Ballet Initiative

 Ballet INITIATIVE is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise the profile of dance in the Saint Louis community through preservation, promotion and the presentation of affordable exposure and access to quality ballet. We teach students to dance, help them excel in dance and educate the public about ballet in an effort to help sustain the art form for generations to come. Ballet INITIATIVE strives to make the art of ballet accessible, understood, supported and enjoyed by our community.

Stephen Hanna: Former Principal, New York City Ballet, Broadway Performer

Stephan began his dance training with Roberto Munoz in Pittsburgh, PA. At age 14 he moved to New York City to study at the School of American Ballet. While there Stephen danced principal roles in ballets by Balanchine, Martins, and Bournonville. In 1997, he was awarded the prestigious Mae L. Wein Award for outstanding promise and then invited to join the New York City Ballet. In 2004 he was promoted to soloist and in 2005 was promoted to the rank of Principal dancer. While a Principal with NYCB, Stephen danced roles in ballets by Balanchine, Robbins, Martins, Tanner, andEvans. He has performed around the world with NYCB, Tom Gold Dance, and international ballet galas. Upon retiring from the NYCB Stephen went to work on Broadway. He originated the role of Older Billy in Billy Elliot, performed in the national tour of Come Fly Away, and performed as Dream Lecter in the cast of off Broadway's Silence! The Musical.   Stephen can be seen dancing in Live From Lincoln Center and the 2009 Tony Awards. His film credits include Center Stage and the documentary Finding Billy.  Stephen performed in the Broadway revival of On the Town and is currently performing on Broadway in the cast of An American in Paris.

Maria Chapman Kennedy: Former Principal, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Maria is from St. Simons Island, Georgia. She was a student of Magdalena Maury and studied under Patricia Bromley at Terpsichore Co., Ltd. in Atlanta. She continued her training on full scholarship at the School of American Ballet and attended summer courses at Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet. She joined Pacific Northwest Ballet as an apprentice in 1995 and was promoted to corps de ballet in 1996, soloist in 2005, and principal in 2009. Maria retired from the stage in November of 2015.

Ms. Chapman danced in the BBC's 1999 film version of PNB's production of George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, filmed at Sadler's Wells Theatre, London. She is also featured in the 1999 danceWORKS fitness video and began appearing in Bloch dancewear advertising in 2002.

In addition to her performing career, Ms. Chapman is a founding member (1998 to present) of Second Stage for Dancers, PNB's career transition program. She is currently chairperson of the Second Stage Dancer Committee.

 Benjamin Millepied: Director of L.A. Dance Project; Former Director, Paris Opera Ballet

Born in Bordeaux France, Benjamin Millepied began his dance training at the age of eight with his mother Catherine, a former modern dancer. From the age of thirteen to sixteen he attended the Conservatoire National de Lyon, studying classical ballet under Michel Rahn. In the summer of 1992, Benjamin made his first appearance in New York City, for a summer program at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet. The following year he became a full-time student at the school, having received the “Bourse Lavoisier,” a scholarship award from the French Ministry of Culture. For the 1994 SAB Spring Workshop, Benjamin originated a principal role in Jerome Robbins’ 2 & 3 Part Inventions, set to music by J.S Bach. That same year, he was awarded the prestigious “Prix de Lausanne.” In his last year at SAB, Benjamin received the Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Promise and was invited to become a member of New York City Ballet. By early 2001, he was promoted to the rank of Principal Dancer. In 2004 and 2005, Benjamin directed the Morriss Center Dance Workshop in Bridgehampton, New York.  From 2006 to 2007, he was choreographer-in-residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. In 2007, Benjamin received the United States Artists Wynn Fellowship.  In 2010, Mr. Millepied was made Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture.

As a dancer with the New York City Ballet, Mr. Millepied’s repertoire included featured roles in George Balanchine’s Agon, Ballo Della Regina, Coppélia, “Divertimento” from Le Baiser De La Fée, The Nutcracker,

Harlequinade, Rubies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Raymonda Variations, La Source, Stars and Stripes, Symphony in C, Tarantella, Tschaikovsky Pas De Deux, Theme and Variations, Valse-Fantasie.  Mr. Millepied also danced numerous featured roles in Jerome Robbins’ works, including 2 & 3 Part Inventions, Dances at a Gathering, Fancy Free, A Suite of Dances, In The Night, The Four Seasons, Dybbuk, Interplay, Piano Pieces and West Side Story Suite.  Mr. Millepied repertoire also included featured roles in Susan Stroman’s Double Feature, Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance) and Mercurial Manoeuvres, and Peter Martins’ Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.  Additionally, Mr. Millepied originated roles in many works, including: Jerome Robbins’ Brandenburg, Les Noces (revival), and Dybbuk (revival); Peter Martins’ Hallelujah Junction; Angelin Preljocaj’s La Stravaganza; Mauro Bigonzetti’s Vespro and In Vento; and Alexei Ratmanski’s Concerto DSCH. In 1999 and 2002 he appeared in featured roles with the New York City Ballet for the nationally televised Live From Lincoln Center broadcast.  Mr. Millepied retired from the New York City Ballet in 2011.
In 2010, Mr. Millepied choreographed and starred in Darren Aronofsky’s award-winning feature film Black Swan. That year, Benjamin also directed his first short film featuring Lea Seydoux and a score by Angelo Badalamenti. In 2011, Millepied directed 5 short films set to new violin works by Phillip Glass, commissioned by Timothy Fain for a multi-media performance entitled Portals. Benjamin is now directing on a regular basis.

In 2012, Mr. Millepied announced the creation of LA Dance Project, a new dance company.  L.A. Dance Project’s inaugural performances, commissioned by The Music Center, will take place in September of 2012 at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and feature a new work choreographed by Mr. Millepied with a commissioned score by Nico Muhly, set design by artist Christopher Wool, and costumes by Rodarte.  L.A. Dance Project will tour the United States and internationally into 2013. Benjamin is now the Artistic Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. 

Margaret Severin-hansen: Principal, Carolina Ballet

Margaret Severin-Hansen began her ballet training at Huntington School of Ballet on Long Island.  She was accepted into the School of American Ballet in 1993 and trained there until she was taken into Carolina Ballet in 1998.  She spent six weeks in the summer of 1998 with the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen beore joining Carolina Ballet as a founding member.

At Carolina Ballet, Ms. Severin-Hansen has danced the majority of the ballets in the repertory.  She began as an apprentice and worked her way very quickly through the ranks to principal dancer.  Artistic Director Robert Weiss and guest choreographers (including Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Christopher Wheeldon and Damian Woetzel) have created ballets on Ms. Severin-Hansen at Carolina Ballet and she has been singled out repeatedly by the critics for her artistry and technical merit.  Timour Bourtasenkov and Attila Bongar, both principal dancers at Carolina Ballet, have created ballets on Severin-Hansen.

Ms. Severin-Hansen's principal roles include Juliet, the Firebird, Swanhilda, Cinderella, Carmen, Odette/Odile, the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Sylph and Princess Aurora.  Robert Weiss created Jeu de Cartes on Severin-Hansen in 2002, a pas de deux in Swan Lake in 2005 (for which she received national acclaim), a movement of The Gardens of Giverny in January 2007, and Adagio, a pas de deux to music by Tomaso Albinoni in 2007.  During the summer of 2008 Weiss created a movement of Time Gallery on Severin-Hansen, and Lynne Taylor-Corbett choreographed Code of Silence on her.  Both ballets premiered at the end of the company's summer residency on the campus of UNC Wilmington.

Ms. Severin-Hansen's Balanchine repertory includes Apollo, Allegro, Brilliante, Valse Fantaise, Rubies, Donizetti Variations, Concerto Barocco, Who Cares?, Raymonda Variations, Square Dance, Divertimento 15, Agon, Steadfast Tin Soldier and Tarantella.

In January of 2009, Ms. Severin-Hansen was one of eight graduates of the School of American Ballet personally invited by Peter Martins to perform with New York City Ballet dancers in the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the school.   She danced Tarantella with New York City Ballet principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht.


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