The US International Ballet, diverse and innovative, ushers ballet into the twenty-first century. Sold out audiences are captivated by cutting edge choreography interlaced with digital film and visual effects. USIB is the only professional company in America that guarantees every second company dancer a professional contract.
Health, inclusion, and innovation are the three pillars of the US International Ballet. Our company recognizes body diversity as a key pillar of dancer wellness. We give every company member the opportunity to dance professionally and perform extraordinary choreography. Innovation is the cornerstone of every USIB performance. Visionary Artistic Directors create mesmerizing ballets through a brilliant combination of choreography, film, and visual effects. USIB brings ballet into the modern age by combining the technical prowess of the classical art form with the technology and imagination of the twenty-first century.
Elizabeth Hester was a founding professional and soloist in the formative years of the Carolina Ballet. Anne Vorus grew a youth company, Raleigh Dance Theater, into a thriving professional company, Carolina Ballet. Anne was Elizabeth's mentor and guide in both ballet and company development. Elizabeth danced leading roles in Giselle, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Pas De Quatre, and Les Sylphide under Anne's direction. Elizabeth attended NC School of the Arts, Walnut Hill School of the Arts, Richmond Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet (on full scholarship). Elizabeth trained and lived at East Carolina University as a high school student in order to perform as a soloist for the premier opening of Mcginnis Auditorium. Elizabeth founded Wilmington Ballet Company and Wilmington School of Ballet in 1999. Her visionary approach to collaboration attracted dancers, choreographers, and directors of many companies to participate in her works. Project collaborators include prestigious companies such as Joffrey Dance Ensemble, North Carolina Dance Theater, Raleigh Dance Theater and Chuck Davis African American Dance Ensemble. Dancers and choreographers from many companies have been drawn to her work. Such companies include Joffrey Chicago, Washington Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Columbia City Ballet, Columbia Classical Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, New York City Ballet, and Richmond Ballet. Elizabeth has a remarkable history of bringing diverse audiences and performers together. Diversity in choreography, staging, and casting are key to her success. Integrating diverse populations into performing is a foundational principle for Elizabeth. Performer populations have included rural, inner city, special needs, diverse ethnic groups, seniors, circus artists, live musicians, and preschoolers. Integrating special effects and circus arts with cutting edge choreography has built a following that has sold out theaters for over two decades. In 2017, Elizabeth founded US International Ballet based on the belief that dancers should be healthy and that there was not one body type for ballet. Dancers flocked from around the world. The first year USIB opened with 27 dancers from 5 countries. Elizabeth began mentoring Aunika Browne in 2020 to be her predecessor. In her first year, USIB faced a global pandemic. Despite this hardship, USIB performed a full length Giselle and Nutcracker (all live streamed from theaters) despite the COVID crisis. Elizabeth will continue to mentor Aunika Browne, so that USIB can flourish long into the future.
Elizabeth is also a Civil Engineer (NC State Alumni) , the founder of Wilmington Preschool of Arts, and a serial entrepreneur as she owns multiple The UPS stores.
After dancing her whole life, Aunika opened Studio A of Wilmington in 2017. With the vision of a studio that accepted kids of all backgrounds and levels, Studio A began to thrive in a family friendly atmosphere. After working with USIB in their production of The Nutcracker, Aunika quickly fell in love with their mission of acceptance, as well, and accepted the role as Executive Director in 2020. As Executive Director of USIB, Aunika kept the company dancing through the COVID-19 pandemic with successful live-streamed and in-person shows throughout the 2020-21 Summer and company season. Currently, Aunika is also the School Director of the two affiliate schools, Wilmington School of Ballet and Studio A, and is Executive director of the affiliate dance nonprofit, Wilmington Ballet Company. In 2020, Aunika won the Rising Star category of Wilma Magazine's Women to Watch Awards for her work in her first year with USIB. Aunika is excited to bring her passion for dance and business experience together as she continues to expand USIB’s legacy for diversity across Eastern North Carolina.
Jonhal Fernández attended Escuela Nacional de Ballet (Cuba), joining Ballet Nacional de Cuba in 2010. In the same year he was promoted as Soloist with Ballet ProDanza (Cuba). In the next year, he started working as a Principal Guest Artist with Santo Domingo Ballet (Dominican Republic), Ballet Municipal de Lima (Peru), and others. In 2012, he joined Ballet de Monterrey (Mexico) as a Soloist. In 2013 and 2014, he started working with Joburg Classical Ballet Company (South Africa). In 2015, he was promoted to Principal Dancer with Ballet de Monterrey. He has taught at Escuela Superior de Musica y Danza de Monterrey (Mexico) and in many other schools and studios as guest teacher in Mexico and in the US. As a choreographer, he has staged his version of Paquita Grand Pas, Majíssimo, excerpts of The Nutcracker and La Esmeralda (Diana and Acteon scene). He has also been awarded with the Gold medal in Cuban Ballet Contest (Pas de deux category), Gold Medal in Calabria (Italy), Gold medal in South Africa International Contest, and Silver medal in Dominican Republic.
Debra Berger began her professional career at the age of nine when she performed with the New York City Ballet Company. Debra was a student at The School of American Ballet and performed with the company in The Nutcracker, a Midsummer Night’s Dream and Harlequinade. She studied modern at the Alvin Ailey School, as well as jazz with Luigi, Charles Kelly and Nat Horne.
Growing up in New York City she had the opportunity to study acting at HB Studios and voice with some of the greatest teachers in musical theater. Her performing credits also include: A Chorus Line, West Side Story, I Ought To Be In Pictures, and Educating Rita. As a director, choreographer, and teacher, Debra has traveled extensively, teaching ballet and jazz in the U.S. and Brazil. Debra is a certified Teaching Artist with Dancing Classrooms. She recently moved to Wilmington, and is thrilled to contribute to the performing arts in our community.
Alycia is the the office manager of USIB. She has been a part of the Studio A family since it opened in September 2017. Over the past three years, she has become more involved in working closely with Aunika Browne, the owner, and now works as the office manager. She is the mother of two girls: Alexis who cheered with All Star Cheer at Studio A and Brianna who competes on the company Dance team there. As a young child she took dance in a small town in New York where she grew up. Alycia has worked in some form of management for the past 20 years and looks forward to supporting and helping the company dancers here at USIB.
Addie began dancing at the age of 3. She studied at Dance Theatre of Jacksonville and was a member of their award-winning competition team and ballet company, where she danced several soloist roles in the annual ballet productions. She currently attends the University of South Carolina, studying Dance Performance & Choreography and Graphic Design. Under the direction of Jennifer Deckert, André Megerdichian, Stephanie Milling, and Olivia Waldrop, Addie has performed several classic and contemporary works, as well as studying with guest artists, such as Pablo Ruvalcaba. Additionally, Addie has also interned with the UofSC Department of Theatre & Dance marketing office, as well as working with the Marketing & Communications office of Campus Recreation. Addie is excited to bring her passions for dance and marketing together in her work with USIB.