable amount of time growing up in NYC and the Bay Area, he considers himself a native of both coasts. Over his carrer he danced with two major companies, San Francisco Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem, with the latter with whom he was a principal dancer with for 9 years. His travels touring with these companies have taken him all over the world. Mr. Cooper started dancing at the age of five, when he began taking ballet classes at Richard Thomas’ New York School of Ballet. At the age of 13 Mr. Cooper received a full scholarship to train at the San Francisco Ballet School. He soon became a recipient of the Robert Kirby Scholarship, as well as the first to receive the Lew Christensen Scholarship for best male dancer. In 1989, bypassing the obligatory apprentice year, he was made a full company member.
During his time with San Francisco Ballet, Mr. Cooper danced a wide range of the repertoire. During Mr. Cooper’s nine years dancing with Dance Theatre of Harlem as a Principal dancer, he danced leading roles in such ballets as Balanchine’s Apollo, Prodigal Son, Agon, Allegro Brillante and Stars & Stripes; Albrecht in Giselle; Robbins’ Fancy Free; Ashton’s Thais pas de deux; Glenn Tetley’sSphinx & Dialogues; Smuin’s A Song For Dead Warriors and St. Louis Blues and many others.
Notable guest appearances have included being invited to dance lead in Stars and Stripes for New York City Ballet’s Balanchine Centennial Celebration, playing the part of Apollo in Central Park’s Summer Stage Balanchine Centennial Tribute; Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Ashton & Balanchine Gala; in the Miami International Dance Festival, Washington Ballet’s Giselle, Dance Brazil’s Festival in Bahia, Brazil, Rebecca Kelly Ballet’s 25 Anniversary, and with Dances Patrelle he has danced the lead in Mr. Patrelle’s Macbeth, as well as dancing in his “POP” & Ms. Meredith’s “Pair of Jacks pas de deux”; Lexington Ballets Fabric of Dance Galas 2 &3, Ballet Virginia International,Virginia Ballet Theatre, Ballet NY, Configuration Dance, Lexington Ballet and many others.
In March of 2007 Mr. Cooper created his first one act, full-length contemporary ballet for Virginia Ballet Theatre, an homage to the 1960’s spy film genre called, Mr. Evil and The Forever Diamond.Most recently in 2010, Mr. Cooper was invited to choreograph a 37 min. full-length contemporary ballet work called, Universal Residue for Lexington Ballet. In 2011, Mr.Cooper was also invited by new Dance Theatre of Harlem director Virginia Johnson, to be a part of their Harlem Works 2.0 Series, where he danced a new pas de deux choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultre called "Believe", created on him and former Broadway & ABT great Ashley Tuttle.
Until 2007, Mr. Cooper was also involved in and part creator of a National Outreach Program for kids at risk, called Athletes For Kids (AFK), involving professional dancers and star professional athletes. Although most of his time and attention is now focused on teaching, mentoring & choregraphing, Mr. Cooper continues to dance as a freelance dancer on various dance projects and galas nationally and internationally. He also continues to be apart of the Lines Ballet School teaching staff & New York City Dance Alliance. Currently he is also co-creator & Director of a new national summer program called Modas Dance Summer Program.
Dance Theatre of Harlem Principal
Co-Founde, MODAS Dance
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, Mr. Cai 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.
Mr. Cai was invited a Jury Member for the 2012 & 2013 ADC|IBC. Mr. Cai is now professor of Shanghai Visual Arts College, Shanghai Teacher University, and Shanghai Dance College.
Yi Lei Cai
Former Royal Ballet Soloist
Scottish Ballet Principal
Additional Teaching Staff
Alexandra Koltun graduated in 1989 from the eight-year program at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St.Petersburg, Russia.Studying under such notable mentors as Natalia Dudinskaya, Ludmila Morkovina and Irina Kolpakova. Upon graduation, Alexandra joined the famous Kirov Ballet and was immediately recognized as an especially gifted young dancer. At the Kirov, Alexandra appeared in many lead roles in which she was partnered by various principal male dancers of the company, including Farukh Ruzimatov, Igor Zelensky, and Konstantine Zaklinsky.
After defecting from the Kirov Ballet in 1991, Alexandra relocated to the United States. She began her career in America as a guest artist for the New Jersey Ballet and the Colorado Ballet. In 1992, she was invited to join Boston Ballet as a soloist, and she was promoted to principal dancer in 1994. Under the directorship of Bruce Marks, Alexandra’s career flourished. Not only did she star in a wide range of full length classical ballets, she also excelled in contemporary choreography. Alexandra starred in the World premier of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Fire Bird” and “Four Seasons”and collaborated with Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, Daniel Pelzig and Eliot Feld. In Balanchine’s “Apollo,” Alexandra was partnered by the international ballet star Fernando Bujones.In 1995 - 1996, she performed as a principal dancer with Deutsche Opera am Rhein Düsseldorf and appeared at the Bavarian State Theater in Munich as a guest artist.
Upon her return to the U.S., Alexandra worked with Suzan Farrell and her company at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She returned to Boston Ballet under Anna Marie Holmes’s as a principal dancer.
Alexandra was awarded the Bronze Medal in 1994 at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi and Gold Medal at the Boston International Choreography Competition.
In 2006-2009, Alexandra was a faculty member of Miami City Ballet under Edward Villella.In 2009, Alexandra helped to run a summer program for Joffrey Ballet School in New York.In 2009, Alexandra was appointed as a new Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet School of Antwerp.
From decades of professional ballet experience, in 2008 Alexandra created a ballet stretch workout and released a DVD which has been distributed by Amazon.com. In 2010, Alexandra was a guest teacher at the annual Youth America Grand Prix competition.In 2010-2012, Alexandra was engaged as a guest faculty member at the Boston Ballet Company and School. Alexandra successfully staged a classical short ballet “Venetian Carnival” (Satanella) for Boston Ballet opening 2011/2012 season Gala.
In 2011, Alexandra has founded and became an Artistic Director of Koltun Ballet Academy and Boston International Summer Intensive, where she is continuing to impart her knowledge to the world’s next generation of dancers.
Former Kirov Ballet Member
Boston Ballet Principal
Founder | Artistic Director
Koltun Ballet Academy
Ms. Chen was trained at Shanghai dance school, China and San Francisco Ballet School. In 1987, she won the first prize at the Prix de Lausanne International Competition. She then joined The Washington Ballet. In 1993, Ms. Chen joined American Ballet Theatre and was promoted to soloist in 1994. As one of ABT’s most lyrical and versatile dancers, she has performed leading roles in Romeo & Juliet, Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, Othello, Giselle, and Onegin, as well as works by Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, Lar Lubovitch, George Balanchine, John Cranko and others. Ms. Chen has performed as a guest artist throughout the world and has been invited to perform at many prestigious dance festivals. She also appeared in PBS Great Performance Program for television and video/DVD: “American Ballet Theatre Now.” In 2004, Ms. Chen became a faculty member with the American Ballet Theatre and has also been a guest teacher with Orlando Ballet since 1994. Ms. Chen lives in Orlando, and is in her fourth year as Ballet Mistress with Orlando Ballet.
2014 Jury Panel
Former ABT Soloist
Ballet Mistress, Orlando Ballet
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 alsothe 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. Ms. Matos is the director of the Children & Youth Dancer Program at the Joffrey Ballet School.
Children & Youth Program
Joffrey Ballet School
Layla Amis, a native of Florida, attended New World College of The Arts in Miami on full scholarship. She continued her education in Chicago, training with Hubbard Street Chicago and on full scholarship at Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Center. Layla has danced professionally with New World Modern Dance Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and as a principal dancer with Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, the Gail Gilbert Dance Ensemble and Moving People Dance Santa Fe. She has performed works by Mia Michaels, Kevin Iega Jeff, Gary Abbott,to name a few. In 1999 Layla co-founded Moving People Dance Santa Fe, a non-profit professional contemporary dance company and school. Layla served as School Director andco-Artistic director for five years. In 2005 Layla accepted the position of School Director for Alonzo King's LINES Ballet in San Francisco. During her time at LINES Layla helped build the LINES Ballet Summer Program to one of the premiere Summer Intensive programs in the country, along with creating a Year Round Training Program for young pre-professionals and Discovery Project, a national outreach program. In 2009, Layla returned to New Mexico to serve as Executive Director for Moving People Dance Santa Fe. Currently, Layla is the co-Director of Modas Dance.
Former School Director
Alonzo King's LINES Ballet
Co- Director, MODAS Dance