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2016-2017 Choreographers

Choreographer: Alexandra Damiani

alexandra damianiAlexandra Damiani was most recently the Artistic Director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet based in New York City, "possibly the country's most innovative contemporary ballet troupe with an A-list repertoire, and an accent on creation that few companies worldwide can match." according to Siobhan Burkejune at the New York Times.

During her 10-year-tenure with Cedar lake Contemporary Ballet (2005-2015), both as Ballet Master and Artistic Director, Alexandra worked closely with world renowned choreographers such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Stijn Celis, Alexander Ekman, Andonis Fionadakis, Jacopo Godani, Jill Jonhson, Ohad Naharin, Crystal Pite, Benoit Swan Pouffer, Hofesh Schecter, Richard Siegal, Jo Stromgren, Regina Van Berkel and Didy Veldman. Throughout these years, Alexandra took great pleasure in directing dancers of diverse backgrounds to demonstrate fluency in a wide range of techniques and dance languages, and access a deep comprehension of abstract artistry as well as emotional nuances.

Alexandra brought her expertise to the cinema, portraying the role of a Ballet Mistress along Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Black Swan, the award-winning movie directed by Darren Arnofsky (2010) and working as a consultant to Benoit Swan Pouffer on his choreographic work with Emily Blunt for the movie Adjustment Bureau directed by George Nolfi (2010). 

A native of France, Alexandra received her early training in Classical Ballet at The Geneva Dance Center, Switzerland with David Allen and Claudine Kamoun. She studied privately with Paris Opera Ballet Teacher Attilio Labis and became the assistant of Patricia Alzetta in Jazz Technique. Alexandra won the first place at the International Dance Competition in Bordeaux and then Marseille, prompting her to move to New York to study at The Alvin Ailey School in 1995. During her 15-year-career as a soloist dancer with Donald Byrd/The Group, Complexions, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and Rubberbandancegroup, she performed extensively in North America, Europe and Asia. Combining her rich dance background with an enthusiasm for directing dancers and a flexibility with varying philosophies of movement, Alexandra is frequently invited to conduct master classes in the U.S. and around the world with such dance institutions as the Juilliard School, Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and Ballet Junior of Geneva, Switzerland.

Her passion for continuously learning about the knowledge nestled in the body and its transformative power led her seven years ago to study the ancient healing movement practice of Qigong under the guidance of Sat Hon, Taoist Master of the Dragon Gate Lineage and founder of the Dantao School in New York.  She is now a 22nd generation holder of the Dragon Gate Lineage.
Choreographer: Norbert De La Cruz III

Norbert De La CruzNamed as one of Dance Magazine's Top 25 To Watch for 2016, NY and LA-based freelance artist, Norbert De La Cruz III, has lured his community and audiences' hearts, generating nationwide choreographic attention at the age of 22. Born in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines and raised in East LA, he began studying an array of dance styles at age 13. He is fascinated in exploring how the stylistic worlds of both classical and modern dance compromise; giving rise and fall to one another. Norbert was privately trained in Cecetti and Vagonova techniques by renowned ballet masters Vera Ninkovic and Marat Daukayev. His eclectic training includes Everybody Dance! Gabriella Foundation, Marat Daukayev School of Ballet, American Ballet Theatre NYC, San Francisco Ballet School, Miami City Ballet, LINES, Northwest Professional Dance Project, NDT Summer Dans Course, the LA County HS for the Arts and he received his bachelors degree
in Fine Arts in Dance from The Juilliard School (2010).

He has performed professionally as a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera House's production of "Aida," toured Germany and Austria with Aszure Barton & Artists in (Blue Soup & Busk), Balletto Teatro di Torino (Italy), Sydney Skybetter & Associates, Santa Clarita Ballet's "Midsummer Night's Dream", Lustig Dance Theatre, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Gallim (Lacoste Promo), JChen Project, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, and represented the Juilliard School at Kodak Theatre's 1st annual Dizzy Feet Foundation Gala in Hollywood. Norbert has temporarily forgone his performance career, permitting him to focus on his choreographic development.

He was a finalist of Hubbard Street's National Choreographic Competition, a Princess Grace Foundation-USA Award under the choreography fellowship, Alvin Ailey New Directions Choreography Lab, recipient of the Joffrey Academy of Dance Choreographer of Color Award, recipient for the National Choreographic Initiative in Irvine, CA, and placed top 2 in the Palm Desert McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival. At 28 years of age, Norbert has since been commissioned to create and premier new works for companies such as Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Hubbard Street 2, Joffrey Academy of Dance, James Sewell Ballet, Tulsa Ballet II, BalletX, and Barak Ballet. Additional choreographic and teaching credentials include The Juilliard School summer program, The IV International Ballet Summer Intensive (in Gdansk, Poland), The Alvin Ailey School/Fordham University, Princeton University Ballet, University of Hartford Dance Division, Marymount Manhattan College, SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance, NJ Performing Arts Center, Grand Arts Visual and Performing Arts HS, LACHSA, OCSA, Windward School for the Arts, Westside Dance Project, No.One.Arthouse, Charles Maple Youth Conservatory, The University of Richmond, and several workshops/projects in both New York City and California.

Norbert continues to apply his passion in choreography and movement in the diverse worlds of neo-classical and contemporary ballet, both empowering and fusing a unique and pure vocabulary for dance - reflecting and sharing his philosophies and interests to artists and viewers nationwide.

Choreographer: Alicia Diaz

Alicia Díaz, originally from Puerto Rico, is co-founder of Agua Dulce Dance Theater, with movement artist Matthew Thornton. Her choreography has been presented in the United States, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Argentina, Spain, and Mexico. She toured nationally and internationally with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Donald Byrd/The Group, Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater, Andanza Compañía Puertorriqueña de Danza Contmeporánea, Alice Farley Dance Theater, and Contemporary Motions, as well as numerous independent choreographers. In 1997, Díaz co-founded en la brega dance company with Puerto Rican dancer and choreographer Ñequi González, and she co-directed Rubí Theater Company—an artistic collective dedicated to creating works pertinent to Latino experiences in the U.S.—from 2000-2004.

Film and video dance projects include Sand (independent film by Steven Dean, 1996), Yucuninu (a site-specific film by Alison Dobbins, 2009), Yucuninu: The Development of a Dance (documentary by Alison Dobbins, 2009), Grain of Sand: A Dance for the Camera Project (in-progress with Alison Dobbins), and The Seed and the Gardener (video dance by Kim Su Theiler, 2009). 

Alicia is Assistant Professor of Dance at The University of Richmond. Prior to coming to UR, she was Assistant Professor of Dance at Hope College, Assistant Professor/Artist-in-Residence at Kent State University, and been a guest artist-teacher at The American College Dance Festival, Rutgers University, University of Michigan, New York University, Henry Street Settlement, and Festival Internacional Danz’aquí in Puerto Rico.

Choreographer: Starrene Foster

A Richmond native, Starrene Foster is a performer, dance educator and the Artistic Director of Starr Foster Dance Project. Starrene a recipient of the Theresa Pollak Award for Artistic Excellence and has been featured on the PBS broadcast Virginia Currents. Foster was also awarded Richmond’s Most Prestigious 25 Arts Innovators, The Top 40 under 40 and has been nominated for twoARTSIE awards by the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle for her choreography. Starrene is the beneficiary of the 2003 VCU Star Alumni Award where she is presently in her sixteenth year as an adjunct faculty member. She has received grants from the Virginia Council for the Arts, and many commissions for new dance works from universities and various dance companies. Starrene teaches throughout the country and her choreography has been presented nationally which include: The Philadelphia Fringe Festival (PA), The Jack Guidone Theatre (DC), SUNY Buffalo (NY), The New World School (FL), Old Dominion University (VA), Cornell University (NY), James Madison University (VA), Dance Charlotte (NC), The Goose Route Dance Festival (WV), the Demetrius Klein Dance Festival (FL), The Richmond Ballet (VA), University of Richmond (VA), Scranton Cultural Arts Center (PA), Baltimore Theatre Project (MD), The Lorton Workhouse (DC), and the Festival of Choreography (NC). As a dancer, Starrene trained under many dance greats and has had the pleasure of training with and performing works by Mark Taylor, Chris Burnside, Doug Varone, Sharon Kinney, Ronald K. Brown, Mark Dendy, Pewan Chow (Hong Kong), Raul Parro (Mexico), among many others. In addition to her faculty position at VCU, Starrene is also on faculty at the Richmond Ballet.

Choreographer: Abdul Latif

abdul-latifAbdul Latif-Dulie Dules, graduated from Wesleyan University where he double majored in the College of Social Studies and Theater, with a concentration in Dance. He choreographed the hit music video Off The Books with award-winning director Chris Robinson and as well as the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics. He received his Masters Degree from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts with a concentration in choreography and direction.

While in graduate school Abdul choreographed for multi-platinum recording artists Cynthia Torres and Deborah Cox. He then became a member of Donald Byrd’s contemporary ballet company, The Group and followed his tenure there with becoming a member Jennifer Muller’s contemporary modern company, The Works.

Abdul performed in the TONY Award winning Broadway productions of The Lion King and Hairspray. His film appearances include The Royal Tenenbaums and Across the Universe. Abdul has appeared on the television series 100 Centre St and in national commercials for Nokia and Radio Shack. 

Abdul returned to creating his own work, choreographing and directing for the Equity Union; Broadway Cares Organization 20th Anniversary Bonnet Event; Gypsy of The Year; and Broadway Bares. He choreographed Building: A Popera at the Clark Studio Theater with longtime mentor, Gail Noppe at Lincoln Center Institute. He conceived and choreographed Kaleidoscope for the St Jude Foundation at the Madison Avenue Armory.

Abdul was a two-time ACT-SO National Arts Competition winner in the categories of Contemporary Voice, Dance, Drama and Oration. He has twice been a special guest speaker of The Archdioceses of New York for the National Inner-City Scholarship Fund, presenting on the merits of its educational funding. In 2005 he was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI at the Cologne, Germany World Youth Summit, where he was specially selected to represent his country. He has been an Architect of the Future Grant Nominee, a Robert Wilson–Watermill Foundation Semi-Finalist and is currently the first Lincoln Center Institute Fellow of his collaboratively designed grant proposal; The NEXT Project, supported by The Rockefeller Brothers Fund.  In the summer of 2012, Abdul was selected to be in residence at Ballet Hispanico's Instituto Coreografico and was specially invited to perform at The Fendafor Festival in Brazil, where he received the Artist Distinction Award.

Choreographer: Eric Rivera

Eric RiveraA native of Puerto Rico, Eric Rivera earned his MFA in Choreography from SUNY Purchase College. During his performing career he danced with Ballet Hispanico of New York for 13 seasons where he helped to create over 20 original works. He also performed with Minnesota Ballet as principal dancer, Ballet Theater of Pennsylvania, Danza Jazz de San Juan and in the European tour of West Side Story. He has appeared as guest artist in different companies such as Connecticut Ballet, Thomas Ortiz Dance, Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, Westchester Ballet and Brooklyn Ballet. Eric had the pleasure of performing choreographies of Ann Reinking, Mark Morris, José Limon, Kenneth McMillan, Margot Sapinton, Graciela Daniel, Kevin Wynn, Vicente Nebrada, Talley Beatty and George Balanchine.

His works have been presented by Dance Iquail, Ashani Dance, Owensboro Dance Company, ACDFA Gala at Little Rock, AR, NY Summer Stage and the show They Called it Rock. His television appearances include PBS¿ Setting the Stage, NBC¿s 20th Hispanic Heritage Awards, Hispanic Day Parade with Brenda Blackmon, Puerto Rican Day Parade with Ernie Anastos and the documentary ¿Pedro Ruiz Home Coming¿ among others.

Currently is an Assistant Professor of Dance at VCU. Eric taught at Western Kentucky University as an assistant professor where his works were funded by grants from WKU Research and Creativity Activity Program (RCAP). In his creative work as well as in his teaching, he is constantly exploring ways in which to dialogue with and share his Hispanic heritage. Mr. Rivera is an ABT Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT Teachers Training Intensive in Primary through level seven of the ABT National Training Curriculum.

Choreographer: Anne Van Gelder

anne van gelder

Anne Norman Van Gelder, Director of Dance and Artistic Director of the University Dancers, holds a B.A. from Virginia Intermont College and an M.F.A. from the University of Utah, both in Choreography and Pedagogy. Ms. Van Gelder performed and served as ballet master in companies in Virginia and Utah. As a dancer, Ms. Van Gelder worked with a variety of educators and choreographers from all over the world including Alun Jones, Conrad Ludlow, Richard Munro, Tom Pazik, and Stanley Zompakos, among others.

At the University of Richmond, Ms. Van Gelder has worked with Stefanie Batten Bland, Norbert De La Cruz III, Alexandra Damiani, Kanji Segawa, Jacquline Buglisi, Bill Hastings, Diane Coburn Bruning, Billy Seigenfeld, and Francesca Harper, among others. Her choreography has been performed in collaboration with UR ensemble-in-residence, eighth blackbird. She has taught all levels of ballet technique at the University of Richmond, the University of Utah, Virginia Intermont College and the Willam F. Christensen Center for Dance. In Utah, she served as Dance Instructor/Choreographer for gymnasts who were members of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team. Ms. Van Gelder also taught jazz dance in Utah and Virginia and created choreography for Theatre Bristol, Park City Shakespeare Festival, and the Ogden Symphony.

Ms. Van Gelder has created various works for University Players & Dancers, including collaborations with the Department of Music. She worked with the Saratov Academic Youth Theatre on their US premiere of The Humpbacked Horse, featuring dances she re-set and she appeared as Hedy in UR’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. She has also created choreography for the following UR Players & Dancers productions:  Wings, The Tempest, Fiddler on the Roof, The Chairs, and The Bald Soprano, directed by Italian director and filmmaker, Paolo Landi.

She continues to study dance regularly, including workshops in New York where she enjoys studying historic dance. She has made presentations on dance history at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and regularly attends the American College Dance Association conference. Ms. Van Gelder teaches Productions Studies, Dance History-Theory, all levels of Ballet, and Jazz technique. Ms. Van Gelder is a member of Alpha Psi Omega, Dramatic Honorary and considers her study of dance and pedagogy ongoing.

Previous Choreographers

Agua Dulce Dance Theater

Robert Battle

Stephanie Batten Bland

Charlotte Boye-Christensen

Diane Coburn Bruning

Jacqulyn Buglisi

Chris Burnside

Frank Chaves

Jean Paul Commelin

Myra Daleng

Alexandra Damiani

Andrea Del Conte

Norbert De La Cruz III

Alicia Diaz

Barbara Duffy

Pamela England

Gerri Houlihan

Steven Iannacone

Starr Foster

Dr. James Frazier

Tiffani Harris

Bill Hastings

Willie Hinton

Rebecca Hodal

Larry Keigwin

Jason Luks

Stephanie Martinez

Jenna McClintock

Scott Putman

Kanji Segawa

Susan Shields

Billy Siegenfeld

Gusti Sudarta

Matthew Thornton

Nathan Trice

Kim Urba

Anne Van Gelder

Doug Varone

Christian von Howard

Jill Brammer Ware