MEET THE DANCERS
Alexandra is from Temecula, California. She began her ballet training at age 6. She studied with Dana Nelson and Jose Chavez at the Academy of Ballet Arts & Mark Erickson of The Ballet Studio. Alexandra attended multiple summer intensives with American Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Ballet San Jose and State Street Ballet. In 2014, she was selected as a Trainee with Ballet San Jose under the direction of Jose Manuel Carreño. In 2015, she was offered a Trainee position with State Street Ballet under the direction of Rodney Gustafson & Megan Phillip. During her the duration of her trainee years, Alexandra was selected to perform in each Company's classical repertoires and major productions.
In 2017, she joined USIB as a founding Company Member. The following season, she was promoted to the title of First Female Soloist, and performed in the next 2 years dancing in all of the Company's original & classical works. Alexandra has been featured in a variety of lead roles, including Mercedes (Don Quixote/USIB Gala), Dew Drop Fairy (The Great Wilmington Nutcracker), Wicked Witch (The Wizard of Oz), Fairy Godmother (Cinderella), Soloist Cabaret Dancer (Vampires), Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), as well as Lead Fairy & Hippolyta (A Midsummers Night Dream). Alexandra was recently promoted to Principal Dancer and anticipates another exciting fourth season with USIB.
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.
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.
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.
From Ossining, New York, Alexander began dancing at the age of 4 and danced at his first recital at the age of 5 at the Eisenhower Hall Theatre in West Point, NY. He has taken classes in Hip Hop, Bollywood, Contemporary, Limón and Musical Theatre, but knew he wanted to pursue a professional ballet career after performing in his first Nutcracker. His formal training began at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance in Connecticut and upon graduating high school a year early at the age of 16, he was accepted to the University of Hartford, The Hartt School of Dance in the BFA Dance program. At UHart, his classical training was under the expertise of Stephen Pier and Hilda Morales. After his Freshman year, he was recruited by Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina as a Trainee and studied under Mark Diamond, Jean Pierre Bonnefoux, Ben Kubie and Laszlo Berdo. While performing alongside Charlotte Ballet in The Nutcracker and Peter Pan, he had the honor of being trained by Balanchine ballerina and Kennedy Center Honors recipient, Patricia McBride, for the lead in “Who Cares." Alex has attended summer intensives at The Nutmeg Conservatory of the Arts in CT and Chautauqua Institution in Western NY, performing with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and works by Sasha Janes. He can also be seen in the award winning documentary “Danseur” which explores the stereotypes and struggles of the male dancer in the predominantly female ballet world. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts and a 2017 beneficiary of the Patricia Schuster Award.
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 third season with the United States International Ballet!
Erica is from Marlton, New Jersey. She started her dance training at age 5 and studied with Ballet NJ, Bowman School of Dance, and privately under Michele Wolfe of Artists in Motion. She danced summer intensives at The Rock School of Dance with The Pennsylvania Ballet, Ajkun Ballet Professional Program with Ajkun Ballet Company, Boston Conservatory, and Steps on Broadway in NY City. Erica has a BA in Dance Performance from Dean College. In 2015 Erica
joined America Switzerland Ballet (ASB) and danced for 2
years on their stage in NYC. In 2017, Erica joined Ballet Long Island and danced the principal roles of Lead Arabian in Nutcracker, Pas de Deux Cats and Boots in Sleeping Beauty, and The Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty. Erica is looking forward to USIB for a second season.
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.
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.
First Company Member
Kia is from Canada and began her training at the age of 7 at Sitters School of Dance in Saskatoon. Kia has attended summer intensives with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and School of Alberta Ballet (SAB). At the age of 16, Kia moved to Calgary, Canada to train with the School of Alberta Ballet in their Professional Division. She continued her training in Alberta in their Post Graduate program under the direction of Murray Kilgour, Janet Tait and Edmund Stripe. In June of 2019 Kia graduated from SAB and decided to move to North Carolina as an Apprentice for USIB. Kia is very excited for her second season at USIB!
First Company Member
Brimley Olliff started her study of dance at Genuine Dance at the age of 4. After three years, Brimley’s family moved to Juneau, Alaska, where she continued her studies at Juneau Dance Theatre under the direction of Zach Hench. She has spent the last year with Salt Lake City Ballet under the direction of Terry Davis. Brimley has had the opportunity to attend summer intensives with Colorado Ballet, Ballet West, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, and American Ballet Theatre. Most recently , Brimley traveled to Incheon, Korea, for three weeks to study at the International Ballet Summer Intensive. Brimley has performed leading roles in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. She has preformed internationally at the Vaganova Society in Edmonton, Canada, and competed in Youth America Grand Prix. Brimley is looking forward to the next steps in pursuing her goal of becoming a professional dancer as a First Company Member with USIB.
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.
Second Company Member
Savannah began dancing at The Wilmington School of Ballet at age 4 1/2. She has performed in The Nutcracker for the past 14 years. Her roles have included Clara and various solo parts. Savannah was invited to perform with TechMoja Dance Company in their performance of West Side Story and has performed with Forward Motion Dance Company for 4 years. Savannah attended various summer intensives including CityDance at Strathmore, where she was instructed by Anatoli Kucheruk and Madame Markovina. She has taken master classes with Galina Panova, Stacey Slichter and Nicole White. Savannah participated in the Southeastern Regional Youth American Grand Prix in 2016, performing both ballet and modern solos. Savannah has recently completed the conservatory program of the Wilmington School of Ballet, and is now a second company member with USIB.
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.
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.
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.
First Company Member
Ella Cunane is 20 years old, originally from Greensboro, NC. She began dancing at the age of 3. At age of 10 she began ballet training at The Dance Center of Greensboro. During her time at DCG she trained under several renowned instructors. She studied the Cecchetti method and is now a certified Grade 6 dancer. Ella has attended several summer intensives including the Cecchetti Council of America International Summer School, Atlanta Ballet, and spent a summer in Piacenza, Italy training with world-renowned faculty at Piacenza Art Ballet Workshop. Ella is thrilled to be part of the U.S. International Ballet Company.
First Company Member
Sarah is from Cary North Carolina and has been dancing since she could walk. She received professional ballet training from Graceful Expressions Dance Education and her contemporary training under the direction of Willie Hinton. She has also performed several minor roles with the prestigious Carolina ballet. In addition to ballet and contemporary. Sarah enjoys musical theater and performed several original musicals with a local theater troupe. She is honored and exited to be a part of USIB.
Anneke de Jong
First Company Member
Anneke is from Stillwater, MN where she began her Vaganova training with St. Croix Ballet at age 6. She attended many summer programs which led to her professional training with Gelsey Kirkland in NYC and Texas Ballet Theater. She also had the opportunity to train with Open World Dance Foundation, Dutch National Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, English National Ballet, Bossov Ballet Theatre and Kirov Academy of Ballet. Anneke began her professional career with Continental Ballet, St. Paul Ballet and went onto dance with Metropolitan Ballet as a demi-soloist performing one of her favorite roles as Marie, among others. In 2017 she joined Magnum Opus as founding company member. She is excited to be returning for a second season with USIB!
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.
Sophie Maria Van Meerten
First Company Member
Sophie was born and raised in Camarillo, California. She has many years of former classical training and is also a graduate of Los Angeles Ballet School. Her studies there include extensive Balanchine instruction and repertoire. As a student there, Sophie had many onstage opportunities with Los Angeles Ballet, the company. She has attended summer courses with ABT, Kansas City Ballet, State Street Ballet and City Ballet of San Diego. She completed State Street Ballet’s professional-track trainee program. Afterward, Sophie accepted a trainee contract with City Ballet of San Diego. Some of Sophie’s professional performances are corps de ballet roles in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Carmina Burana, Serenade, Giselle, Le Corsaire, and pre-professional performances of Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland in which she performed a soloist roll as “The Duchess”. As a Southern California native, Sophie is excited to now be here on the East Coast in North Carolina with USIB.