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50th Anniversary Evening of Stars

Featuring 10 world-renowned classical ballet and ballroom artists  Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Hutto Edwards chair on-stage Gala dinner with artists following performance

NEW ORLEANS, LA — Celebrating 50 years of “Bringing Dance to Life,” the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) kicks off its golden anniversary year with a glittering, star-studded 50th Anniversary Evening of Stars on January 26 at 6:30 p.m., at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. This elegant evening dazzles with a program of classical masterpieces from Swan Lake, Cinderella and Paquita to sleek contemporary and stylish ballroom works performed by an all-star cast of the world’s preeminent artists, including international guest stars, Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro, formerly of National Ballet of Cuba; Jerome and Laura Tisserand, Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz of Pacific Northwest Ballet; Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets of San Francisco Ballet; and more! NBC “World of Dance” and US champion ballroom stars Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina will add Latin sizzle to this stellar program. The 50th Anniversary Evening of Stars is an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime event. After the Evening of Stars performance, BRAVO (Ballet Resource and Volunteer Organization) hosts its largest fundraiser of the year on the stage of the Mahalia Jackson Theater. With honorary chairs Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Hutto Edwards, 300 guests will move from audience to stage and be joined by the artists for a spectacular, grand-seated dinner by Hyatt Regency New Orleans’ 1718 Events.

“We are honored to celebrate 50 years of bringing dance to life with an extraordinary evening with these exquisite artists followed by a unique opportunity to join them on the stage for dinner, chaired by Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Hutto Edwards. The evening will kick off with a special tribute to three community visionaries whose extraordinary creativity and vision helped chart the course of innovation, evolution, and collaboration that has established the organization as it exists today: NOBA Center for Dance Founders Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson and Janée Michelle Tucker and former NOBA Board Chair Dr. Bernard Jaffe,” comments NOBA Executive Director Jenny Hamilton.

The 50th Anniversary Evening of Stars performance tickets start at $20 and are available online at NOBAdance.com; by calling (504) 522-0996; in-person at NOBA’s Box Office, 935 Gravier Street, Suite 800; or through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com. Discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more, students and seniors are also available. Packages including the dinner on the stage are available by calling NOBA at (504) 522-0996.

A COMMAND PERFORMANCE

The stellar performance features five elite couples performing a program of traditional classical ballet masterpieces, sleek contemporary works plus thrilling ballroom gems from a quick jive to a smooth rumba. Making their first appearance in New Orleans are San Francisco Ballet principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets. Born in Shanghai, China, Tan became the youngest principal in the history of San Francisco Ballet at the age of 19. Hailed as a “national treasure” by China Daily, she is the first Chinese prima ballerina in the United States and one of the greatest Chinese ballerinas of all time. Tan and Estonia born Hilimets, acclaimed for being an elegant and superb partner, perform the iconic White Swan Pas de Deux (1895) from Swan Lake Act II. Swan Lake, one of the most popular Romantic ballets, features music by Peter Ilyich Tchiakovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. This sensational pair will also dance the mesmerizing and breathtakingly beautiful duet from The Fifth Season (2006) by San Francisco Ballet’s artistic director Helgi Tomasson and set to music by Karl Jenkins.

Four celebrated principal artists from Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet bring duets from the company’s diverse repertoire. Louisiana native, Laura Gilbreath Tisserand and her Paris Opera Ballet trained husband, Jerome, perform two works created by Pacific Northwest Ballet founder Kent Stowell, including the lush pas de deux from his full-length Cinderella (1994) set to Sergei Prokofiev and an exotic contemporary duet from Carmina Burana (1993). Cuban-born Karel Cruz and his wife Lindsi Dec perform an ultra-modern and riveting excerpt from Emergence (2009) by the inventive Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite and the traditional pas de deux from Paquita (1881) by Marius Petipa with music by Édouard Deldevez and Ludwig Minkus.

Originally from Cuba, international principal guest artists Adiarys Almeida and Taras Domitro perform the tempestuous and virtuosic Black Swan Pas de Deux (1895) from Act III Swan Lake, a classical favorite of ballerinas and audiences alike. While the White Swan duet is the tender declaration of love between Odette and Seigfried, the Black Swan pas tells about the sinister deception of Siegfried by Odile. The couple brings a taste of Cuba with the fiery Carmen Suite (1967) by Cuban choreographer and cofounder of the National Ballet of Cuba, Alberto Alonso. Carmen Suite was originally created for Bolshoi Ballet prima ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.

Adding sizzle to the program are two-time US National Latin Champions and contestants on seasons 1 and 2 of NBC’s hit TV show “World of Dance,” Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina. The couple, originally from the Ukraine, will perform three crowd-pleasing dances, including the flashy jive, Rolling, to Tina Turner’s hit Proud Mary, a hauntingly beautiful Rumba set to music by Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Chris Botti and the sophisticated Tango, Irresistible to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.

THE POST-PERFORMANCE GALA DINNER

After the Evening of Stars performance, BRAVO | Ballet Resource and Volunteer Organization hosts its largest fundraiser of the year on the stage of the Mahalia Jackson Theater. With honorary chairs Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Hutto Edwards, 300 guests will move from audience to stage and be joined by the Evening of Stars artists for a spectacular, grand-seated dinner by Hyatt Regency New Orleans’ 1718 Events. The evening will feature music and dancing to Julio & César, live and silent auctions, a Lee Michaels shopping spree raffle and more. All Gala package buyers receive premium seating to the performance, VIP perks, and post-performance reception admittance. Benefactors also receive an invitation to the exclusive Benefactor Dinner hosted by the Windsor Court Hotel on February 5.

For Gala package information and tickets, call NOBA at (504) 522-0996 ext. 208 or visit NOBAdance.com.

The Evening of Stars performance is sponsored by Hyatt Regency New Orleans. The BRAVO Gala dinner is sponsored by 1718 Events by Hyatt Regency New Orleans, Pan American Life Insurance Group, Pamela and Warner Williams, Windsor Court Hotel and Lee Michaels.

ABOUT THE 50th ANNIVERSARY EVENING OF STARS ARTISTS

Lindsi Dec, Principal Dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet: Lindsi Dec is from Fairfax, Virginia. She trained at Washington School of Ballet and on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet School. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2001 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2002, soloist in 2009, and principal in 2014. Dec has performed as a guest artist with Ballet Hawaii, California Ballet, Corpus Christi Ballet, Dance Arts Theatre, Grand Rapids Ballet, Lafayette Ballet, and Mid-Columbia Ballet.

Karel Cruz, Former Principal Dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet: Karel Cruz is from Holguin, Cuba, and received his training at Cuba’s Escuela Nacional de Artes. He joined Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 1996 and left in 1998 to join Ballet Clásico de Cámara in Venezuela. From 1999 to 2000, he danced with Venezuela’s Teatro Teresa Carreño. After coming to the United States, Cruz spent a year at the Rock School before joining Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2002. He was promoted to soloist in 2007 and principal in 2009. Cruz retired from Pacific Northwest Ballet in July 2018.

Yuan Yuan Tan, Principal Dancer with San Francisco Ballet: Yuan Yuan Tan was born in Shanghai, China, and trained at Shanghai Dancing School and the John Cranko School. She joined San Francisco Ballet as a soloist in 1995 and, in 2012 at the age of 19, became the youngest principal in the history of San Francisco Ballet. Her extensive repertory includes major classical roles as well as principal roles for many new works created for San Francisco Ballet. She was named a “Hero of Asia” by Time (Asian edition) and one of the world’s most influential Chinese by Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV. Her awards include an Isadora Duncan Award for her 2014-15 San Francisco Ballet season and the 2014 Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for her performances in Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU. Called a “national treasure” by China Daily, she is the first Chinese prima ballerina in the United States and one of the greatest Chinese ballerinas of all time. 

Tiit Helimets, Principal Dancer with San Francisco Ballet: Tiit Helimets was born in Viljandi, Estonia, and received his ballet training at the Tallinn Ballet School. In 1996, Helimets joined the Estonian National Ballet as a soloist and, within six months that same year, was appointed a principal dancer. Known for being an elegant classical dancer and superb partner, Helimets performs a diverse classical repertoire. In 1999, he joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet and was promoted to principal dancer in 2002. In 2005, he joined the San Francisco Ballet as a principal dancer. He received an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Performance for his 2015 performances of Giselle and the Award for Outstanding Performance in Estonia for guest appearances in The Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.

Taras Domitro, Principal International Guest Artist: Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Domitro trained at Alejo Carpentier School and the National Ballet School in Havana. Domitro was nominated for best male dancer at the 2013 Benois de la Danse. He also won the 2008 Gold Medal at the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, Florida, the 2003 Grand Prix at Peru’s International Ballet Festival, and first prize and the Revelation Award at the 2000 International Ballet Competition and Ballet Academies Festival in Havana, Cuba. At age 20, he became a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba, where he launched an outstanding career, sharing the stage with amazing renowned dancers such as Italian Prima Ballerina Carla Fracci. He then joined the San Francisco Ballet as a principal dancer, expanding a versatile repertoire. As an international principal guest artist, Domitro has performed with renowned companies and on some of the most important stages around the world.

Adiarys Almeida, Principal International Guest Artist: Born and raised in Matanzas, Cuba, Almeida is a former Cincinnati Ballet and Corella Ballet principal dancer and first soloist with Boston Ballet. Her professional training includes The Vocational Arts School “Alfonso Perez Isaac” in Matanzas, Cuba, and The National Ballet School in Havana, Cuba. After graduating in 2001, she joined the National Ballet of Cuba under the direction of Alicia Alonso, where she danced from 2001–2003.  At the International Ballet Competition in Havana, Cuba, Almeida received the silver medal in 1997 and 1998, and the gold medal in 1999 and 2000. In 1999, she was honored to participate at the International Ballet Competition in Nagoya, Japan, and the Gala of Ballet Muses in Tokyo as a partner of Cuban ballet prodigy Rolando Sarabia. She was also the first Cuban female dancer to be a finalist at the USA International Ballet Competition in 2006. As an international principal guest artist, she has graced the stages of prestigious venues with renowned companies around the world.

Laura Tisserand, Principal Dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet: Originally from Hammond, La., Laura Tisserand trained with Phoebe Brantley in Baton Rouge, Joseph Giacobbe and Richard Rholdon in New Orleans, and the School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet School on a scholarship. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 2003 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 2004, soloist in 2010 and principal in 2014. She has performed as a guest artist with Lafayette Ballet Theatre.

Jerome Tisserand, Principal Dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet: Jerome Tisserand is from Lyon, France. He trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School, with Pascale Courdioux in Lyon, and at the School of American Ballet. He joined Miami City Ballet as an apprentice in 2006. In 2007, he joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet and was promoted to soloist in 2012 and principal in 2014. Tisserand won second prize at the 2003 Dance Festival of Artists in Nyon, Switzerland, and first prize in the 2004 Prix Carpeaux in Valenciennes, France.

Denys Drozdyuk and Antonina Skobina, U.S. National Latin Champions: Denys Drozdyuk started dancing at the age of four in Ukraine. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from The Juilliard School in New York and a Master of Arts in dance education from New York University. Skobina was born in Ukraine and started dancing at the age of seven. She has a passion for acting and is a graduate of the New York Film Academy. The couple has been dancing together since 2006, and together they are known as DNA — a name used when they were contestants for seasons 1 and 2 of NBC’s hit TV show “World of Dance.” They are two-time U.S. National Latin Champions, World Championship Finalists, as well as the winners of all major ballroom dance competitions in the United States. They are the first ever American couple to win the Blackpool Amateur Rising Stars Latin Championship in Blackpool, England, which is the most prestigious ballroom dance competition in the world. They are known for their unique fusion show dance performances, where they incorporate numerous dance styles, including ballroom, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop and other styles. 
Editor’s note: For a Dropbox folder of hi-res, downloadable images click here.

About the New Orleans Ballet Association:

NOBA is the Central Gulf region’s premier presenting and service organization dedicated solely to the art of dance. NOBA’s dynamic Main Stage season annually features a diverse array of world-class companies and artists. Each year NOBA provides concerts, classes, workshops and lectures to more than 30,000 area dance enthusiasts of all ages. In addition, NOBA’s nationally recognized, award-winning education programs provide the youth of our community access to quality arts programs with over 5,000 free dance classes and workshops annually at ten sites throughout the Greater New Orleans area. 


NOBA is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, and the NEA, a Federal agency; a Community Arts Grant made possible by the City of New Orleans and administered by the Arts Council New Orleans (ACNO); and a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered through ACNO. Follow @nobadance on Facebook and Instagram.

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Rosalind Hall