Your January Roster Roundup: Dancers and Directors on the Move

January 8, 2024

Happy New Year, readers!

The past few weeks have brought another exciting round of dancer career news—check out the latest farewells, appointments, promotions, and more in the first ballet roster roundup of 2024.

Promotions and Appointments

On December 19, Queensland Ballet announced the appointment of Leanne Benjamin to artistic director. She succeeds Li Cunxin, who after 11 years stepped down from leadership at the completion of the 2023 season. Benjamin, a Queensland native, is a former principal with The Royal Ballet and English National Ballet, most recently serving as vice-chair of the board of Governors for The Royal Ballet Companies.

Dutch National Ballet director Ted Brandsen announced the promotions of Giorgi Potskhishvil️i and Timothy van Poucke to principal after their respective performances of Abd al-Rahman in Raymonda on December 18 and 21.

Following The Australian Ballet’s final performance of Swan Lake on December 16, Jill Ōgai and Marcus Morelli were promoted to principal.

Jill Ōgai and Marcus Morelli hold roses as they celebrate their promotions onstage. Ōgai leans forward and opens her mouth in radiating joy, the other company members celebrating, cheering, and dancing around them both.
Jill Ōgai and Marcus Morelli (holding roses) with members of The Australian Ballet. Photo by Pierre Toussaint, courtesy TAB.

Fourteen additional dancers have been promoted at The Australian Ballet: Yuumi Yamada to senior artist; Cameron Holmes, Misha Barkidjija, Katherine Sonnekus, Aya Watanabe, and Maxim Zenin to soloist; and, to coryphée, Sara Andrlon, Saranja Crowe, Hugo Dumapit, Adam Elmes, Evie Ferris, Lilla Harvey, Larissa Kiyoto-Ward, and Montana Rubin.

Madison Ballet artistic director Ja’ Malik has promoted former apprentices Eric Stith, Charlotte Junge, and James Wainwright to company artist.

Farewells and New Arrivals

Christopher Powney, shown waist-up, poses for a portrait photo. He smizes slightly and wears a bright blue suit jacket.
Christopher Powney. Photo courtesy of The Royal Ballet.

The Royal Ballet School has announced that artistic director and CEO Christopher Powney will step down in July at the conclusion of his second five-year term. Powney, a former dancer with Northern Ballet, English National Ballet, and Rambert Dance Company, was named artistic director of The Royal Ballet School in 2014; he was made artistic director and CEO in 2022. The school’s board of governors has begun a search for Powney’s successor.

On December 30, San Francisco Ballet announced that principal Luke Ingham has retired after 12 years with the company. He will move to Portland, Oregon, to be with his wife, choreographer and Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director Danielle Rowe.

Royal New Zealand Ballet principal Sara Garbowski retired from the stage on December 9, the day of the company’s final performance of Hansel & Gretel.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre bid farewell to longtime artists Gabrielle Thurlow and Joseph Parr during the company’s run of The Nutcracker. Thurlow, a soloist, gave her final performance on December 23 after 17 years with PBT; corps member Parr gave his on December 28 after 16.

On December 17, Singapore Ballet announced the retirements of several company dancers: longtime principals Kenya Nakamura and Chihiro Uchida, soloist May Yen Cheah, demi-soloists Beatrice Castañeda and Ma Ni, and artist Ivan Koh.

After 16 years with Ballet Idaho, longtime principal Andrew Taft retired on December 24. Taft, who joined the company in 2008, was promoted to principal in 2012.

Daisy Ye has joined New York Theatre Ballet for its 2023­­–24 season.

Awards and Recognitions

Julie Felix, shown wearing decorous master's graduation attire, smiles and poses for a photo while holding her honorary diploma.
Julie Felix. Photo courtesy of Falmouth University.

Falmouth University has appointed Julie Felix a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year 2024 Honours List for her services to dance education. Felix, who was appointed a Falmouth University Honorary Fellow in 2022, performed with Dance Theatre of Harlem from 1977 to 1986; she went on to teach at Birmingham Royal Ballet (then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet) until 1997, then worked as a guest teacher at various companies in the UK before beginning her Falmouth fellowship in 2022.

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Jonathan Batista has been awarded Entertainer of the Year 2023 by the Seattle-local People of Color Against AIDS Network.

On December 10, the NAACP Rahway Sankofa Freedom Fund recognized The Lion King Broadway cast member and former Dance Theatre of Harlem company member Daphne Marcelle Lee as a 2023 honoree.