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Our Dancers

Meet the Athletes Behind the Artistry

Valentin Batista
Corps de Ballet

Valentin Batista

Corps de Ballet

Valentin Batista

Valentin Batista started ballet at the age of five at a small studio in Buenos Aires with his first teacher Sara Rzeszotko. At age twelve, he began furthering his training at the school of Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires. In 2012, Valentin joined Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy. Three years later, he became a second company member with Orlando Ballet. He has attended summer intensives at Houston Ballet, Ellison Ballet in New York City, Orlando Ballet, and Jacob’s Pillow. Valentin has competed in the American Dance Competition, and with coaching from Olivier Muñoz, he won first place in the senior classical category. Valentin joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2017.

Tell us about yourself and your career as a dancer.

I started training in Argentina under Sara Rzeszotko, and she has always inspired me. At the age of 14, I moved to the United States to train at Houston Ballet Academy. I trained there for three seasons with Andrew Murphy and Claudio Munoz. In 2015 I went to Orlando Ballet and spent 2 seasons there. I’ve been with TBT since September of 2017.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

When I was 11, I was accepted into the Teatro Colon School. There, I was more exposed to the art form and it made me realize that’s what I wanted to do.

What are some of your favorite roles you have performed?

The Indian boy in Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, Bluebird in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty, and dancing in Ben Stevenson’s Mozart’s Requiem.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

Passion and good guidance.


Jackson Bayhi
Corps de Ballet

Jackson Bayhi

Corps de Ballet

Jackson Bayhi

Originally from Houston, Texas, Jackson Bayhi started competitive ballroom dancing at age 8. He began his ballet training at age 16 at Uptown Dance Centre in Houston. In 2019, after attending summer intensives at Houston Ballet and Ellison Ballet in New York City, he joined TBT’s Studio Training Company. Bayhi joined TBT’s professional company in 2022.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

My favorite thing about ballet is the sheer work that it takes to be able to do things with my body that a very small percentage of the population can do. It’s the grace over grit attitude that really just makes me love ballet.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I will usually listen to some rap/hip hop music and get in my zone. I will hype myself up to build the energy and confidence I need and possibly go over any lifts or anything I will do with a partner.

Best advice you've ever been given?

“There’s no such thing as can’t; you either don’t want to, or you don’t know how.” – Edward Bayhi, my father. This goes for life and not just ballet. I was always taught by my parents that no matter what happens to us, we never stop pushing to be our best. This principle is the thing that separates good dancers from great dancers.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I am a licensed scuba diver up to 60 feet deep and I also earned my Eagle Scout rank shortly before graduating high school.


Carl Coomer
Principal

Carl Coomer

Principal

Carl Coomer

Coomer began his ballet training in Liverpool at the age of 13 years old. In 1998, he received a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, under the direction of Dame Merle Park and later, Gailene Stock. His professional career started in Houston Ballet in 2001, where he performed for six seasons. In 2007, he joined Texas Ballet Theater. His repertoire includes leading roles in ballets by Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., Christopher Bruce, George Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, John Cranko, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Hans van Manen, Glen Tetley, Jerome Robbins, Stanton Welch, James Kudelka, Val Caniparoli and many more. He has choreographed several works for TBT: Evolving (2012), Clann (2014) Henry VIII (2018) and The Story of You (2021).


Amanda Fairweather
Soloist

Amanda Fairweather

Soloist

Amanda Fairweather

Amanda Fairweather is in her 12th season with Texas Ballet Theater. She is married to fellow company member Riley Moyano. Originally from Orange, California, she began training at the Academy of Dance under Merle Sepel and Rebecca Tsivkin. Where she studied RAD, completing her solo seal. Amanda attended SUNY Purchase College, graduating cum laude. In 2011 after attending Texas Ballet Theater Summer Intensive she was asked to join as a trainee. Amanda has enjoyed performing Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet balcony scene, Dracula, Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV©: Danse à Grande Vitesse, William Forsythe’s In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Harald Landers’ Etudes, Ohad Noharn’s Minus 16 and Val Caniparoli’s Without Borders. @dancersoftexasballettheater

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

Using your imagination to tell a story.

What are some of your favorite roles you have performed?

A bride in Dracula, Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty, Four Last Songs, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet’s “Balcony” pas de deux.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Have a thought with every movement.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I enjoy walking the dog, relaxing and spending time with my husband.


Alexandra Farber
Principal

Alexandra Farber

Principal

Alexandra Farber

Alexandra Farber, originally from Washington, D.C., began her training at Maryland Youth Ballet and Houston Ballet II. Alexandra has also attended various summer programs, including those offered by the School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School, and Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy. She has performed as Aurora in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty, Odette/Odile in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake, Svetlana in Ben Stevenson’s Dracula, Sugar Plum, Snow Queen, and Clara in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, Winter Fairy and Cinderella in Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, in William Forsythe’s In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Ben Stevenson’s Twilight Pas de Deux, Ben Stevenson’s Star Crossed, and Ben Stevenson’s Four Last Songs. She has also performed leading roles in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and Serenade, Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, Carlos Acosta’s Carmen, Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV©: Danse à Grande Vitesse, Ben Stevenson’s Alice in Wonderland, Ma Cong’s Firebird, Jonathan Watkins’ Crash, Lew Christensen’s Beauty and the Beast, and Tim O’Keefe’s Violin Concerto in D.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I suppose forever, because each year my family would ask if I wanted to take ballet again and each year I could never imagine life without it. I continued that way until I realized the next step was to pursue a professional career.

What are some of your favorite roles you have performed?

It is so difficult to choose, because every role is unique and special, but if I had to pick five of my favorites they would be Odette/Odile in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake, Sylvie’s role in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Aurora in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty, the principal pas de deux in Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, and the third pas de deux in Christopher Wheeldon’s Danse à Grande Vitesse.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Two things: for one, I say a short Hebrew prayer, and usually while the orchestra tunes—this makes me feel connected, to the moment and the music. Two, I read once about how ballerinas from long ago would spit on their ribbons in order to keep them secure, so I will very lightly put my hand to my mouth and then to my ribbons to honor that tradition—it makes me feel connected to those ballerinas who came before me.

Best advice you've ever been given?

To find the moments of calm when things are really intense; in dance and in life.


Rieko Hatato
Soloist

Rieko Hatato

Soloist

Rieko Hatato

Rieko Hatato began dance training at age five in Japan. She was trained by Yoko Tsukamoto at Yoko Tsukamoto Theater de Ballet Academy in Nagoya. From 2013 to 2015, she performed main roles in Firebird, The Nutcracker, and Coppelia with Artistic Director Hideo Fukagawa. She has won many medals in competitions in Japan, a bronze medal in the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 2013, and was a finalist in the USA International Ballet Competition in 2018. Before coming to the US, she performed as a guest dancer with Russian Ballet Theater in Cyprus in 2017. She then joined Arts Ballet Theater of Florida for the 2017/18 season and Texas Ballet Theater for the 2018/19 season. She has enjoyed performing the Bluebird pas de deux in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty, Clara in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, and Third Pas de Deux in Tim O’Keefe’s Violin Concerto in D. @7rieko_hatato7

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I knew as soon as I started dancing.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Drink hot tea and take a deep breath before getting on the stage.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

Dancing with love.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I was a swimmer when I was little.


Cristian Jimenez
Character Dancer

Cristian Jimenez

Character Dancer

Cristian Jimenez

Jimenez began training at Ballet School of Santiago in Municipal Theater and became a part of Santiago Chamber Ballet. After graduating, he joined the Ballet of Santiago for four seasons. In 1992, he received a scholarship from Houston Ballet Academy and performed in The Nutcracker and the world premiere of Ben Stevenson’s Alice in Wonderland. In Paraguay, Jimenez performed principal roles at Classical and Modern Municipal Ballet of Asunción, National Ballet of Paraguay and Ballet Uninorte. In Venezuela, he performed as a principal with Ballet Contemporáneo de Caracas directed by Maria Eugenia Barrios. In 2009, Jimenez joined the Classical Ballet of Venezuela led by Nina Novak. Jimenez is originally from Chile.


Alexander Kotelenets
Principal

Alexander Kotelenets

Principal

Alexander Kotelenets

A native of Kiev, Ukraine, Alexander Kotelenets began his training at the Kiev State Ballet School. After coming to the United States, he continued his training at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy and was a company member with Houston Ballet before joining Texas Ballet Theater in 2003. Mr. Kotelenets has performed in a number of Ben Stevenson ballets, with favorite roles as Romeo and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, Frederick in Dracula, Peer in Peer Gynt, the prince in Swan Lake, the prince in The Sleeping Beauty, and partnering his wife, Heather Kotelenets who danced with the company for 13 years, in the Ave Maria pas de deux. He also has performed in Texas Ballet Theater’s premiere of Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. He and his wife Heather have two daughters, Mila and Emma, and are expecting another little one in December.


Lauren Leb
Corps de Ballet

Lauren Leb

Corps de Ballet

Lauren Leb

A native of Colleyville, Texas, Lauren Leb began her training at the Marina Almayeva School of Classical Ballet. After receiving top honors in several competitions, she continued her training at the HARID Conservatory. Leb attended Texas Ballet Theater’s Summer Intensive on a full scholarship that she received during the 2019 ADC/IBC competition. She then joined TBT’s Studio Training Company for the 2019-2020 season. Leb joined the company as a Trainee in 2020 and is now a Corps de Ballet member.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love making people feel something when they watch me perform. It is such a special thing to be able to share your passion in that way with other people. Even if they do not know much about ballet, I want them to connect to the performance through the beauty and passion of dance.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

It was always a dream of mine, but I think the first time I seriously decided to pursue ballet as a career was when I decided to leave home to train at The HARID Conservatory.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Don’t let one person’s perception of you define you. You decide your future.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I love Classic Rock music and 80’s music trivia! I’ve grown up going to concerts with my family. I have been to see Def Leppard, AC/DC, KISS, Journey, Bon Jovi, and more! I also got to meet Def Leppard back stage and take pictures with the band.


Adeline Melcher
Soloist

Adeline Melcher

Soloist

Adeline Melcher

Melcher began training in New Orleans, Louisiana, under the guidance of Myra Mier. She attended several summer intensive programs including American Ballet Theater NYC, School of American Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Texas Ballet Theater. At 16, she became a student of Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy. Melcher joined TBT in 2015. She has performed in ballets such as Ben Stevenson’s End of Time and Swan Lake, Ma Cong’s Firebird, Harald Lander’s Études, William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster, and Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

I believe that in order to be a great performer you have to have an open mind and absorb information like a sponge. We are lucky enough to be surrounded by so many artists with different strengths. I love seeing what makes that particular dancer’s specialty look so effortless, strong, emotional, etc. It’s inspiring!

Best advice you've ever been given?

Follow your dreams! I did!

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I love finding vintage clothing! Whether that means going to vintage stores or estate sales, I love the hunt!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

My parents were originally told, based on the ultrasound, that I was going to be a boy. On April Fools Day 1997, the joke was on my parents when a little girl was born (me)!


Riley Moyano
Soloist

Riley Moyano

Soloist

Riley Moyano

Riley Moyano began his training in his hometown of Naperville, Illinois at the school of DanceWest Ballet with his parents Regina and Ricardo Moyano. He continued his training at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, performing Trey McIntyre’s Blue Until June. Since joining Texas Ballet Theater in 2011, Moyano has been delighted to perform in Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, Val Caniparoli’s Without Borders, Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, William Forsythe’s In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, and as Caesar in Ben Stevenson’s Cleopatra. Moyano is married to fellow Company member Amanda Fairweather. @rymochoreo


Paige Nyman
Principal

Paige Nyman

Principal

Paige Nyman

Paige Nyman began dancing at the age of three in Kansas City, Kansas. At sixteen, she was offered a scholarship to the Harid Conservatory and studied there for two years under Svetlana Osiyeva, Oliver Pardina, and Victoria Schneider. Since joining Texas Ballet Theater in 2009, favorite roles have included the title role in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, the Pas de Trois from Dracula, the Pas de Trois from Four Last Songs, and Laila from Laila and the Swan, as well as Waltz Girl in George Balanchine’s Serenade, The Wife in Jerome Robbins’ The Concert, and featured roles in Christopher Bruce’s Rooster and Ghost Dances. She has also loved performing in Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet, Peer Gynt, and Giselle, as well as William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, Glen Tetley’ Voluntaries, Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, Harald Lander’s Études, Tim O’Keefe’s Violin Concerto in D, and as the title role in Carlos Acosta’s Carmen.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love the process of taking a character or a role that I don’t understand, and becoming as familiar with it as I am with my own natural tendencies.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I am pretty superstitious about the order that I do things before shows. I always have to put my left eyelash on first, my left earring in before my right, and my right shoe goes on first.

Best advice you've ever been given?

In the midst of all the movement, don’t be afraid to be still on stage. It gives you the opportunity to establish yourself in the space and for the audience to see you. Also, spend time visualizing how you want yourself to look on stage. Creating a mental image is a powerful tool for confidence in the actual movement.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I love clocks—I have 9 in my house as of now, although only 5 of them are running. But all of the running ones are 3-5 minutes fast. They keep me guessing!


Dara Oda
Soloist

Dara Oda

Soloist

Dara Oda

Dara Oda, originally from Naperville, Illinois, began her training at the School of DanceWest Ballet under Ricardo and Regina Moyano. She was awarded cash and program scholarships at the Regional Dance America festival and received further training from summer programs at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, and Texas Ballet Theater. In 2014, Ms. Oda graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Belhaven University. Since joining Texas Ballet Theater in 2014, she has enjoyed performing in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake and Four Last Songs, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, and Ohad Naharin’s Mabul duet.

Tell us about yourself and your career as a dancer.

I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and attended the same dance school from when I was 3 to age 18. I dabbled in a few other hobbies growing up, but dance was always my first love—and the only thing I ever stayed seriously committed to. Towards the end of high school, I didn’t feel ready to audition for ballet companies but also didn’t want to give up my dreams of dancing professionally, so I decided to attend college as a dance major to further my training and get my degree at the same time. Those four years in college truly shaped me into the dancer I am today and I joined TBT the summer after I graduated. At first it was a bit intimidating starting my career a few years later than many of my fellow dancers, but now I’m confident that college was the right path for me.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

It can be very difficult and frustrating, but so incredibly rewarding. Nothing beats that post-show adrenaline high!

Best advice you've ever been given?

One of my professors in college, Caleb Mitchell, encouraged me to find a company where I would continue to receive training to keep me improving, instead of being left to figure things out on my own. I’m thankful to have found a place like TBT where I’m challenged both technically and artistically.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

My husband and I love dogs and currently foster boxers through North Texas Boxer Rescue.


Adam Phillips
Corps de Ballet

Adam Phillips

Corps de Ballet

Adam Phillips

Adam Phillips started dancing at age 11 in Dallas, Texas. He trained at the Ballet Academy of Texas under the direction of Lisa Slagle and Allan Kinzie. From 2016-2018, Phillips trained on a full tuition scholarship with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Professional Division, under the direction of Peter Boal. While there, he worked with world-renowned choreographers and performed with the company. In 2016, Phillips won second in the Youth American Grand Prix Senior Classical Male Division at the Dallas, Texas, semifinals. He has attended many summer intensives including The School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Ballet Austin. He joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2018.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I knew when I was accepted into the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s professional division program in 2016.

What are some of your favorite roles you have performed?

Ivan in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty and Clarinet in Fanfare.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Don’t dance for others. Dance for yourself.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I enjoy researching and building computers, baking, and gaming.


Samantha Pille
Soloist

Samantha Pille

Soloist

Samantha Pille

Samantha began training with Patty Pille’s School of Dance at age two. By eight, she was accepted into The School for Creative and Performing Arts and performed many leading roles. Ms. Pille also trained with San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and the English National Ballet. At 14, she joined Cincinnati Ballet. After joining TBT, she performed principal roles in DGV©: Danse a Grande Vitesse, Tiger Lily in Alice in Wonderland and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. She also performed Esmeralda pas de deux, Don Quixote, and End of Time in Germany at the Theater Münster, and was a guest artist with Queensland Ballet in Australia as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. She joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2016.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Meditation.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

A love for what you’re doing and the willingness to pour yourself into it.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

Having an outlet to express myself.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I used to ride horses competitively.


Katelyn Rhodes
Soloist

Katelyn Rhodes

Soloist

Katelyn Rhodes

Originally from Fort Worth, Katelyn Rhodes began her training at North Central School of Ballet and Trinity Valley School of Ballet. She continued training at Texas Ballet Theater School and Texas Christian University, where she was a Nordan Fine Arts scholar.  Since joining Texas Ballet Theater in 2013, Rhodes has enjoyed performing roles such as the Snow Queen and the Lead Flower in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, the Lilac Fairy in Ben Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty, and the Rooster Girl in Christopher Bruce’s Rooster. She has also enjoyed performing in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake and Dracula, George Balanchine’s Serenade and Rubies, Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort, William Forsythe’s In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated, Harald Lander’s Études, Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, and Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV©: Danse à Grande Vitesse.

When did you start dancing?

 I took my first ballet class when I was 3 years old.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love the discipline and athleticism, but I also love the camaraderie that comes with performing. Being part of a production involving so many wonderful people is what makes ballet fun for me.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

A willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and not worry about what other people will think. Vulnerability, essentially.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I took an interest in calligraphy a few years ago, so I love any chance to work on embellishing my writing style. I’m also a bit of a clean freak, so I enjoy organizing around the house. And who doesn’t love the occasional nap?


David Schrenk
Principal

David Schrenk

Principal

David Schrenk

David Schrenk is originally from Jacksonville, Florida and began his training at the Florida Ballet Training Center under Laurie Byrd. At 10 years old, he started ballet to aid his gymnastics training, but after working with Byrd, he quickly realized dancing was his true passion. He began his professional career by joining Houston Ballet’s second company at 17. After spending a year in Houston with teachers from the Ben Stevenson Academy, Schrenk decided to work with Mr. Stevenson at Texas Ballet Theater and joined the company in 2015. Since working with Stevenson, Schrenk has performed many great roles including Siegfried from Stevenson’s Swan Lake, Prince Florimund from Stevenson’s The Sleeping Beauty, and the improv solo from Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Texas Ballet Theater also sent Schrenk to the 2018 International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, where he won a bronze medal thanks to the coaching of Li Anlin, Tim O’Keefe, Anna Donavan, and Stevenson.


Andre Silva
Principal

Andre Silva

Principal

Andre Silva

Andre Silva is originally from Brasilia, Brazil, and began training at Royal Academy of Dance at age four. He continued training at The HARID Conservatory and the Ben Stevenson Academy. From 2003-2009, Mr. Silva performed several leading roles as a Texas Ballet Theater principal. He was the first recipient of the Booz Allen Hamilton International “Rising Star Award” and was a Silver Medalist at the International Ballet Competition in Shanghai. From 2009-2014, Mr. Silva joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal and then Germany’s Ballet Augsburg. He has choreographed works for Les Grands Ballets de Montréal and Texas Ballet Theater. He is currently a Resident Choreographer for Uptown Dance Company in Houston. Mr. Silva joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2003. @_andreesilva__

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

The magic.

What are some of your favorite roles you have performed?

The Prince in Swan Lake, Bella Figura, and In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

Painting, interior designing, hairstyling, and fashion.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

My mother went into labor while teaching a ballet class, so you could say I was born dancing.


Anastasia Tillman
Corps de Ballet

Anastasia Tillman

Corps de Ballet

Anastasia Tillman

Anastasia Tillman is an alumna of Ballet Conservatory and LakeCities Ballet Theatre. Since the age of nine she has been a laureate of Youth America Grand Prix for several consecutive years. At the age of 14 she went to study at Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia, where she graduated with a diploma in Performing Arts. Tillman also competed in several international competitions such as World Ballet Competition, Helsinki International Ballet Competition, and Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition where she was awarded 2nd place. She danced with Texas Ballet Theater’s Studio Training Company for three years, where she enjoyed performing Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.’s ballets including The Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, the role of Clara in The Nutcracker, and the Bird in Tim O’Keefe’s Peter and the Wolf. Tillman joined TBT’s professional company as a trainee in 2021. During that season she had the pleasure of performing in two world premieres, Violin Concerto in D by Tim O’Keefe and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Ben Stevenson.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love how this art form allows us to boldly express ourselves and our passions without words or inhibitions. When I’m onstage I can feel an emotional connection between the audience and myself. This exhilarating experience makes the sweat, blood, and tears all the more worthwhile.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I have always felt a calling to dance. I remember at age 9 being completely devoted to becoming a professional dancer. There was never a doubt in my mind.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

You have to truly love this art form. Determination is essential.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Never give up! When you’ve hit rock bottom, that’s the time to keep pushing forward and eventually you will achieve your goals.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I’m a huge Star Trek fan!


Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi
Soloist

Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi

Soloist

Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi

Kyle Torres-Hiyoshi is originally from Buffalo, New York, and began his training at the American Academy of Ballet. At age 15, he continued his dance education at The School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center after being offered a full scholarship. He danced with ABT’s Studio Company as well as Boston Ballet II. Mr. Torres-Hiyoshi then joined Sarasota Ballet form 2014-2017, where he danced titled roles in George Balanchine’s Rubies and Diamonds, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Sinfonietta, Valse Nobles et Sentimentales, Scene de Ballet, and Anthony Tudor’s Continuo. His favorite ballets include Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, Jiří Kylián’s Wings of Wax, and Alexander Ekman’s Cacti. He joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2017.


Joamanuel Velázquez
Soloist

Joamanuel Velázquez

Soloist

Joamanuel Velázquez

This is Joamanuel Velazquez’s 16th season with Texas Ballet Theater. A native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, he began his training with Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico. He later attended the Virginia School of the Arts on full scholarship, then joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2007. He has since enjoyed performing in Ben Stevenson’s Don Quixote, Dracula, and Swan Lake. He also enjoyed dancing Pinocchio in Will Tuckett’s Pinocchio. Mr. Velazquez is married to company member Nicole Von Enck and has a two year old daughter.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

The ability to tell a story through movement and emotion.

What are some of your favorite roles you have performed?

My very favorite is Petite Mort, along with Renfield in Dracula, Pinocchio, Mozart’s Requiem, Voluntaries, and Minus 16.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

Experience, imagination, and confidence.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I enjoy photography and backpacking.


Rayleigh Vendt
Corps de Ballet

Rayleigh Vendt

Corps de Ballet

Rayleigh Vendt

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Dallas, Texas, Rayleigh Vendt began her pre-professional training at the Ballet Academy of Texas under Lisa Slagle. After graduating early, she spent one season as a Trainee at Cincinnati Ballet and two seasons as an Apprentice at Ballet Austin. Vendt then joined Oklahoma City Ballet’s Corps de Ballet and danced with the company for five seasons. She has most enjoyed performing Russian Girl in George Balanchine’s Serenade. Vendt joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2020.

When did you start dancing?

I started dancing at 5 years old and was convinced I was going to be a tap dancer until I earned my first pair of pointe shoes at the age of 11. After my first pointe class I was sold, and my love of ballet continues to this day.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I remember, when I was still in my pre-professional training, walking around backstage after a performing the lead in the story ballet, Coppelia, and a mom and her two kids walked up to me. The kids, one boy and one girl, were so excited to tell me about how much they loved the ballet and “could understand the story without anyone talking!” Their mother told me that she had never seen her young kids sit that still for that long and said that she herself felt inspired and moved by the show. I think in that moment, after seeing how excited those kids were, I realized that I wanted to continue making audiences FEEL something human though dance, whether it was joy, or sadness, or simply thought provoking.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

As I’m getting ready, I definitely have to listen to some “pump up” music. Usually it’s something like Prince, or Queen, and recently it’s been “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I have three other siblings and we all danced growing up. My two brothers are actually both dancing with professional companies as well! Also, I really wanted to be the first female professional baseball player when I was young, but I ran the bases on my toes…


Nicole Von Enck
Principal

Nicole Von Enck

Principal

Nicole Von Enck

Nicole Von Enck is in her 13th season with Texas Ballet Theater. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she began her professional training with Joanne Hughes Morscher at the Royal School of Ballet. In 2008, she joined North Carolina Dance Theatre for two years as an apprentice, and in 2010 joined the TBT Company. Some of Nicole’s favorite roles include Odette/Odile from Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake, Cinderella in Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, Russian Girl from George Balanchine’s Serenade, Esmeralda Pas de Deux by Ben Stevenson, the Prima Ballerina in Ètudes by Harald Lander, Third Pas de Deux in Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV©: Danse à Grande Vitesse, Britten Pas by Ben Stevenson, Petite Mort by Jiri Kylian, Flora from Ben Stevenson’s Dracula, Pas de Trois from Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, Pas de Quartre from Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Gloria, and My One and Only variation from George’s Balanchine’s Who Cares. Ms. Von Enck is married to fellow Texas Ballet Theater company member Joamanuel Velazquez and they have a two year old daughter.

When did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was 5 years old. I loved going to watch the ballet ever since I was 3 and I could never seem to stop moving around!

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

It’s hard to pick one thing! I think one of my favorites is that I get to be part of something so much bigger than myself. Every ballet we do is made up of so many parts. No matter what role I have, I get the privilege of participating in the big picture that the audience then gets to enjoy and react to.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

Traveling! During our weeks off, my husband, fellow company member Joamanuel Velázquez, and I love to go on adventures together. We really enjoy camping and wildlife as well as experiencing new cities. Also, we really cherish the time we get to spend when we visit our families. During work weeks I really love spending time with our Bible study group. And we really cherish the time we spend at home with our newborn daughter.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I really love home renovation projects! We bought a fixer-upper several years ago and we have really enjoyed redesigning the space.


Sophie Williams
Corps de Ballet

Sophie Williams

Corps de Ballet

Sophie Williams

Sophie Williams, a California native, began training at Ballet Arte Academy of Classical Ballet in San Diego, before spending one year in Miami City Ballet’s Pre Professional Division. Highlights of her professional career include performing as the First and Second Violins in Concerto Barocco, Dark Angel in George Balanchine’s Serenade, and Gamzatti in La Bayadère; in the corps de ballet of Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, with the Richmond Ballet; and in various full length productions, including Alicia Alonso’s Giselle with Ballet San Jose, and Edwaard Liang’s Don Quixote and Cinderella with BalletMet. In 2020, Williams joined the Corps de Ballet of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, where she had the opportunities to perform in Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Ethan Stiefel’s Giselle. She joined Texas Ballet Theater as a Company Dancer in 2022.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

All of it! I love the journey from the barre, to the creative process in the studios, to every moment on stage!

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

When I was 2 years old I saw the Mariinsky’s Nutcracker. I fell in love, and the rest is history!

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

You need PASSION to be a dancer, and you need to want it more than anything!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I’m 1/2 kiwi (New Zealander).


Henry Winn
Corps de Ballet

Henry Winn

Corps de Ballet

Henry Winn

Henry started dancing at age seven in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Ballet West Academy under the direction of Peter Christie, Jan Fugit and Jeff Rogers. While at Ballet West, he performed many roles with the company including Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Cinderella and The Rite of Spring. While at Ballet West, Winn was invited to perform The Nutcracker with Ballet West at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Winn attended many summer intensives including The School of American Ballet in New York City, Houston Ballet, and Boston Ballet. From 2017 to 2019, Winn trained with Boston Ballet under the direction of Peter Stark, where he performed with Boston Ballet and Boston Ballet II. Winn joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2019.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love the performance.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I knew when I was about 14.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Relax!

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I like skiing.


Hannah Wood
Company Dancer

Hannah Wood

Company Dancer

Hannah Wood

Hannah Wood began her ballet training at North Atlanta Dance Academy in Alpharetta, Georgia. She spent eleven years training and performing in North Atlanta Dance Theater productions. At age fourteen, she began her studies at The HARID Conservatory of the Arts. Three years later, she joined Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy, and in 2014 was selected to become a member of Houston Ballet’s second company. She joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2015. During her time at Texas Ballet Theater, Ms. Wood has enjoyed performing in many ballets, including Ben Stevenson’s Dracula, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV©: Danse à Grande Vitesse and William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

You need to be able to let go of the outside world, and put yourself in that moment on stage. You need to not only dance beautifully, but to show your heart whether you are portraying a character or just getting the chance to show your true love for dance.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Before I do anything to get ready I make sure I take off all my jewelry and put it in a special little box my mom gave to me. Also, before I go on stage I do an exercise in the wings to help establish my balance.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I love watching movies old and new. Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson are definitely two of my favorite directors today.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I have an orange tabby cat named Opie. I named her after Opie Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show, one of my favorite childhood shows!


Brett Young
Soloist

Brett Young

Soloist

Brett Young

Brett Young is from Houston, Texas, where he began his dance training, studying at Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy and the High School for Performing and Visual Art. Upon graduating high school, he attended the University of Oklahoma where he continued his training in OU’s School of Dance under the tutelage of Director Mary Margaret Holt, Steve Brule, and Clara Cravey-Stanely. Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Young joined the ranks of Texas Ballet Theater where he has performed works by Kenneth MacMillan, Glenn Tetley, Ohad Naharin, George Balanchine, Garrett Smith, Val Caniparoli, and Jerome Robbins. During his time with Texas Ballet Theater, he has most enjoyed dancing in Ben Stevenson’s story ballets performing the pas de trois in his Swan Lake and the role of Pothinus in Cleopatra, Jiri Kilyan’s Petite Mort, as well as Rooster from Christopher Bruce’s Rooster and one of the Ghosts in Mr. Bruce’s Ghost Dances. Young joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2013.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

There’s no one favorite thing about it for me, so I will round down to 5. First, the aspect and opportunity for sharing (whether with the audience or fellow dancers), dedication, the endeavor of exploring a different aspect of your persona, the all-around craft inherent in it from rehearsal in the studio to the process on stage, and lastly that it can very often be a sort of conglomeration of all the other art forms in addition to being highly athletic and demanding physically.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

Imagination, dedication, passion, and diligence. And loads of patience.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Eh, depends on the show. Mostly improvisational.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

Reading, gardening, cooking, wood-working, community, time in The Word. Movies and other areas of the arts as well.


Apprentices

Harrison Pickering
Apprentice

Harrison Pickering

Apprentice

Harrison Pickering

Harrison Pickering was born and raised in England until he started his professional training at Canada’s National Ballet School at age 12. While at the school he performed in three seasons of The Nutcracker with National Ballet of Canada and in the opening of the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Pickering then attended Master Ballet Academy in Arizona from age 15-17, performing annually in The Nutcracker with Phoenix Ballet. He also competed in YAGP, placing 2nd in the Classical and Contemporary category (Dallas, 2018) and 1st in both Senior Men’s Classical and Pas de Deux categories (Phoenix, 2019) before attending the Finals in New York. Pickering attended and received full scholarships for summer intensives at both American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet. He also trained privately with David King and Raul Salamanca in 2019 before being awarded a full scholarship to SFB’s year round program, where he trained for 2 years and performed with SFB in The Nutcracker. While in Ballet Arizona’s Studio Company, he performed in works such as George Balanchine’s Violin Concerto, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, and Serenade, Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs, and Ib Andersen’s The Nutcracker, Romeo & Juliet, and Juan Gabriel. Pickering is very excited to be joining Texas Ballet Theater this season as an Apprentice.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love the discipline of ballet and pushing my body to the limit.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I knew when I was 10 and I watched Steven McRae performing the role of James in La Sylphide at the Royal Ballet.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Always be yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I am a twin! My twin sister is a ballet dancer also, with Sarasota Ballet!


Troy Santulli
Apprentice

Troy Santulli

Apprentice

Troy Santulli

Troy Santulli is a native of Boston, Massachusetts. He began his training at the age of 4 with Boston Ballet School. He completed the Trainee Program to conclude his 15 years at the school before joining Kansas City Ballet II in 2020. At Boston Ballet, Troy was directed by Peter Stark and Margaret Tracey. He performed in Mikko ​Nissinen​’s ​The Nutcracker​ for 11 seasons including the role of “Fritz” for 3 years. Troy also performed in Mikko Nissinen​’s ​Swan Lake​ and​ Giselle​ and has taken part in Boston Ballet School’s end of year performances of Next Generation where he was cast in original choreography including Igor Burlak’s ​Double Concerto ​and ​Jaime Sierra’s​ ​Legion​. As a member of KCB II Santulli performed a wide range of works with both the main and second company; some of his favorites included roles in Lila York‘s Celts, Michael Pink’s Dracula, and Tomm Ruud’s Mobile. Throughout the years, Santulli attended Finnish National Ballet, American Ballet Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and The School of American Ballet for their summer intensive programs, receiving numerous scholarships. Troy couldn’t be more excited to be joining Texas Ballet Theater for the 2022-2023 season in his first season as an Apprentice!

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I realized the moment I walked off stage as Fritz for the last time because I knew I would be too tall the next year to do it again. At the time it was the most fulfilled I had ever felt in a role and I knew I wanted to keep going so I could make it to the professional level and continue to embrace new experiences through my dancing.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

Committing to the part 100% is the only way it makes it real to the audience. You have to really believe in your soul you are the character you’re playing.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Try not to worry too much about what other people are thinking. Stay focused on your goal and don’t let them bring you down.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I’ve been to over 100 countries and my goal is to get to all of them!


Trainees

AvaRose Dillon
Trainee

AvaRose Dillon

Trainee

AvaRose Dillon

AvaRose Dillon began dancing at age 9 at the Studio School of Classical Ballet in her hometown of Santa Cruz, California, under Diane Cypher and Robert Kelley. At age 14 she moved to Texas to train at Texas Ballet Theater School, where she spent two seasons as a member of the Studio Training Company. During her time in the Studio Training Company, AvaRose enjoyed performing in many TBT productions including Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, George Balanchine’s Serenade, and Tim O’Keefe’s Violin Concerto in D. She has also attended summer intensives at San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and School of American Ballet, as well as at TBT. AvaRose is honored and excited to join TBT as a Trainee this season.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

The community and people I get to work with, and the passion behind everyone’s hard work.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

My home teacher gave me a swan ornament many years ago before a big show and ever since then I have brought it to every performance. It’s like my good luck token.

Best advice you've ever been given?

My old teacher back home once pulled me aside and told me that to be a successful dancer you must: “Work hard, stay humble, and be kind.” This mantra has always stuck with me.

What do you enjoy outside of dance?

I enjoy being with my friends and family, painting, collecting vinyl records, and thrifting vintage clothes.


Kayla Fessler
Trainee

Kayla Fessler

Trainee

Kayla Fessler

A third-generation dancer from San Antonio, Texas, Kayla Fessler started ballet at age 6. At age 14 she moved to Houston Ballet Academy, where she trained on scholarship for four years. While at Houston Ballet Academy, Kayla trained under many instructors including Sally Rojas, Claudio Munoz, and Susan Bryant, and had the opportunity to perform world-renowned choreography. In 2020 she moved north to continue her training at Texas Ballet Theater School. Kayla joins the professional company this season as a Trainee.

What is your favorite thing about ballet?

I love that ballet is an art form that requires the utmost dedication of heart, mind, and body…both for decades of preparation and for the moment of performance.

What are some of your favorite roles you've performed?

Some of my favorite performance opportunities include George Balanchine’s Serenade as well as Ben Stevenson, O.B.E.’s The Sleeping Beauty.

Best advice you've ever been given?

Leave a place better than you found it. I’ve decided that goes for people too!

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I can solve a Rubik’s cube in under a minute!


Jason McClung
Trainee

Jason McClung

Trainee

Jason McClung

A native of Pearland, Texas, Jason McClung began dancing when he was 8 years old. His training and performance experience have taken him across the country and around the world, including countries such as England, Estonia, and Latvia. Favorite roles include the Butterfly Pas de Deux in Atlanta Ballet 2’s Snow White and a Joyful Spirit in Otis Sallid’s In Came Bach. Jason joins the professional company this season as a Trainee.

When did you know you wanted to become a professional dancer?

I knew that I wanted to become a professional dancer when I moved away from home at 12 and dedicated my time and energy into my training.

What do you believe is necessary to be a great performer?

I believe that to be a great performer it is a necessity to understand how to use your eyes, facial expression and body language to convey the feeling or message intended behind the performance.

Best advice you've ever been given?

The best advice that I’ve ever received would be, “Treasure all the people and memories that bring positivity to your life.”

Tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something people wouldn't suspect!

I was born with 2 thumbs on my right hand!


Professional Division

Our audition-only Professional Division educates, trains, and prepares advanced dancers for a career in professional dance. Click below for more information about these programs.