Founded in 2004 and led by award-winning choreographer and artistic director, Molly Lynch, the 19th performance of the National Choreographers Initiative (NCI) will take place at the Irvine Barclay Theatre on Saturday, July 29, 2023 at 8 PM. The performance will also be live streamed. The evening will include the premiere of four new ballets by choreographers Kristopher Estes-Brown, Ye Li, Ian Schwaner, and Carrie Ruth Trumbo and include the talents of sixteen dancers selected from around the nation. The concert is the culmination of a three week residence and several of the pieces created here will go on to be performed elsewhere in the U.S. Tickets to the NCI performance are on sale now.

“I am excited to return to the Barclay with NCI and present this group of incredibly talented choreographers and dancers,” said Lynch. “This is a laboratory for the choreographers to develop their movement and thematic ideas. It’s an intense creative effort that is both fun and rewarding, and I look forward to working with them.”

Lynch has over 40 years of experience creating, producing, and presenting dance. She was the artistic director for Ballet Pacifica from 1988-2003 and is currently a Professor and Chair of the Dance Department in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine. During her tenure with Ballet Pacifica, Lynch worked with numerous choreographers, premiered more than forty new ballets and restaged classics works by renown choreographers including George Balanchine, Antony Tudor and Choo San Goh.

National Choreographers Initiative - Photo courtesy of NCI

National Choreographers Initiative – Photo courtesy of NCI

NCI has hosted 69 choreographers who have produced 72 new works. Like in previous years, the four choreographers for 2023 were given total freedom in choosing the style and theme of their new ballets and told that the work did not necessarily have to be a finished ballet – something that is difficult to do in just a three-week period.

They include:

Kristopher Estes-Brown is a choreographer best known for his athletic, expressive movement style, unique musicality, and eye-catching theatricality. Estes-Brown, who has danced professionally with numerous ballet companies across the country, has created over 90 original contemporary dance pieces as well as eight full-length story ballets. His stage works have been performed throughout the United States by numerous dance companies with great acclaim.

Ye Li is a multi-award-winning dancer who has performed lead roles in Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, among others. He has worked with a wide range of world-class choreographers and is executive director and choreographer for the Oregon International Ballet Academy (OIBA), which he co-founded in 2015 with his wife Xuan Cheng.

Ian Schwaner attended University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he danced leading roles in works by George Balanchine, Ethan Stiefel, Marius Petipa, as well as world premieres by Emery LeCrone and Susan Jaffe. He spent his summers studying on full merit scholarships at American Ballet Theatre School and The Joffrey Ballet School. He recently premiered his immersive dance film Ode To Summer, which features several choreographic world premieres. Schwaner has also been commissioned for his choreography.

National Choreographers Initiative - Photo courtesy of NCI

National Choreographers Initiative – Photo courtesy of NCI

Carrie Ruth Trumbo is the resident choreographer and artistic associate of Pegasus Contemporary Ballet, a Dallas-based company formed in 2021. She has created four works for the company, one of which was awarded a TACA Pop-Up Grant. Her first full-length commission is set to premiere in June 2023.

Trumbo has been with multiple ballet companies where she performed repertoire by Twyla Tharp, Ronald Hynd, Ma Cong, Edwaard Liang, and John Cranko.

The dancers selected to perform on the 2023 NCI are:

Women: Anwen David – Ballet Memphis*; Katherine “Katie” Deuitch – Ballet Austin; Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kanning – Ballet Idaho; Michelle Katcher – Sacramento Ballet*; Saho Kumagai – Atlanta Ballet; Sophie Savas-Carstens – Philadelphia Ballet; Sophie Williams – Texas Ballet Theater*; and Lily Wills – Pacific Northwest Ballet

Men: Lester Gonzalez – Dayton Ballet; Joseph Hetzer – Oklahoma City Ballet*; Daniel Kubr – Sacramento Ballet; Clay Murray – Festival Ballet of Providence; Cameron Pelton – Oregon Ballet Theatre; Andrew Rossi – Ballet Met; Sean Sessions – Saint Louis Ballet; and Hunter Solomon – Boulder Ballet

*Returning dancers

Photos and dance biographies for the above 2023 Dancers may be viewed by clicking HERE.

WHAT: The 19th performance of the National Choreographers Initiative
WHERE: Irvine Barclay Theatre, located at 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine, California 92612.
WHEN: July 29, 2023 at 8 PM (PDT)
TICKETS: In-person tickets are $20 – $60, and virtual access tickets are $20.

For tickets or more information about the Irvine Barclay, please visit or call (949) 854-4646

This article was edited on 7/20/23 to correct the date of event.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle based on information provided by Jane Gillespie, Public Relations & Marketing at Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Featured image: National Choreographers Initiative – photo courtesy NCI