National Choreographers Initiative

2007 Choreographers

Melissa Barak was raised in Los Angeles, CA; trained at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica; and was a scholarship student at the School of American Ballet. She joined New York City Ballet in 1998 and performed many leading roles with the company, including a principal in Christopher Wheeldon’s Klavier, Helena in George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and leads in The Four Temperaments, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty. She recently became a member of the new Los Angeles Ballet. She began choreographing in 1997 and created a piece for the School of American Ballet Student Choreographic Workshop. She has participated in the New York Choreographic Institute in 2000, 2003, and 2006. She has choreographed works for New York City Ballet and Choreographers on Pointe. In 2001 she received the Mae L. Wien Award for choreography and the Choo San Goh Choreographic Award.
Frank Chaves was born in Cuba. He joined River North Chicago Dance Company in 1992 as a choreographer and, in 1994, became co-artistic director. In May 2001, Mr. Chaves assumed sole artistic directorship of River North Chicago. An international choreographer and teacher, Mr. Chaves has created numerous works for River North Chicago and other companies including Spectrum Dance Theatre, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Point Park College for the Performing Arts, Barat Repertory Dance Company, Kaleidoscope Dancers, Pori Dance Company (Finland), and Ballet Pacifica’s Choreographer’s Workshop. Mr. Chaves’s theatrical commissions include work for Steppenwolf Theatre and the Cleveland Playhouse. As a performer, Mr. Chaves has danced with Ballet Concerto of Miami, New York’s Ballet Hispanico, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and six years with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. In 2000, Mr. Chaves received a Ruth Page Dance Achievement Award for Mission, co-created with Sherry Zunker, Co-Artistic Director Emeritus of River North Chicago, in honor of the Company’s 10th anniversary. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Dance for Western Michigan University.

Edwaard Liang was born in Taipei, Taiwan. He was raised in Marin County, CA, and began his ballet training at the age of five at Marin Ballet. In 1989, Mr. Liang entered the School of American Ballet. He joined New York City Ballet in the spring of 1993, and the same year he was a medal winner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition and the Mae L. Wien Award. He was promoted to soloist in 1998. He danced with NYCB until 2001, when he joined the Broadway cast of Fosse, performing a leading role. In 2002 Mr. Liang became a member of the Nederlands Dans Theater 1, where he danced, choreographed and staged ballets. After returning from Holland, he returned to NYCB. He has also performed as a Guest Artist with various companies like the Norwegian National Ballet and Complexions. He has choreographed a number of works including a piece for Nederlands Dans Theater, which has been restaged for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and Configurations. He participated in the 2004 New York Choreographic Institute. He has created pieces for Cedar Lake Dance Company, New York City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Sadler Wells Theatre in London. He was named one of the “Top 25 to Watch” for 2006 by Dance Magazine.
Jerry Opdenaker was raised in Philadelphia, PA. Mr. Opdenaker graduated from the University of the Arts with a degree in dance. He has danced in many jazz and modern companies as well as Pennsylvania Ballet. After dancing with Kansas City Ballet, he joined Ballet Florida in 1992. He has performed in works by Peter Martins, Val Caniparoli, Daniel Ezralow, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett. For ten years, he was instrumental in the development, creatively and educationally, of STEP Ahead, Ballet Florida’s choreographic workshop. This project received an NEA - Access to Artistic Excellence grant twice. He has been choreographing since 1996 and his choreography has been performed by Ballet Florida and Ballet Gamonet. In 2005 he participated in the New York Choreographic Institute.


2007 Dancers
Adrienne Benz - BalletMet 
Lauren Fagone – Richmond Ballet
Brittany Fridenstine Keefe – James Sewell Ballet
Corina Gill – Los Angeles Ballet
Suzanne Haag – Eugene Ballet
Melissa Nolen – Eugene Ballet
Kelly Sloan – Los Angeles Ballet
Valerie Tellmann – Richmond Ballet
Gillmer Duran – Eugene Ballet
Adam Hundt - BalletMet
Nathaniel King – Ballet West
Geoffrey Kropp – Kansas City Ballet
Eddie Mikrut – Nashville Ballet
Edward McPherson – Ballet West
Kristopher Wojtera – Louisville Ballet

All photos by Robert Salas and David Friedman

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