GRAND RAPIDS BALLET DANCERS

Meet the professional dancers of Grand Rapids Ballet. This wonderful, diverse group includes dancers from around Michigan, across the country, and from locations around the world. Their commitment and dedication to the art of dance and ballet is what makes what we do possible. Learn more about them here and follow us on Instagram, too!

COMPANY

Isaac Aoki

Isaac Aoki

Company since 2014, Apprentice 2013

Isaac is from Salt Lake City, Utah and began his ballet training at Ballet West Academy. He then studied at Salt Lake Ballet Conservatory, The University of Utah Ballet Department with Conrad Ludlow and Mikhail Tchoupakov, and the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC with Nikolai Kabaniaev. Isaac attended summer courses on scholarship at The School of American Ballet, Kaatsbaan, PNB, Ellison Ballet, and Miami City Ballet School. Isaac received a full scholarship to attend the Professional Division at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle where he performed with the company.

James Cunningham

James Cunningham

Company since 2019

James Cunningham is originally from Little Hocking, Ohio. His early dance education began at age 10 from the Mid Ohio Valley Ballet Academy. In 2010, he graduated from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. While earning a BFA in dance on full scholarship, he was also able to begin his career as a professional dancer with Cincinnati Ballet in 2008. There, James performed roles such as Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mercutio from Romeo and Juliet, Country Boy from Fancy Free, Principal Pas de Deux from Rubies, Escamillo from Carmen, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland...

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and Kashchei from Firebird. James danced with Cincinnati Ballet for 11 seasons and was promoted to Soloist in 2016. Cunningham has worked with many choreographers; Adam Hougland, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Jennifer Archibald, Justin Peck, Ma Cong, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, Trey McIntyre, Val Caniparoli, Nicolo Fonte, and Yuri Possokhov. In 2016 and 2017 James was selected to be a dancer for the National Choreographers Initiative. Beginning in 2014, James has taught year round for the Otto M. Budig Academy of Cincinnati Ballet. His choreography “Prohibition Condition” was selected for Director’s Cut in 2016. That year he also created a ballet for the fall showcase at the University of Cincinnati. Chamber music groups in Cincinnati have commissioned him for short works that cater to site specific venues. James has also contributed choreography for an annual benefit concert in Columbus, OH. Proceeds go to the Central Ohio Chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation. He has also created works for Cincinnati Ballet II. In 2017 he made a duet in collaboration with musician Brice Dessner that opened the Music Now Festival. His most recent solo work, “Mercurial Impulses,” appeared at the 2018 USAIBC for bronze medalist Chisako Oga. James is honored and excited to be starting the next new chapter of his dance career by joining Grand Rapids Ballet.

Ednis Gomez

Ednis Gomez

Company since 2014

Ednis Gomez was born in the Dominican Republic, where he began his training at Expresiones y Danza Soraya Gallardo at the age of 16. In 2007, Ednis moved to Madrid, Spain, where he was chosen to study choreography and interpretive dance in the Alicia Alonso institute at King Juan Carlos University. While studying, he danced as a soloist at Ballet de Camara de Madrid for five years. Returning to the Dominican Republic, Ednis danced choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and others with the National Ballet. In 2014, he was invited to dance as a guest in Grand Rapids Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Yuko Horisawa

Yuko Horisawa

Company since 2019

Yuko began her ballet training at the Reiko Yamamoto Ballet School in 1998. She was chosen as a candidate for the prestigious Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland in 2011 and from this competition, she was awarded a scholarship to further her training at the John Cranko School in Stuttgart, Germany. Yuko won 1st Prize in All Japan Ballet Competition in 2008 and 2009. She has participated in “Opto dance project 2013 and 2015” by Rei Watanabe, “Ballet Creation 2017” by Megumi Nakamura, World Ballet Gala “K Ballet World 2018” dancing Don Quixote with Bakhiyar Adamzhan, Le Corsaire with Daniil Simkin. Nutcracker The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet 2018.

Steven Houser

Steven Houser

Company since 2011

Steven began his ballet training at the age of six in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. He has studied at Metro Dancers, Portland Community Ballet, Arts and Communication Magnet Academy, and the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. He also spent summers studying on scholarship at San Francisco Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Steven joined Oregon Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in 2004, was made a full company member in 2005, and was promoted to soloist in 2007. He joined the Grand Rapids Ballet in 2011. Steven has performed nationally and internationally...

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in Japan, Korea, Juneau and Anchorage, Alaska, and at the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Josue Justiz

Josue Justiz

Company since 2018

Josue was born in Cuba where he began studying ballet at nine in his hometown of Santiago de Cuba. When he was 14, he entered the National Ballet School of Cuba in Havana under the guidance of masters Fernando Alonso and Ramona de Saa. During his time there, he was a successful competitor in the International Ballet Competitions of Havana winning one silver and two gold medals. After graduation, he entered the National Ballet of Cuba under the direction of Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso. After only two years with the company, he earned the title of soloist. He came to the United States permanently...

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soon after where he joined the Studio Company of the Washington Ballet. In 2014, he joined the former Ballet San Jose under the direction of ballet legend Jose Manuel Carreño. Jose is a founding member of Dimensions Dance Theatre where he collaborated with well-known choreographers such as Septime Webre, Tara Reid, Vicente Nebrada, and Yanis Pikieris.

Zachary Manske

Zachary Manske

Company since 2021

Zach Manske grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota training in various styles and competing in local and national competitions. He played the role of “Billy Elliot” in the Broadway national tour of Billy Elliot the Musical. Zach also attended Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists where he trained in ballet, modern, jazz, composition, and other forms. He guested with Minnesota Dance Theater in many performances, including Loyce Houlton’s Nutcracker Fantasy and Carmina Burana from 2014 to 2017. Zach recently graduated with a BFA in Dance from the University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance under the direction of Jodie Gates...

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He performed works by masters such as William Forsythe, George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, and more. During his time at USC, Zach had the opportunity to guest with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in The Nutcracker. Zach enjoys redefining ballet within his work and bringing expression to the stage. Most recently, he was commissioned by Minnesota Dance Theater to do a new work titled Cyclical Rave.

Sarah Marley

Sarah Marley

Company since 2019

Ms. Marley was born on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, training in the Cecchetti Method with Sonja Dickerson-Faust and Heidi Wright. She continued her training under the direction of Peter Stark with the Orlando Ballet School and was accepted into the trainee program at age fourteen, performing in the corps de ballet alongside the professionals. Ms. Marley was invited by the legendary Fernando Bujones to join the company in 2004 and danced with the company for the next six seasons. That same year she became part of the Orlando Ballet School faculty, teaching various levels and adult ballet classes regularly...

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Ms. Marley has also danced with the San Diego Ballet, Company C Contemporary Ballet, the San Diego Opera, Chicago Repertory Ballet, and Smuin Ballet. Through the course of her career, Ms. Marley has performed soloist and principal roles in classical and contemporary works by Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Michael Smuin, Maurice Causey, Helen Pickett, Bruce Marks, Amy Seiwert, Patrick Corbin, Kenneth von Heidecke, and Garrett Ammon among others.

Madison Massara

Madison Massara

Company since 2019, Trainee 2017|18

Madison was born in Royal Oak, Michigan. She began dancing at eight years old and has trained with Nikoloz Makhateli, Jody Skye Schissler, and Alisher Saburov. She attended summer intensives at Ballet Chicago, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Houston Ballet on scholarship. Madison has guested at Ballet West’s Nutcracker in 2012 at the Kennedy Center, as well as Nutcracker and La Bayadere pas de deux at Skye Ballet Center. She joined Grand Rapids Ballet as a trainee in 2017 and was promoted to apprentice after her first performance of Sugar Plum Fairy, and is now in her first year as a company member. Some of Madison’s favorite roles include...

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Trey McIntyre’s Wild Sweet Love, Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante, Val Caniparoli’s Sugar Plum Fairy, and Rebecca West in Ibsen’s House.

Alexandra Meister-Upleger

Alexandra Meister-Upleger

Company since 2018

Alexandra trained under Ana Lobe in Ohio until 2008 when she joined Nashville Ballet. She danced with the company until 2018, during which time she performed principal roles in Nashville’s Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Dracula and Cinderella. She also performed leading roles in ballets by Christopher Bruce, Jiri Kylian, and Paul Vasterling, and had the pleasure of working with Christopher Wheeldon, Brian Enos, James Gregg, Darrell Moultrie, Gina Patterson, Sarah Slipper, James Sewell, and Christopher Stuart. In 2018 she joined the Grand Rapids Ballet. Performance highlights have included Principal Girl in Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, Clara in Val Caniparoli’s The Nutcracker, Mrs. Alving in Ibsen’s House...

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and the ensemble of Trey McIntyre’s Wild Sweet Love. She was honored to perform two world premieres by James Sofranko, Ballade and The Sweet By and By, set on her. In the summer of 2016, performing a pas de deux, she represented the USA at the 27th International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Previous solo competitions include the 2010 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, and the 2011 Boston International Ballet Competition. Besides teaching for the past 10 years, Alexandra coaches and choreographs for both competitive and pre-pro ballet schools.

Yuka Oba-Muschiana

Yuka Oba-Muschiana

Company since 2011

Yuka was born in Japan where she received her training from Hitomi Takeuchi Ballet School. In 2006, she attended English National Ballet School in the UK where she also danced many soloist roles. Upon graduating, Mario Radacovsky invited her to join the Slovak National Ballet where she danced a variety of roles. Yuka was then invited to join Grand Rapids Ballet in 2011 where she has since danced principal roles in ballets by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Olivier Wevers, and Penny Saunders. Yuka has won many competitions in Japan including NBA All Japan Ballet Competition, Saitama All Japan Dance Competition, UB All Japan Ballet Union Competition...

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International Ballet Competition in Yokohama, and others. In 2013, Yuka had the honor of performing Olivier Wever’s The Sofa at the Joyce Theatre in New York and reprised her role in Seattle. Yuka performed Le Corsaire Pas de Deux in the gala at The National Theatre in Tokyo and the Pas de Deux from Le Carnaval de Venise in Fukushima. In 2014, Val Caniparoli choreographed Clara on Yuka for the world premiere of The Nutcracker. She also choreographed Tomorrow Never Comes for MOVEMEDIA in 2015.

Emily Reed

Emily Reed

Company since 2018

Emily Reed is from Monee, Illinois and began dancing when she was three. She studied at Faubourg School of Ballet followed by the Ruth Page Center of the Arts, where she trained under beloved ballet master Larry Long and Birute Barodicaite. Emily attended various summer intensives across the country on scholarship and was one of the first trainees for Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. Emily spent 2010–12 in the Milwaukee Ballet II program where she performed a wide range of repertoire with MBII and in the main company productions. For six seasons Emily was with the Minnesota Ballet dancing such roles as Lucy in Dracula, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and George Balanchine’s Who Cares? and Tarantella before joining the Grand Rapids Ballet in 2018...

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Some of her favorite performances with GRB include Trey McIntyre’s Wild Sweet Love, Clara in Val Caniparoli’s The Nutcracker, Alejandro Cerrudo’s Extremely Close and one of the principals in Adam Hougland’s Cold Virtues. Original works Emily had the pleasure of being a part of include Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Three Offerings, Danielle Rowe’s November, and James Sofranko’s Two Tangos.

Branden Reiners

Branden Reiners

Company since 2015

Branden is originally from New Jersey and began his training in New York at the School of American Ballet. He later trained under scholarship at Boston Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. In 2013, he joined the Minnesota Ballet where he danced works by George Balanchine and Ginger Thatcher. Branden also performed lead roles in The Nutcracker and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Gretchen Steimle

Gretchen Steimle

Company since 2019, Apprentice 2017|18

Gretchen was raised in Austin, Texas, and began her dance education under the umbrella of Tapestry Dance Company where she first pursued a multiform dance education. While there, she received training from Grace Holmes and David Justin. At 15, she moved from home to train with Boston Ballet School’s Pre-­Professional Program under the direction of Margaret Tracey. After attending a summer course at Pacific Northwest Ballet, she joined its Professional Division under the direction of Peter Boal. While in Seattle, Gretchen received training from diverse and talented faculty, performed in numerous company productions, and originated new roles through PNB Next Step choreographic program...

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During her first year at PNB, she was offered the opportunity to work with Dresden Semperoper Ballet and spent two months performing La Bayadére in Germany. Gretchen has attended summer programs with American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Kansas City Ballet School, Ballet Austin, and Suzanne Farrell.

Nigel Tau

Nigel Tau

Company since 2016, Apprentice 2015

Nigel began dancing at age 10 with The Academy of Dance in his home town of Savannah, Georgia. In 2013, he became a trainee with Next Generation Ballet, and performed in the school’s own productions as well as with Opera Tampa and the Florida Orchestra. He went on to train with BalletMet on a full scholarship, where he performed and rehearsed alongside the company in shows such as The Great Gatsby and The Nutcracker. Since he started working with the company in 2015, he has been a part of tours to Kalamazoo, St. Louis, and Seattle, and performed in pieces such as Paul Taylor’s Company B...

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Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Dangerous Liaisons, and Penny Saunders’ The Happy Price and Other Wilde Tales. In his time with the company has also had the privilege of working with choreographers such as Brian Enos, Jennifer Archibald, Dani Rowe, and Bruce Wells, among others. His first work, Errant Thoughts, debuted on the company in 2019.

Julia Turner

Julia Turner

Company since 2019

Julia Turner began her training at The Academy of Dance Arts (Downers Grove, IL) and continued at Joffrey Ballet’s Academy of Dance in Chicago. She attended summer programs on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet and Miami City Ballet. In the Chicago Youth America Grand Prix, Julia received first place in the contemporary category and second place in the classical category. Julia was a scholarship student in Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Professional Division for two years; during this time, she performed corps roles with the company in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Giselle. After completing this program, Julia joined Tulsa Ballet II...

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where she performed in original works by Ma Cong and Norbert de la Cruz III and with the main company. After one year in Tulsa, Julia joined Grand Rapids Ballet as a company member for two seasons under the artistic direction of Patricia Barker, where she performed featured roles in works by George Balanchine, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Paul Taylor, and others. Julia then joined Ballet San Antonio, where she danced for two seasons, performing in ballets such as Rubies by George Balanchine and in original productions by Willy Shives, and Bruce Wells.

Adriana Wagenveld

Adriana Wagenveld

Company since 2019, Apprentice 2017|18, Trainee 2015|16

Adriana is originally from Puerto Rico, and started her training at the age of 3 after her family moved to Illinois. She trained at two different studios over 12 years, and competed and placed in the Top 12 at YAGP, in both classical and contemporary categories. Adriana attended Grand Rapids Ballet’s Summer Intensive on scholarship in 2015. From there, Patricia Barker invited her to join the professional company. While dancing under Patricia, Adriana worked with many renowned choreographers such as Robyn Mineko Williams, Danielle Rowe, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Bruce Wells. She performed in several classical ballets, Balanchine’s Serenade being among her favorite...

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Under the direction of James Sofranko, Adriana has had the honor of performing works such as Testimony by Penny Saunders and Trey McIntyre’s Wild Sweet Love, and had the pleasure of working with Alejandro Cerrudo for his work Extremely Close.

Matthew Wenckowski

Matthew Wenckowski

Company since 2015

Matthew is from St. Charles, Illinois, where he received his early training at Moves Dance Studio in North Aurora. As a competitive dancer with Excel Dance Productions, he was awarded the national title Senior Mr. Adrenaline at the age of 17. Matt joined the Joffrey Academy of Dance’s pre-professional and trainee programs under the direction of Alexei Kremnev and Anna Reznik, performing with the Joffrey in The Nutcracker as well as in pieces created for the Joffrey Academy by Alexei Kremnev and Ray Mercer. He has studied on scholarship at Lou Conte Dance Studio under the guidance of Claire Bataille. Matt then joined DanceWorks Chicago...

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under the direction of Julie Nakagawa. It was there he had the privilege touring nationally and internationally performing works choreographed by Francisco Aviña, James Gregg, Christian Denice, Autumn Eckman, Thom Dancy, Harrison McEldowney, and many more.

Nathan Young

Nathan Young

Company since 2018

Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Nathan began his training at the age of 13 at the Arkansas Academy of Dance. He attended summer training programs such at Ballet West, Joffrey Ballet, and Long Beach Ballet. In 2013, Nathan graduated from the University of Oklahoma, where he received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Ballet Performance. Nathan then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, dancing for the Nashville Ballet for four season. He has performed in notable works by Christopher Wheeldon, Jiří Kylián, Jennifer Archibald, Trey McIntyre, Val Caniparoli, Danielle Rowe, and Yuri Possokhov.

APPRENTICE

Haley Baker

Haley Baker

Apprentice

Haley is originally from Enola, Pennsylvania, and has been dancing since the age of three. She began her classical ballet training at Pennsylvania Regional Ballet in 2010 under the direction of Sandra Carlino. She also attended Ribbon Mill Ballet in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with individual coaching from Leslie Hench. She has attended summer programs at Pennsylvania Ballet, Miami City Ballet, the USA/IBC Dance School, and Joffrey Ballet Chicago. Baker went on to attend Indiana University and graduated from the Jacobs School of Music in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science in Ballet and an Outside Field in Psychology. In her time at Indiana University...

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Baker performed in a wide variety of works from choreographers such as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Penny Saunders, and Mark Morris. Most recently, in her senior year, Baker performed as Sugar Plum in Michael Vernon’s The Nutcracker and was working with Sasha Janes as Cinderella in his new production of Cinderella.

Talia Lebowitz

Talia Lebowitz

Apprentice

Bio coming soon!

Ingrid Lewis

Ingrid Lewis

Apprentice

Ingrid began ballet training in her hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, under the instruction of Stephanie Clemens, JP Tenuta and Valery Dolgallo. She continued her studies at the Harid Conservatory under Victoria Schneider, Olivier Pardina, Donald Tolj and Svetlana Osiyeva. She then spent one year as a trainee with the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago and attended the Royal Danish Ballet Exchange Program in Copenhagen. Ingrid joined the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Graduate Program where she performed in George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, Ben Stevenson’s Dracula, Derek Deane’s Alice in Wonderland and Terence Orr’s Nutcracker. Ingrid attended various summer intensives on full scholarship including American Ballet Theatre...

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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Harid Conservatory, Texas Ballet Theater, and Orlando Ballet.

Claudia Rhett

Claudia Rhett

Apprentice

Claudia Rhett is from Nashville, Tennessee, and began dancing at age 3. She attended summer intensives at the School of American Ballet, and on scholarship at Pacific Northwest Ballet and The Chautauqua Institution. As an Apprentice at Chautauqua, she performed with Nashville Ballet in Balanchine’s Western Symphony as well as with Charlotte Ballet in Sasha Janes’s version of The Four Seasons. She was also coached by Patricia McBride for the role of the Dark Angel in Balanchine’s Serenade. Claudia attended Indiana University Ballet Theatre on scholarship where she trained under Christian Claessens, Sasha Janes, Carla Körbes, Kyra Nichols, Michael Vernon and Sarah Wroth...

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In May 2020 she graduated with Distinction, earning a Bachelor of Science in Ballet with an Outside Field in Business Studies. She was a member of IU’s Hutton Honors College, and a teacher for the IU Pre-College Ballet Program, where she continues to teach virtually. While at IU, she performed soloist and principal roles in Michael Vernon’s version of The Nutcracker, George Balanchine’s Walpurgisnacht, Martha Graham’s Diversion of Angels, Mark Morris’s Sandpaper Ballet, Antony Tudor’s Dark Elegies, and Twyla Tharp’s Deuce Coupe, as well as new works by Sasha Janes.

Spencer Waldeck

Spencer Waldeck

Apprentice

Bio coming soon!

TRAINEE

Katie Aaberg

Katie Aaberg

Trainee
Mackenzie Davis

Mackenzie Davis

Trainee
Fiona Dorr

Fiona Dorr

Trainee
Avery Held

Avery Held

Trainee
Todd Lani

Todd Lani

Trainee
Sofia Striegl

Sofia Striegl

Trainee
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