Artistic Director Molly Lynch has announced 16 professional dancers from several American ballet companies to participate in the 18th annual National Choreographers Initiative. The dancers will work with four choreographers (Emily Adams, Leiland Charles, Jennifer Hart, and Gina Patterson) to create four new works in just three weeks. This very concentrated period will be topped off with an exciting public performance at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Saturday, July 30, 2022 at 8 PM. Audiences may choose to join live for the in-person showing at the Barclay or opt to attend virtually by purchasing the livestream option for viewing. Tickets are now on sale.

Molly Lynch, an award-winning choreographer and NCI founder, was the Artistic Director of one of southern California’s leading dance companies Ballet Pacifica from 1988-2003. In addition to creating her own ballets, Lynch restaged some of America’s most beloved classics by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor and Choo San Goh. Among her many accolades, in 2007 Lynch received the Outstanding Arts Organization Award for her National Choreographers Initiative from Arts Orange County; in 2008 she was honored with the Irvine Barclay Theatre’s prestigious Jade Award for her extraordinary leadership and creativity; and in October 2017 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Arts Visionary by Arts Orange County. Lynch is currently a Professor of Dance and serving as Chairperson of the Department of Dance at University of California, Irvine.

About the Choreographers

Emily Adams - Courtesy of NCI

Emily Adams – Courtesy of NCI

Emily Adams is originally from Newtown, PA. She trained at the School of American Ballet before joining Ballet West II in 2005 and the main company in 2007. She was promoted to Principal Artist in 2015. She has created six ballets for Ballet West including The Thing with Feathers which features an original score by Sundance Institute Fellow, Katy Jarzebowski. Emily was awarded the Utah Arts Festival’s Choreographic Commission in 2017. In August 2019, she collaborated with The Way of the Rain, Sibylle Szaggers Redford, and composer Tim Janis to create Earth Movements: A Symphony for Ballet. The ballet was performed by Ballet West and presented at the UN 68th International NGO Conference.

Leiland Charles - Courtesy of NCI

Leiland Charles – Courtesy of NCI

Leiland Charles is from Columbia, Maryland. He joined Alberta Ballet in Calgary, Canada, where he worked for three seasons dancing many roles including Benvolio in Jean Grand-Maïtre’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Red Couple in Jiri Kylían’s “Forgotten Land.” Leiland joined BalletMet as a Company Artist for the 2017-2018 season. Some of his favorite roles/ballets with the company include “In Creases” by Justin Peck and “Cacti” by Alexander Ekman. Leiland is also an up-and-coming choreographer and has created works including “Passages” for Alberta Ballet and most recently “Figurines” for BalletMet and “Togetherness” for BalletMet2. Leiland is in his 5th season with BalletMet.

Jennifer Hart - Courtesy of NCI

Jennifer Hart – Courtesy of NCI

Jennifer Hart, whose work is hailed as “not only inventive but heart-rending,” has choreographed for Ballet Austin, Ballet Austin ll, Ballet Nouveau Colorado, James Sewell Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, The Walker Art Center’s Momentum Series, The McKnight Fellowship for Dancers, Metropolitan Ballet Project, University of Kansas, University of Massachusetts (including selection for the National College Dance Festival), Lawrence Ballet Theatre, Halcyon Dance Project, Merrick Strategies for its production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and “Icons of Broadway Holiday Spectacular,” and Mobile Dance Film Festival. She has been awarded a New York City Ballet Fellowship and won third place at the Saint-Sauveur International Choreography Competition. She was chosen three times to present work at Ballet Builders, New Choreographer’s on Point in NYC. In 2014, she formed Performa/Dance with Ballet Austin dancer Edward Carr. Her work for Performa/Dance was awarded four Austin Critic’s Table awards for Best Short Work, Best Choreographer, and Best Dance Concert.

Gina Patterson - Courtesy of NCI

Gina Patterson – Courtesy of NCI

Gina Patterson is a 2021 Bogliasco Fellow, and has won such honors as the Choo San Goh Award, a nomination for an Isadora Duncan Award, the Hubbard Street 2 National Choreographic Competition, New Choreographers on Pointe, and the National Choreographers Initiative. Her dances appear in the repertoire of companies across the US and have been presented internationally in Italy, Croatia, Germany, Slovenia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Spain. Dance Magazine says, “Patterson has a voice, that ever-elusive thing, and whatever the future of ballet may be, choreographers like her will always have a place in it.” She danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Ballet Austin, Ballet Florida, and as a guest artist in North America and Europe.

A little about the dancers

Anwen Brown joined Ballet Memphis in 2013 and is looking forward to her tenth season. Anwen also danced as a guest artist in Ballet Mississippi’s Nutcracker, performing Sugarplum in 2021. Ava Chatterson has performed with Pittsburgh Ballet and Sacramento Ballet, where she has been since 2010. Ava is also a founding member and dancer with Capital Dance. Ricardo Dyer has danced for 6 professional companies most recently including Smuin Ballet, LA Dance Project and the LA Opera. Celeste Gaiera performed with Texas Ballet Theater for four years and currently performs with the Richmond Ballet. Joseph Hetzer trained on scholarship with summer programs at Jacob’s Pillow, The Royal Danish Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, and Ballet West. He is a current corps de ballet dancer with Oklahoma City Ballet. Christopher Kaiser danced with Alberta Ballet for three seasons before joining Oregon Ballet Theatre. This will be his 6th season with OBT where and was promoted to soloist in 2021. Michelle Katcher was a founding member of the Gelsey Kirkland Ballet, danced with Ballet Arizona for one season before joining the Sacramento Ballet in 2016, where she currently dances. Rees Launer has been a guest artist for Peoria Ballet and Idaho Dance Theatre. Launer began his professional career with Charlotte Ballet in 2019.

Taylor Lim accepted a position at Sibiu Ballet Theater in Romania, where she performed with the corps de ballet. She joined Olympic Ballet Theatre in the summer of 2021. Anna Mains spent the last two years in Charlotte Ballet’s Second Company and will be joining Charlotte Ballet’s 1st Company for the 2022/2023 Season. Heather Nichols performed with Ballet San Antonio for four years. In 2019, Ms. Nichols joined Kansas City Ballet. Wyatt Pendleton spent two years with Milwaukee Ballet II and then joined Rochester City Ballet in 2018. Wyatt is excited to be joining Ballet Memphis next season. Nicholas Sakai began his career at Dayton before joining Eugene Ballet. Next year, he is excited to start his first season with Oregon Ballet Theatre with Peter Franc as interim artistic director. Ken Shiozawa (he/they) spent his senior year of high school attending Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s full-time program. Currently, Shiozawa attends the University of Wisconsin Superior as a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health. Sophie Williams’ professional career includes performing with Richmond Ballet, Ballet San Jose, BalletMet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and Royal New Zealand Ballet. She joined Texas Ballet Theater in 2022. Ben Youngstone has performed with Charlotte Ballet II, Sacramento Ballet, and is currently dancing with Oregon Ballet Theater.


The performance for the 2022 National Choreographers Initiative takes place at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on July 30, 2022 at 8 PM. To purchase tickets, please click HERE.

For more information about National Choreographers Initiative, please visit their WEBSITE.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle based on National Choreographers Initiative press release.

Featured image: National Choreographers Initiative 2019 – Courtesy of NCI