Ballet Reawakened – Choreographer bios

Robert Gardner
Choreographer – An American Concerto

Rochester City Ballet Artistic Director Robert Gardner joined RCB after being the Minnesota Ballet’s Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer for over a decade. He began his career in Manhattan, training on scholarship at the School of American Ballet, then performing with the Eglevsky Ballet, the Joffrey II Dancers and Joffrey Ballet where he danced in the works of Frederick Ashton, Anthony Tudor, Ruthanna Boris, Choo San Goh, throughout the United States, as well as internationally. His career moved him west, where with the San Jose/Cleveland Ballet he danced principal and soloist roles in works by George Balanchine, Agnes De Mille, Lar Lubovitch, Jose’ Limon and many others. He appeared as a guest artist with the Houston Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, and Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, New York. His world dance experience has enriched his vision, choreography, and teaching. For the Minnesota Ballet, he choreographed over 40 works, including his original versions of “Sleeping Beauty,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Dracula,” “Firebird, and “Swan Lake,” described as a “lush dance epic.” His work has been hailed as having a, “meticulous use of contrasting imagery, emotions and energy that make each dance moment exquisitely unique,” and has been presented to acclaim nationally and internationally. He has choreographed for opera and orchestra, as well as musical theater, including “The Pirates of Penzance,” “Into the Woods,” and “Les Misérables.” His national connections have enabled him to bring  masterworks by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Agnes DeMille, Anthony Tudor, and Salvatore Aiello to the companies he has led, as well as promoting emerging regional and national choreographers, composers, and designers. Mr. Gardner has received an Excellence in the Arts & Sciences Award from the Saint Louis County Board of Commissioners and the Lifetime Artist Award from the Depot Foundation. He received an American Composers Forum Award to create an original work with original score and has served as a grant panelist for the MN State Arts Board.

George Balanchine
Choreographer – Who Cares

George Balanchine transformed the world of ballet. He is widely regarded as the most influential choreographer of the 20th century, and he co-founded two of ballet’s most important institutions: New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet. Balanchine was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1904, studied at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, and danced with the Maryinsky Theatre Ballet Company, where he began choreographing short works. In the summer of 1924, Balanchine left the newly formed Soviet Union for Europe, where he was invited by impresario Serge Diaghilev to join the Ballets Russes. For that company, Balanchine choreographed his first important ballets Apollo (1928) and Prodigal Son (1929).

After Ballets Russes was dissolved following Diaghilev’s death in 1929, Balanchine spent his next few years on a variety of projects in Europe and then formed his own company, Les Ballets 1933, in Paris. There, he met American arts connoisseur Lincoln Kirstein, who persuaded him to come to the United States. In 1934, the pair founded the School of American Ballet, which remains in operation to this day, training students for companies around the world.

Balanchine’s first ballet in the U.S., Serenade set to music by Tschaikovsky, was created for SAB students and premiered on June 9, 1934, on the grounds of an estate in White Plains.

Balanchine and Kirstein founded several short-lived ballet companies before forming Ballet Society in 1946, which was renamed New York City Ballet in 1948. Balanchine served as the Company’s ballet master from that year until his death in 1983, building it into one of the most important performing arts institutions in the world, and a cornerstone of the cultural life of New York City. He choreographed 425 works over the course of 60-plus years, and his musical choices ranged from Tschaikovsky (one of his favorite composer) to Stravinsky (his compatriot and friend) to Gershwin (who embodied the choreographer’s love of America). Many of Balanchine’s works are considered masterpieces and are performed by ballet companies all over the world.

– Bio courtesy of New York City Ballet. Photo credit: Tanaquil LeClercq

Deborah Wingert
Repetiteur, The Balanchine Trust

Ms. Wingert began her training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth ballet under Marcia Dale Weary and became a scholarship student at the School of American Ballet in New York. At the age of sixteen, she was selected by George Balanchine to join New York City Ballet. During her fifteen years with the company, Ms. Wingert danced over twenty-five principal, soloist, and featured roles in productions that include Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Coppelia, Orpheus, Symphony in C, Jewels, Who Cares?, Stars and Stripes,The Nutcracker, The Four Temperaments, and Mozartiana, Jerome Robbins’ The Concert and Antique Epigraphs, and Peter Martins’ The Sleeping Beauty. A principal and soloist with numerous nationally acclaimed companies, her film and television credits include George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® (Time-Warner), PBS “Great Performance” Dinner With Balanchine, “Dance in America” Balanchine – Serenade and Western Symphony, Peter Martins’ Concerto for Two Solo Pianos and “Live from Lincoln Center” A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Deborah Wingert is one of a small group of artists selected by The George Balanchine Trust to set his choreography. In this capacity she has traveled throughout the United States, setting and staging the Balanchine repertoire for Dance Theater of Harlem, Rochester City Ballet, Indiana University, Butler University, Joffrey Ballet School Chicago, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Baltimore School for the Arts to name a few.

Ms. Wingert is currently Head of Faculty at Manhattan Youth Ballet, and on faculty at the Juilliard School. She has been a guest instructor for for many companies and institutions including New York City Ballet, Princeton University, Harvard University, University of Southern California Santa Barbara, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Jessica Lang Dance, Kyle Abraham: AIM, Sarasota Ballet, Ballet Met, and Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Program, and Interlochen.

– Bio courtesy of New York City Ballet. Photo credit: Tanaquil LeClercq

Salavatore Aiello
Choreographer – The Waiting Room

Salvatore Aiello  (February 26, 1944-October 14, 1995)  Artistic Director, Artistic Director Emeritus and Resident Choreographer  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 Miss 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, a charter member of the Harkness Ballet, The Eglevsky Ballet, 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 outstanding contribution to Dance.

Jerri Kumery
Curator & Repetiteur of the Salvatore Aiello Trust

Jerri Kumery  began her studies at the age of 14 with Roman Jasinski and Moscelyn Larkin in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  The following year Violette Verdy brought her to the School of American Ballet.  Ms. Kumery danced with New York City Ballet 1977-87, under the direction of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins.

Ms. Kumery has been Repetiteur for Ballet Teatro Lirico Nacional, Pacific Northwest Ballet and in 1990 became Ballet Master and Associate Artistic Director with North Carolina Dance Theatre, under the direction of Salvatore Aiello. She served as Acting Artistic Director for the 1995-1996 Season after the death of Mr. Aiello and then continued to serve as Co-Associate Artistic Director with Patricia McBride, under the artistic direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux until 2006.

In May 1997, Ms. Kumery was awarded an Arts & Science Council Fellowship for her meritorious contribution to the artistic community of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jerri Kumery is currently Ballet Master with Richmond Ballet, Repetiteur with The George Balanchine Trust and Curator of the Salvatore Aiello Trust and Repetiteur of his Works. 


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