MEET THE DANCERS

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Oscar Sanchez

Resident Guest Artist

Oscar Sanchez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1991 and started dancing at the age of 15 at The National Ballet School "Ena." After graduation, Sanchez continued on to The National Ballet of Cuba where he danced many roles, including Hilarion from Giselle, principal Mazurka in Coppélia, Majisimo, and others. After arriving in the United States, he joined The Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami where he still continues to dance as a guest principal. There he performed in Le Corsaire, Diana and Actaeon, Don Quixote, Fairy Doll, Firebird, Les Sylphides, and Paquita. He was principal dancer with the Columbia City Ballet for the 2014-2015 season. In January 2015, he received the Award for “Best Dancer of Miami” at the Miami Life Awards. Sanchez is currently in his fifth season with The Washington Ballet, where his repertoire includes Black Swan pas de deux, Le Corsaire pas de deux, Cavalier in The Nutcracker, Mercutio and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, as well as featured roles in Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, Serenade, Theme and Variations, Cunningham’s Duets, Ratmansky’s Bolero, Kylian’s Petite Mort, Taylor’s Company B, and Webre’s Carmina Burana. He dances in galas all over the world, most recently in Costa Rica, Mexico, New York City and Miami.

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Dara Holmes

Resident Guest Artist

Dara Holmes studied exclusively at The Wilmington School of Ballet & Dance from age 8 until she received a full scholarship to the prestigious Harid Conservatory. She graduated after only three years of training and went on to attend the Joffrey Academy of Dance 2010-2011 Trainee Program. She studied there until she joined the main company the following year. She is now a soloist with the Joffrey Ballet.

Since joining the Joffrey Ballet, Ms. Holmes danced in many ballets including Incantations, Son of Chamber Symphony, Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Don Quixote, Forgotten Land, Tulle, and The Nutcracker. She was also nominated for a 3Arts Award in 2015.

Dara has been recognized for her talent in many ways, including a feature article in the Atlanta Black Star "10 Black Ballerinas Other Than Misty Copeland Who Are Also Changing the Face of Ballet," a Joffrey Ballet Video, and even a couple music videos.

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Ariana Serrano

Soloist

Ariana Serrano, 23, is from Hermosa Beach, CA and trained in classical Vaganova technique with Olga Tozyiakova of Perm Ballet School. Ariana was awarded in the top 24 senior classical category at the Youth America Grand Prix 2013-2017, and also competed in the Tanzolymp International Dance Festival Berlin in 2014 and 2016. As a trainee at State Street Ballet she performed roles such as the Mirliton soloist (Nutcracker) and Paquita in the trainee performance of the Paquita Grand Pas. At USIB she has had the pleasure of performing   soloist roles in the Nutcracker (Mirliton, Snow, Waltz of the Flowers), as well as Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), and Helena (Midsummer Night’s Dream). Ariana is happy to be with USIB for her third season as a Soloist.

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Jessica Plaskon

Demi Soloist

Jessica Plaskon began her training at four years old with Dance For Joy in Brielle, New Jersey under the direction of Caryl J Voorhees. In 2012, she continued her education at the University of Maryland where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in post-modern & contemporary dance and performed, directed and choreographed in a student-led ballet company. She joined the Ballet Theatre of Maryland in 2016 where she danced as a Trainee for two seasons and performed in many company productions. During her time with USIB, Jessica has performed roles such as Chinese Demi-soloist in The Nutcracker, the March Hare in Alice in Wonderland, and Fairy Soloist Moth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jessica is excited for her fourth season with the United States International Ballet!

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Asa Berger
First Company Member

Asa started dancing at 5 years old with his mom as his teacher. As his interests grew, he began seriously training with the Dayton Ballet School in Ohio.  He danced with the Joffrey Midwest Summer Intensive and at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.  Asa is a Certified Teaching Artist for Dancing Classrooms, an internationally known program teaching life skills to school age children through ballroom dancing.  Today, Asa has bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Theology and enjoys the opportunity to continue dancing with USIB.

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Katherine Hotinger

First Company Member

Katherine started dancing at a local studio in her hometown of Lexington, VA and later went on to study dance at Mercyhurst University. She spent her summers training at the Richmond Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet. For the 2018-2019 year Katherine danced professionally as a soloist with Connect the Dots Dance Company in Washington DC. She has performed lead roles including Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, White Cat in Sleeping Beauty, and Russian Princess in Swan Lake. Additionally, she has taught dance at Connect the Dots School of Ballet, Ballet Petite, and the YMCA. Katherine is excited for her second season dancing with USIB.

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Michelle Oakman

First Company Member

Michelle Oakman grew up in Portland, Oregon and started dancing at age 10. She trained at June Taylor’s School of Dance, where she received training in the RAD technique as well as jazz, tap, character, and modern. After finishing all levels of RAD  examinations, Michelle studied for her Solo Seal Award in Vancouver, Canada.

 

Along with her training at JTSD, Michelle was also a company member with Northwest Dance Theater from 2014-2018. Here she was able to dance lead roles such as Snow White, Clara, and Sugarplum Fairy. After graduating high school in 2018, Michelle accepted a trainee position at State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, California. There she trained with the company for two years, and was able to dance in company productions such as The Nutcracker and Jungle Book, as well as touring Sleeping Beauty. Michelle is now proud to be dancing with US International Ballet and is excited about her future with the company.

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Celine Smelik

First Company Member

Celine is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, she started dancing at the age of nine. From age nine to fifteen she was trained by her mother Olga Smelik. She has attended summer intensives including Grand Rapids Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet where she was accepted into their year round pre-professional program and studied there until 2017. She transitioned to the French Academie of Ballet under the instruction of Francois Perron and Bivi Kimura. She has performed variations from Raymonda, La Bayadere, and La Sylphide as well as Arabian, Russian, and Snow and Flower Corps from the Nutcracker. She is excited to be returning to US International Ballet as a First Company Member this season.

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Sara Darian Todd
Second Company Member

Sara started dancing at the age of 2 and a half. She was competitively trained until the age of 13. At that point, she started her ballet training with South Florida Dance Company in South Florida. When Sara was 15 she won third place at the Universal Ballet Competition (UBC). In Sara’s senior year of high school she performed as Mrs. Cratchit in a Christmas Carol and Ursula in the Little Mermaid. After high school, Sara continued her training with the Joffrey Ballet School Training Program in Frisco, Texas in 2019. While being back In her hometown from March of 2020 to August 2021, she worked with Wings to Fly Dance Company. The company’s main focus is to give disabled people the opportunity to dance and be on stage with the company members. Sara started with USIB in Fall of 2021 as a Second Company member. Sara is currently working on getting certified in yoga. She hopes this will help her further her dance career and give her more opportunities to teach.

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Rachael Smith
Second Company Member

Raised in Lancaster PA, Rachael began her dance training at Encore Dance Center. She began training intensively during her time there and had the pleasure of working with the Encore Performance Company, as well as training at several other intensives. These intensives include Bates Dance Festival, The Rock School, Philadelphia Ballet, and Joffrey Texas. Through training in all styles of dance, Rachael has been able to dive into the physicality behind her movement and discover her passion for dance. Rachael continued her dance training and attended Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. In May 2021, Rachael will graduate with a B.F.A in Dance Performance & Choreography, and a minor in Accounting. During her time at Florida Southern College, Rachael has been able to perform at various venues. Examples of venues include Jacob's Pillow, Polk Museum of Art, and American College Dance Association. Additionally, within her time at Florida Southern College, Rachael has had the opportunity to engage with several guest artists including Jon Lehrer, Michael Foley, Melissa Rector, Gregory Dolbashian, and Carolyn Dorfman. During her training at Florida Southern, Rachael has been featured in all of the concerts in both modern pieces and ballet pieces. Most recently, Rachael was the role of "Myrtha" within Florida Southern's production of Giselle, as well as one of the "Little Swans" in the production of Swan Lake.

Rachael began her training with USIB in May 2021 as a second company member. She is very excited and grateful to be training with the company! Rachael has also had the pleasure of being accepted into various Master's programs focused on Dance Performance. She was accepted at both Temple University, located in PA, as well as the University of Roehampton, located in London. Since performing is Rachael's passion, she has deferred her acceptance into a Masters program at this time. After professionally performing for a few years, she plans on returning to school and continuing her education.

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Rachel Taylor

Soloist

Rachel Taylor first fell in love with ballet at Wake Forest University’s Community Ballet program with her dearly loved first and formidable teacher Brantly Shapiro. In 2005 Rachel joined Ohio Dance Theatre as a pre-professional and trained full time in classical ballet. Rachel had the opportunity to perform with professionals in many performances while in the program. 

 

In 2016, Rachel graduated from UNC Charlotte Magna Cum Laude with a BA in dance performance with a focus in ballet and ballet pedagogy. Rachel studied ballet and also Martha Graham technique, Improvisation, Choreography, Dance History, and Anatomy for dancers. Rachel participated in the student dance concerts every semester and had the chance to work with choreographers including Gretchen Alterowitz , Melissa Coyle, and Kim Jones. In February of 2015 Rachel performed Martha Graham's Steps in the Street under direction of Kim Jones. She performed at the Knight Theatre in Charlotte NC and at the Joyce Theatre in NYC. She also took master classes at the Martha Graham studios while in NYC.   

 

While in college , Rachel participated in a student run organization called MOVE. She choreographed work for their student run dance concerts every semester. 

 

During her time in Charlotte, Rachel studied at the Charlotte Ballet under Rene Oliver and other teachers. She took several open classes a week there to add to her dance training at the college. Rachel also had the opportunity to observe the school's syllabus and method through the pedagogy program at UNC Charlotte. In her senior year she taught at the Charlotte Ballet a few times as a substitute teacher.  

 

Aside from dance Rachel has pursued fitness training certifications and taught Barre classes for several years. She became a certified Barre instructor through Xtend Barre a cardio, pilates, and dance based fitness program for dancers and non dancers alike. She taught at Xtend Barre Charlotte a few years, then at Core Integrity Pilates in Greensboro, NC. Rachel also taught mat pilates classes for the student activity center at UNC Charlotte while in school. Rachel is currently pursuing another Barre certification through Barre Intensity. In May of 2020 Rachel attained her Flexistretcher certification adding to her cross training arsenal.

 

After graduating college, Rachel joined Gary Taylor's Winston Salem Festival Ballet; she had the opportunity to train and perform with Gary Taylor. She also taught for several of his schools including High Point Ballet, Winston Salem festival Ballet and Gary Taylor Dance in Southern Pines NC. 

 

In 2017 Rachel joined the US International Ballet and has been able to train in many styles of dance methods and choreography. She has studied the Vaganova style of ballet along with a broad range of choreography styles under Walter Angelini and Ines Albertini.  Rachel has also trained under Mrs. Debra Berger in both classical SAB style ballet and Luigi Jazz. USIB has offered Rachel many great training opportunities with teachers and choreographers both guest and resident. Her summer guest teachers include Nader Hamed, Manu Navarro, Stacey Slichter and Megan LeCrone. While in the company she has performed in many original ballets including Vampires, Alice in Wonderland , The Wizard of OZ , and the Nutcracker.  Rachel also has performed with the Dance Cooperative here in Wilmington, NC. She has worked with choreographer, Sue Meier, participating in Dance-a-Lorus a Cucalorus Festival two years in a row, and the Wilmington Dance Festival in 2019.  Rachel is looking forward to continuing her teaching through the Wilmington School of Ballet and Studio A, along with starting her fourth professional season with USIB.  

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Destiny Gorcie

First Company Member

Destiny Gorcie has trained extensively with the Royal Academy of Dance at Mount Airy Performing Arts Center in Maryland. She has also studied under the tutelage of instructors from Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Ballroom Dance in Frederick, Costa Mesa Dance, Dance Theatre of Lynchburg, Roanoke Ballet Theater, and most recently with Ballet Aresko in Lynchburg, Virginia. Destiny attended the Joffrey Ballet School’s six week Summer Intensive program. Throughout the years, Destiny has passed Royal Academy examinations through Grade 8 with merit and distinction, and competed in both ballet and ballroom styles of dance. Her passion and love for dance has shown her that with faith, dedication and support, any dream is attainable; and she strives to consistently share these principles with everyone around her. This will be Destiny’s second season with USIB, and she is ecstatic to be a part of the dream and mission that is the foundation of USIB.

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Rachel Sanford
First Company Member

Rachel Sanford is originally from Dallas, TX. She began her training at age 4 at the Ozsoy School of Ballet in Duncanville, TX, under Ballet Master Ceyhun Ozsoy. Rachel attended many summer intensives including the American Ballet Theatre Collegiate Program, the International Ballet Competition Intensive, the Joffrey Ballet, and Houston METdance Professional Intensive In 2016, Rachel graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance and a Business Foundations Certificate from the McCombs School of Business. She has performed in professional pieces by artists including Sidra Bell, Merce Cunningham, Andrea Beckham, Mark Morris, Shen Jun, and Joe Celej. She has choreographed multiple contemporary ballet works for the Dance program at UT Austin and for the McCallum Fine Arts Academy in Austin, TX. Rachel is excited to start her second season with the U.S. International Ballet.

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Isabele Brown

Second Company Member

Isabele Brown began her ballet training at the Wilmington School of Ballet in Wilmington, North Carolina. She danced locally until leaving for New York City to train at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Ballet in Brooklyn, New York. Isabele also spent a year training at the Kirov Academy in Washington DC in the Pre-Professional Trainee Program. She went on to dance at the Vassiliev Academy of Classical Ballet in New York City. She most recently trained with Principal dancer Richard Marsdon from the New York City Ballet and Simon Kazantsev, a pedagogy graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy College. She has attended numerous ballet summer intensives including the Dutch National Ballet and American Ballet Theater (ABT). Isabele also took the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Teacher Training Program to learn the Vagnova method of classical teaching technique.  She attended the Grand Audition in Barcelona, Spain to compete for ballet positions in front of 10 directors for the world’s top ballet companies including the Marinsky Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and Royal Swedish Ballet. She performed with ABT during their 2019 Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House for performances of Whipped Creme and Le Corsaire. Isabele is happy to be back in her home town and is looking forward to her first season dancing with the US International Ballet.

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Isabella Kaup
Second Company Member

Isabella began her dance training at age 3 with Hilton Head Dance School under the direction of former American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Karena Brock. While she was here for 15 years, she was also taught by Jamal Edwards and former Fosse Dance Captain, Kathleen Watkins. While training, Isabella attended summer intensives at University of South Carolina, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and Carolina Ballet. While with Hilton Head Dance School, she had featured roles in performances such as Paquita, Stars and Stripes, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker.

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Gracie Mientka
Second Company Member

Gracie Mientka was born and raised in Colorado. She began her ballet training in 2015 at the Colorado Ballet Society in Colorado Springs. She danced as a member of the Colorado Youth Ballet from 2015-2021. During this time, she trained under the instruction of director Patty Hoffman and with Ahita Ardalan Bergman of the Paris Opera Ballet. As a dancer with Colorado Youth Ballet, Gracie got the opportunity to perform in many wonderful ballets. Some of her notable roles include Shepherdess from the Nutcracker, the Diamond Fairy from Sleeping Beauty, and Soldier Doll in The Nutcracker. In 2020 Gracie graduated summa cum laude with an Associate of Arts degree from Community College of Denver. She is also an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum. Gracie joined USIB in 2021 as a Second Company member, and she is ever so grateful and excited to dance with this company and pursue her passion and drive for ballet.