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New Roles, New Faces

Six headshots

By Mary Ashley Ray

The dawn of a new season is an opportunity to not only rehearse and prepare new productions, but also to meet new faces and shift into new roles. Here at Texas Ballet Theater, we’re excited to introduce the community to five new dancers and new roles within our Artistic leadership.

In July, we announced that Ben Stevenson, O.B.E., TBT’s longest-serving Artistic Director, was named Artistic Director Laureate. With this change, former Associate Artistic Director Tim O’Keefe stepped into the role of Acting Artistic Director. On TBT’s staff since 2002, O’Keefe is excited for this season.

“I am looking forward to working with the dancers and seeing how they progress during the season,” he said. “The repertoire is quite unique and challenging this season, and the dancers will need a range of technique and artistry to bring this season to life. I know they will and I will truly enjoy watching their talent unfold on stage.”

The 2022-2023 season opens with Cirque du Ballet, Stevenson’s latest world premiere.

“I am really looking forward to Cirque du Ballet and the choreographic process that is part of a new production,” O’Keefe said. “Working with Ben [Stevenson] for so many years, it’s always a pleasure and a huge learning experience to sit by his side and watch him create on the dancers.”

O’Keefe’s goals for the season include keeping the dancers healthy and strong, welcoming more students to TBT School, and being active in the community.

Moving into a different role on the Artistic staff brings new responsibilities. As Acting Artistic Director, O’Keefe will oversee programming selections for the next season, hire new dancers through company auditions, be more involved with the school campuses in Dallas and Fort Worth, and more.

When it comes to the dancers, audiences will see five new faces on stage this season. Harry Pickering and Troy Santulli have both made the move to Texas to join the company as Apprentices.

Born and raised in England, Pickering moved to Toronto to train at Canada’s National Ballet School at age 12. He has since trained and performed in Arizona (Master Ballet Academy), New York (YAGP competition), and California (San Francisco Ballet), and was a dancer in Ballet Arizona’s Studio Company.

Santulli is a native of Boston and began his training at Boston Ballet School. He attended summer programs at Finnish National Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, and the School of American Ballet, and most recently danced as a member of Kansas City Ballet II.

Three new trainees have joined the company as well: AvaRose Dillon, Kayla Fessler, and Jason McClung.

Dillon is from Santa Cruz, California, but moved to Texas to train with TBT School at age 14. She spent two of her three seasons at TBT School in the Studio Training Company. She has also attended summer intensives at San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and School of American Ballet.

Fessler is from San Antonio and began ballet at age 6. She moved to Houston at age 14 to train at Houston Ballet Academy for four years, then in 2020 moved north to train at TBT School.

McClung is a native of Pearland, Texas, and began dancing when he was 8 years old. He has trained and performed around the world in countries such as England, Estonia, and Latvia.

To learn more about our new dancers, visit the Dancers page of our website.