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Promotions, joiners and leavers at The Royal Ballet

Details of Company changes for the upcoming Season have been announced.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

3 July 2014 at 4.03pm | 35 Comments

Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet, has made the following promotions for the forthcoming 2014/15 Season.

Akane Takada and Valentino Zucchetti have been promoted to First Soloists. Francesca Hayward, Yasmine Naghdi, Tristan Dyer and Fernando Montaño are promoted to Soloists, along with Jacqueline Clark, Elsa Godard, Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Luca Acri, Nicol Edmonds, Kevin Emerton and Marcelino Sambé, who are promoted to First Artists.

Joining the Company at the start of the Season will be Calvin Richardson from The Royal Ballet School in addition to Royal Ballet School Alumni Mariko Sasaki from Birmingham Royal Ballet and Hannah Grennell from Dutch National Ballet. All join as Artists. Gina Storm-Jensen and Reece Clarke joined the Company as Artists earlier in the Season and are both graduates of The Royal Ballet School. Isabella Gasparini, previously with Northern Ballet, has been working with the Company as an Artist since January and now joins permanently.

The Royal Ballet welcomes five dancers to the Company for the 2014/15 Season as part of the new Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme. The programme provides an opportunity for up to six recently graduated dancers to receive a year’s contract to work alongside the corps de ballet of The Royal Ballet.  In addition the dancers will be offered mentoring and coaching and have the opportunity to perform with the Company. This year’s Aud Jebsen Young Dancers are Grace Blundell and Grace Horler, both from The Royal Ballet School, Ashley Scott and Ashleigh McKimmie from English National Ballet School and Maria Barroso from Semperoper Ballet, Dresden.

David Navarro Yudes joins the Company as a Prix de Lausanne Dancer for the 2014/15 Season.

Soloist Iohna Loots left the Company mid-season, and Soloist Kenta Kura retires from the Company after 17 years to take up a new appointment as Boys’ Artistic Teacher at White Lodge, the Royal Ballet Junior School. Kenta is a graduate of The Royal Ballet School's Professional Dancer’s Teachers Course (PDTC).

First Artist Sabina Westcombe and Artists Ruth Bailey and Claudia Dean also leave the Company.

First Artist Leanne Cope will take a sabbatical for the 2014/15 Season to play the part of Lise Dassin in An American in Paris, directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet. An American in Paris receives its world premiere in December at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and transfers to Broadway in spring 2015.

This article has 35 comments

  1. Where is Yuhui?

  2. Angela Hurlstone responded on 4 July 2014 at 12:14am Reply

    So pleased to hear that Valentino Zuchetti has been promoted to First Soloists. He is wonderful. Recently saw him perform as Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream, when he stole my heart, and I remember his Bluebird performance in Sleeping Beauty was outstanding. Congratulations to a very special dancer.

  3. Beatriz responded on 4 July 2014 at 2:41am Reply

    Wheeeeeeere is Yuhui's promotion to principal? Where? When is it going to happen? She's the most deserving one, this season was perfect for her with the Sleeping Beauty debut, she really deserved it, everybody thinks so, everybody wants to see her as a principal. Why can't you please the audience for once with the promotions?
    By the way, Marcelino really deserved it, congratulations.


  4. So sad to hear Claudia is leaving :( Good luck to her though! :) x

  5. Karen responded on 4 July 2014 at 12:54pm Reply

    Congrats to those promoted and great to see recognition for Akade and Zucchetti.

    Will miss Kenta Kura who has been such a mainstay and I thought particularly good in the Dream, IIRC, recently. Glad he remains part of the RB family though.

  6. Elle responded on 4 July 2014 at 5:18pm Reply

    Sabina Westcombe is leaving too? Why????? This is really sad! She's my favourite, and also Claudia Dean! :(

  7. Louise responded on 4 July 2014 at 6:45pm Reply

    Same comment as above, Yuhui deserves promotion I always choose dates according to when she is performing. She is wonderful, talented, graceful and lovely- the Royal ballet risks losing more talented dancers to the ENB if they are not shown to be valued!

  8. SH responded on 5 July 2014 at 12:33pm Reply

    Excellent news all round and congratulations to all for their well deserved promotions. I was particularly happy to see Yasmine Naghdi, Francesca Hayward and Luca Acri on the list.

    I fell quite in love with The White Cat as played by Elsa Godard this year, so very chuffed that she has finally been promoted.

    The only surprise to me was Valentino Zucchetti - I assumed he was already a First Soloist :)

  9. Carolina responded on 5 July 2014 at 6:49pm Reply

    Akane and Valentino are outstanding, they surely deserved it. I'm still waiting for Yuhui - like everyone else - and Beatriz to be promoted. Yuhui, specially - she NEEDS to be a principal. Graceful, clean, heart-warming, delicate, captivating, strong on stage, versatile... And she has those shiny eyes that show how she loves what she does, and she does it amazingly. She is a prima, she only needs to be promoted to fully become one.

  10. karenb responded on 5 July 2014 at 9:20pm Reply

    Agree totally with all the above comments, particularly with regard to Yuhui Choe. Not sure what else she needs to do to prove herself worthy of the status.

  11. Daisy responded on 6 July 2014 at 11:27pm Reply

    What more can we say - YUHUI FOR PRINCIPAL. She is the dancer around whom we plan our bookings.

  12. roses responded on 7 July 2014 at 2:59am Reply

    Yuhui has consistently proven herself and is a very popular fan favourite. Not sure why she's been stuck below the principal ceiling for so long. Promote her already!

  13. BH responded on 7 July 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

    Yuhui Choe is indeed a superbly proficient and graceful dancer, yet for me, at the moment somewhat removed and thus disengaging. 'You pays your money and takes your choice.'

  14. Alex Lake responded on 7 July 2014 at 11:17pm Reply

    Saw Calvin Richardson the other day performing a riveting Dying Swan at the RBS Summer Show.

    Echo the thoughts of others on the heartbreakingly beautiful Choe, although I can see why she's never quite made to the absolute top.

  15. nina responded on 8 July 2014 at 1:00pm Reply

    i'm pleased that yasmine is a soloist now, she's wonderful!

    However, YUHUI CHOE??? Why not promote her? She does principal roles all the time and she deserves a promotion so much!

  16. Cathy responded on 8 July 2014 at 5:09pm Reply

    Congratulations to ALL promoted dancers but especially the new Soloists and First Soloists Akane Takada, Yasmine Naghdi, Francesca Hayward and Valentino Zucchetti. I am particularly pleased for Miss Naghdi whose performances of "Rose Fairy", "Young Shepherdess", "Kitri's Two Friends", to name just a few of her roles this Season, were really stunning. Miss Hayward was simply delightful as "Clara", the best I have ever seen, and I loved her Rhapsody. Miss Takada and Mr Zucchetti are also amazing dancers. I can't wait to see them all in the new Season!

  17. Ranjana responded on 11 July 2014 at 3:39pm Reply

    Congratulations to all the dancers! I was sad to see that the promotion to Principal seems to have evaded Yuhui Choe again. In my head, she is one already!

  18. Robert responded on 12 July 2014 at 7:12pm Reply

    Thought Yuhui deserved to be made principal after SB. She's such a good dancer of the classics/ashtons, can't believe she hasn't been cast in SL - a travesty. Also disappointed for Eric Underwood, however guess it shows strength of the RB at the moment, well done to those promoted!

  19. Jess responded on 23 July 2014 at 12:37pm Reply

    Please make Yuhui principal!!

  20. Roz responded on 30 July 2014 at 7:49am Reply

    It seems perverse that Yuhui Choi has not been made a principal already. She is lovely to watch and the best dancer of Ashton choreography.

  21. Paul responded on 12 August 2014 at 11:19am Reply

    Yes - please make Yuhui Choe a principal. She is such a lovely dancer.

  22. Lanora responded on 5 September 2014 at 3:34am Reply

    I agree with Robert, what about Eric Underwood?!?! Seems like he only does principal roles! Seriously RB, promote this amazing dancer!!!!!!!

  23. Patricia Baker responded on 26 October 2014 at 9:51pm Reply

    Over the past four years there has been astonishment from ballet fans that Yuhui Choe has not been promoted to principal. One would have thought that after she stood in for Osipova in Sleeping Beauty in Spring 2014 she would have been a shoe in. But no she has been passed over yet again. Please Mr Shipman will you ask Mr O'Hare to let Yuhui's fans know why he considers she has not yet proved herself to gain what her fans think is a long overdue promotion. When, Mr O'Hare, did she ever get a bad review? Only today I read of her having shone in Scenes de Ballet - not Sarah Lamb: Yuhui Choe. Shame on you. By the way, if Yuhui is dancing I go out of my way to book a ticket. I am looking forward to seeing her in Symphonic Variations on 4th November.

    Patricia Baker

    • Ellen West (Head of Creative Studios and Digital Products) responded on 27 October 2014 at 7:37am

      Dear Patricia

      Thank you for your comment, I have passed it on to Ballet Company.

      Best wishes


  24. Jakegee responded on 17 November 2014 at 1:44am Reply

    May I ask about David Navarro Yudes? He is listed as a Prix de Lausanne dancer for 2014-2015 ..... does this mean he will represent The Royal Ballet at the next Prix de Lausanne competition? If so, I wish him every success, having seen his powerful 'workout' on the World Ballet Day broadcast. He would appear to have great potential. I would like to know more about him, but little information seems to be available on your website. Thanks in anticipation of your response.

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 17 November 2014 at 2:55pm


      Thanks for your query. David won the Audience prize and a scholarship at the Prix de Lausanne 2014 (you can see him dance Basilio's variation from Don Quixote at the competition here). He chose to take up his scholarship with The Royal Ballet, and so dances with the Company as a Prix de Lausanne dancer in the 2014/15 Season. You can find out more about David on his people page here


  25. Jakegee responded on 17 November 2014 at 4:16pm Reply

    Hi Rachel! Thank you for your helpful information. Hopefully David may be retained by Royal Ballet.

  26. Kate responded on 18 April 2015 at 4:48pm Reply

    I agree with the previous comment about David Navarro Yudes. He was incredible in class on World Ballet Day (amazing jumps!) - please RB, do keep him on for next season!

  27. Hollie responded on 29 May 2015 at 1:24am Reply

    In complete agreement on Yuhui. She deserves it. She's earned it. One wonders what could be afoot here and the possibilities are suspect...

  28. Emilia responded on 17 July 2015 at 9:29am Reply

    I'm pleased that Hayward and Naghdi are promoted but I agree with many of the comments about Choe. What more does this beautiful, talented ballerina need to do?! Unlike many dancers these days, she seems to love every moment she's on stage and her performances are breathtaking.

  29. Sharmon responded on 31 July 2015 at 9:49am Reply

    Glad to see I'm not alone in my disappointment in Yuhui not being to promoted to Principle. Why has she not been promoted already? She is so graceful and evokes so much emotion on stage with her artistry. I too will always try to book a ticket to see her dance. Do we have to crowd fund her principle salary? #thepeoplesprima

  30. Stephen A Hutchings responded on 6 October 2015 at 11:28am Reply

    I am a huge fan of Isabella Gasparini and she dances in most of the ballets and is brilliant. I feel it is about time for her to be rewarded for all the work she puts in to the roles she dances and for her to be promoted.

  31. Carolina Tavera responded on 21 October 2015 at 2:03pm Reply

    YUHUI CHOE DEBE SER PRINCIPAL!! Se lo merece y ha trabajado mucho por ello, es asombrosa y muy hermosa, y posee una técnica impecable, gracias a ella soy fanática del ballet, y espero que sea ascendida pronto.

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