A New Roster for Boston Ballet

By Mary Hierholzer

 Chyrstyn Fentroy by Rachel Neville Photography; courtesy Chyrstyn Fentroy

Chyrstyn Fentroy by Rachel Neville Photography; courtesy Chyrstyn Fentroy


When Boston Ballet returned to the studio for its 2017–18 season today, the Company welcomed 13 new dancers to its ranks. Seven join the main company, and six join Boston Ballet’s second company, Boston Ballet II (BBII). As the season begins, nine Boston Ballet dancers have also been promoted, including three new principal dancers.

“With every new season, I have the opportunity to shape the Company by promoting great talent from within, and welcoming new dancers from all over the world,” Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen said today in the Company press release. “This season’s repertoire represents some of the finest choreographers of dance history and today. I am excited to see how they challenge our dancers and entertain our audiences.”

New Dancers

 Derek Dunn by Curtis Brown Photography, courtesy Derek Dunn

Derek Dunn by Curtis Brown Photography, courtesy Derek Dunn

Derek Dunn, soloist
From: Glen Burnie, Maryland
Training: Edna Lee Dance Studio in Maryland; The Rock School for Dance Education
Professional experience: Houston Ballet (2012; promoted to soloist 2016)
Recognitions: Received several awards at the Youth America Grand Prix; named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2014; featured on the cover of Pointe magazine (2016)

Jessica Burrows, artist of the Company
From: Stouffville, Canada
Training: Canada’s National Ballet School; National Ballet of Canada apprentice (2009)
Professional experience: Hong Kong Ballet corps de ballet (2010; promoted to coryphée 2015)

Daniel Durrett, artist of the Company
From: Cincinnati, Ohio
Training: Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy; Houston Ballet II; Houston Ballet apprentice Professional experience: Houston Ballet corps de ballet (2016)
Recognitions: Awards at the Indianapolis International Ballet Competition (2015) and Youth America Grand Prix (2013)

Chrystyn Fentroy, artist of the Company
From: Los Angeles, California
Training: Ruth Fentroy; Joffrey Ballet School in New York on scholarship
Professional experience: Dance Theatre of Harlem
Recognition: Featured on the cover of Dance Magazine (2015); received the Princess Grace Honoraria Award in Dance (2016)

Patric Palkens, artist of the Company
From: Lewistown, Montana
Training: Municipal Theatre Ballet School (Santiago, Chile); Pacific Northwest Ballet; Ballet Chicago; Orlando Ballet II
Professional experience: Cincinnati Ballet (2011; promoted to soloist then senior soloist 2012–2013; principal after a season with Salzburg Ballet)

Michael Ryan, artist of the Company
From: Houston, Texas
Training: Ballet Academy of Texas; Orlando Ballet School on scholarship; Houston Ballet’s Ben Stevenson Academy; Houston Ballet II (2012)
Professional experience: Houston Ballet corps de ballet
Recognitions: Prix de Lausanne finalist (2014)

 Caroline Buckheit; photo by Igor Burlak Photography

Caroline Buckheit; photo by Igor Burlak Photography

Haley Schwan, artist of the Company
From: Dearborn, Michigan
Training: Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington D.C.; Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia
Professional experience: Staatsballett Berlin (2010–16); Twyla Tharp 50th Anniversary Tour and Emery LeCrone Dance (2017)

Boston Ballet also named six new dancers to its second company, Boston Ballet II (BBII):

Olivia Behrmann, Caroline Buckheit, Tyson Clark (who received the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Scholarship Award and the Chris Hellman Dance Award last year), Thomas Davidoff, August Generalli and Catherine Livingston.


In total, nine dancers have been promoted within the company for the 2017-18 season, three of whom join the main company from BBII.

Paul Craig, principal
A versatile Boston Ballet School (BBS) and BBII alum, Mr. Craig danced both classical and contemporary roles last season, particularly shining in contemporary roles, including as the lead in Alexander Ekman’s contemporary Cacti, the pas de deux in William Forsythe’s Artifact and Jiří Kylián’s Wings of Wax. He also performed Conrad in Le Corsaire and the lead in George Balanchine’s Stravinsky Violin Concerto.

Patrick Yocum, principal
Mr. Yocum, another BBS and BBII alum, has been increasingly featured in Boston Ballet performances, often partnering with Principal Misa Kuranaga. Last season, his standout performances were in Wings of Wax and as the Lilac Fairy Cavalier in The Sleeping Beauty. The season before, he was memorable in the Swan Lake Pas de Trois and as Lensky in Onegin.

 Junxiong Zhao in John Cranko's Onegin; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Junxiong Zhao in John Cranko's Onegin; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

Junxiong Zhao, principal
Graceful, light and effortlessly balletic, Mr. Zhao enjoyed wildly successful season last year. He danced a multitude of principal and featured roles, all superbly. Mr. Zhao’s vigorous and weightless performances in Donizetti Variations, as the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty and as Conrad in Le Corsaire were the most memorable. He is an extremely enjoyable and impressive dancer to watch perform.

Roddy Doble, soloist
Mr. Doble is a reliable dancer with Boston Ballet, and last season enjoyed the spotlight in Wings of Wax and as Lankendem in Le Corsaire.

Hannah Bettes, second soloist
A distinguished ballerina, Ms. Bettes is consistently alluring in her fiery performances. Last season as an artist of the Company, she was featured in Forysthe’s Artifact, performing the Act II pas de deux.

Lawrence Rines, second soloist
Over his five years with Boston Ballet and BBII, Lawrence Rines has performed many roles, and he does them well. Last season he proved great proficiency in opening night of Wings of Wax, in Artifact and in The Nutcracker in the Russian dance and Bear dance.

Sage Humphries, artist of the Company
Since joining BBII last season, Ms. Humphries has performed corps de ballet roles in many performances, and has been featured in the Flames of Paris grand pas de deux.

Graham Johns, artist of the Company
Last season, Mr. Johns was often utilized by the main company to dance male corps de ballet roles in performances, including a Fairy Cavalier in The Sleeping Beauty. He also performed the male lead in Balanchine’s Haieff Divertimento with BBII.

Abigail Merlis, artist of the Company
A smart addition to the company, Ms. Merlis of Westport, CT, stood out in last season as the female lead in BBII performances of Haieff Divertimento, and danced a particularly impressive show of Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations with the main company.

Formerly, leading women outnumbered leading men in the company, but between departing dancers (including former principal Dusty Button) and adding new soloist, now principal and soloist men outnumber women, 12 to 10. With numbers more evened out, this will have an interesting impact on casting, and hopefully it means we’ll see more varied partnering.

Diversity at Boston Ballet

Thirty-five percent of the Company are BBII alumni, 22 percent are BBS alumni and most of the promotions went to BBII and BBS dancers. While Boston Ballet rallies the community with a strong sense of local pride, it will also benefit from continuing to expand its diversity. Between the 55 main company dancers and 10 in BBII, 15 nationalities are represented (there were 18 last season, and the new Ms. Burrows is the only member from Canada).

An laudable development this season is the addition of three black dancers to Boston Ballet; five black members of Boston Ballet is the most that the Company has seen in at least a decade. The last female black dancer was Tai Jimenez (2005-07). Having dancers who represent a broad range of backgrounds is a great asset; an array of balletic traditions necessarily brings dynamic flavor to a company.

See Boston Ballet in Obsidian Tear, November 3–12. Tickets go on sale Sept. 5. For more information, visit the Boston Ballet webpage.