Meet the choreographers of Balletfest!
Salvatore Aiello (February 26, 1944-October 14, 1995) was an American dancer, choreographer, and the artistic director of North Carolina Dance Theatre (1985-1995) where he put his unique imprint on the company.
Salvatore Aiello’s early career as a dancer included the Tri-City Ballet Guild in Boston and dancing in theater productions that include Kiss Me, Kate; Guys and Dolls; Oklahoma; and Finian’s Rainbow.
Aiello’s professional career included American Festival Ballet of Rhode Island, Donald McKayle and Company, Joffrey Ballet under the artistic direction of Robert Joffrey, a charter member of the Harkness Ballet with Rebecca Harkness, The Eglevsky Ballet as principal dancer and assistant to Andre Eglevsky, Hamburg Ballet under the artistic direction of John Neumeier and Royal Winnipeg Ballet where he also served as Ballet Master and Associate Artistic Director.
A rich mixture of training and performances provided Salvatore with versatility in style and theatricality and an impressive ability to choreograph a diverse array of works. The word “energy” most aptly describes Salvatore Aiello and is found prominently in his choreography. Throughout his repertoire of work, Salvatore captured the essence of the human spirit.
In 1996, Salvatore Aiello (posthumous) was awarded the North Carolina Alliance Award for his outstanding contribution to dance.
Gerald Arpino, as co-founder of the Joffrey Ballet in New York with Robert Joffrey in 1956, Mr. Arpino was the nationally known company’s associate director for many years and, upon Joffrey’s 1988 death, succeeded him as artistic director. In 1995, Arpino and the company moved to Chicago.
A leading dancer with the company until a 1963 injury, Arpino choreographed his first Joffrey work, “Ropes”, in 1961. In subsequent years, he created more than a third of the Joffrey’s repertoire, ranging in theme from social commentary to pure dance. His works have been performed by other troupes worldwide.
He was the only choreographer to have had four ballets performed at the White House (the company was the first to perform there), and he was the first choreographer commissioned to create a ballet honoring the office of the presidency (on its 200th anniversary), “The Pantages and the Palace Present Two-a-Day,” a frothy 1989 work. He was the first American commissioned to create a ballet for a city: “Jamboree”, for San Antonio in 1985. In 1993, he produced America’s first full-evening rock ballet, “Billboards”, set to music of Prince. The company itself was the first ever to present a rock ballet: Arpino’s “Trinity”, which drew acclaim in 1970. Arpino was a visionary dancer and choreographer who, along with Robert Joffrey, created a ballet company and a body of work that has made a singular and enduring impact on American ballet. Throughout his 50-year career, Arpino created nearly 50 ballets for The Joffrey Ballet.
Arpino served on numerous boards and councils, including the national advisory council of the USA International Ballet Competition and the board of the Dance Notation Bureau. He fulfilled advisory roles for the New York International Festival of the Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors. He was a member of the Chicago Academy for the Arts board. He held honorary doctorates from the College of Staten Island, the borough where he was born as Gennaro Peter Arpino in 1923; the City University of New York; and Staten Island’s Wagner College, which he attended for one year before enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1942. He received the 1974 Dance Magazine award and the Vaslav Nijinsky Medal. The Chicago Tribune twice honored him as one of its “Chicagoans of the Year.” He died in Chicago in 2008 at age 85.
José Costas teaches ballet, jazz and Latin dance at Orange Coast College. He began his dance training in his native Puerto Rico, under the direction of Julie Mayoral and Lolita San Miguel. He earned his BS and M. Ed. degrees from Catholic University of Puerto Rico, and his MFA from Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. José was a principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico of New York for nine years. During his tenure with Ballet Hispanico, Mr. Costas created lead roles in many ballets and performed throughout the United States, Europe and South America. He has worked extensively as a choreographer, creating productions throughout the country. In 1995 he received a Modern Dance Award given by Puerto Rican Institute of New York.
José has taught for educational programs including Ballet Hispanico, City Center and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and master classes in ballet, modern, jazz and ethnic dance styles for universities, dance schools and public schools in the United States and Puerto Rico. He taught at California State University, Dominguez Hills for four years before becoming a full-time faculty member in the Orange Coast College Dance Department in 1999. For several years he was the artistic director of Fiesta Latina, an OCC student dance outreach program focusing on the Latino dance/music traditions. He received an award from OCC in 2008 for his efforts to improve community outreach.
In 2008 while on a one-year leave of absence from Orange Coast College, Mr. Costas served as the Director of the prestigious Ballet Hispanico School of Dance in New York City. During his tenure as school director Mr. Costas re-designed the school curriculum, created a new outreach performance program and was the choreographer in residence and Artistic Director for the new School Ensemble, Ballet Hispanico II.
Jestoni “Jet” Dagdag is a choreographer, dancer, instructor, and dance producer based in Long Beach, Ca. He was born in the Philippines, and moved to the United States at the age of 14. He was introduced to his first formal dance class at Fullerton College, and soon became deeply passionate with the artform. A few years later, he transferred to the University of California, Irvine. There, he earned a BFA in Dance Performance in 2015, and received an Excellence in Dance Performance arts award. He’s had the pleasure of performing as a freelance dancer with several companies all throughout Los Angeles and Orange County such as Re:born Dance Interactive, Festival Ballet Theatre, Southern California Dance Theatre, Multiplex Dance, Shaun Boyle & Artists, Kelly Alvarez & Artists, and Palm Dance Collective.
In 2017, DAGDAG Dance was founded to provide performance opportunities for local dancers and musicians. Most importantly, to work closely in a collaborative and professional environment. Since its inception, the company has presented original danceworks and has participated in dance festivals, school events, and fundraising events across Southern California. In November 2019, DAGDAG Dance produced its first full length show at the DIAVOLO in Los Angeles, Ca. The company’s unique style is rooted from Jestoni’s modern, jazz, contemporary and classical ballet background. As an artistic director, Jestoni hopes to bring out the best from his collaborators, and to continue learning from them.
Joyce Lo is a dance and collaborative artist, educator, and choreographer whose movement practice is rooted in classical ballet and shaped by contemporary and modern dance forms.
She graduated magna cum laude with a BFA Honours degree from York University, specializing in Dance Performance and Choreography. There she was privileged to study with esteemed faculty including John Ottmann, Julia Sasso, and Helen Jones, and was also awarded several fine arts awards and scholarships. Most recently, she also completed her graduate studies in Dance, receiving her Masters in Fine Arts degree from Montclair State University and has moved to Los Angeles.
Her international training began in Trinidad & Tobago when she danced in the inaugural New Waves Dance and Performance Institute – an international forum for exchange on contemporary dance in 2011. Since then, she has traveled and danced in London, New York, Tokyo, LA, and Rome. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she turned to creating and directing dance films; her works have since been screened in multiple international film festivals.
Joyce is continually guided by curiosity and is in constant search of inspiration; finding it in the simple and profound moments of everyday life.
Zoe Marinello-Kohn is a professional ballet dancer, choreographer, actor, artist, composer and dance instructor. Zoe received her ballet training at the San Francisco Ballet School and the Academy of Ballet in San Francisco. Since then Zoe has worked professionally with the San Diego Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota, Elle Vie Dance Company and the Osage Ballet. Zoe is a company member of the San Diego Ballet where she frequently performs in Principle and Soloist roles and is currently in her tenth season with the company. In addition, she serves as the Education and Outreach Programs Manager and Lead Teaching Artist for the San Diego Ballet.
Zoe has choreographed works for the San Diego Ballet, Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota,the Ignite Choreographers Showcase, the San Diego Dance Theater’s Young Choreographer’s Showcase and Prize, The Synesthesia Dance Experience in Los Angeles and most recently the Journey Through the Senses’; Live Ballet and Piano exploration of Synesthesia in Greystones, Ireland.
During the pandemic Zoe turned to film to continue her work and her dance films have been featured in the Rising Arts Leaders, San Diego Arts Fest 2020 and made the official selection at the Wicklow Screendance Laboratory Festival in Ireland in 2022. Zoe’s art is inspired by self-exploration and a drive to understand the reaches of consciousness.Her work also reflects relevant occurrences of our time including social, cultural and environmental commentary.
Maté Szentes is originally from Budapest, Hungary and began his training at the age of six. He studied at the Hungarian Dance Academy while attending summer programs at North Carolina Dance Theater in Charlotte, NC on full scholarships. Upon graduation he joined the Hungarian National Ballet where he danced for 3 years performing corps de ballet and soloist roles in the company’s many classical and contemporary productions. In 2012 he moved to California and joined the Sacramento Ballet as a company artist and continued expanding his repertoire. Mr. Szentes relocated to the east coast in 2015 to join the Richmond Ballet where he danced principal and soloist roles in the company’s very versatile repertoire. Besides dancing classical ballet’s most famous roles he had the opportunity to dance many of George Balanchine’s works and worked with world renowned choreographers such as Ma Cong, Val Caniparoli, Mariana Oliveira, Melissa Barak, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa among many others. He’s also a permanent guest principal dancer with American Contemporary Ballet and Raiford Rogers Modern Ballet and has been one of few dancers selected to participate at the very prestigious National Choreographers Initiative in 2016 and 2018. Since 2016 he has also been choreographing and had his original works showcased in Virginia, California and New Mexico.
Stella Sing Yiun Ng holds a Master’s of Fine Arts in Dance at University of California, Irvine. She also holds a BA in International Business and Dance at CSULB. She was awarded many first prizes at renowned international ballet competitions, where she was given a full scholarship to a ballet school in New York. Stella joined the Anaheim Ballet Company and Festival Ballet Theatre as an artist during her time in California where she performed with international ballet stars such as Yuan Yuan Tan, Maria Kotchekova and many more. She was invited as a guest artist to perform along with Pacific Symphony at Segerstrom Concert Hall and Bowers Museum. Stella was also invited as a guest choreographer for UCI Summer Academies, Irvine HS, and she has choreographed works at UCI. As an American Ballet Theatre (ABT) certified teacher, her passion is to continue educating and nurturing future dancers.
Marine de Vachon, born in France, Marine began studying dance in Denver, CO under Margaret McLaughlin, former ballet mistress of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo.
After moving back to France, she integrated the Conservatoire de Marius Petipa in Paris. While there, she was privileged to perform in Jerome Savary’s Cenerentola at the Paris Opera.
She continued her training at the Conservatoire National et Régional de Nice and at North Carolina School of the Arts before earning a BFA in Ballet from the University of Oklahoma where she performed with Oklahoma Festival Ballet.
Marine has danced professionally with Ballet Long Island, Columbia City Ballet, Charleston Ballet Theatre and Pacific Ballet Dance Theatre where she has enjoyed performing soloist and principal roles in classical and contemporary ballets such as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Carmen, La Boutique Fantastique, Pas de Quatre, The Little Mermaid, Peter Rabbit and The Firebird.
Since making Los Angeles her home in 2011, Marine has been blessed with the opportunity to dance and choreograph for national and international commercials, print campaigns, music videos and film as well as for the stage.
In 2017 she founded Contempo Arts Productions and premiered her full-length version of Romeo and Juliet in LA that summer. Following that production, Marine created the choreography, while holding the title roles, for several award-winning short films before the pandemic forced the performing arts world to go dark. During that time, she kept busy choreographing six new pieces to be integrated into Fused , an all new production premiering at the Alex Theatre on August 19th 2022.