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Joseph Toonga © Camilla Greenwell
Joseph Toonga © Camilla Greenwell

The Royal Ballet Announces Company Joiners for the 2021/22 Season

The Company welcomes new Aud Jebsen Dancers, music staff and an Emerging Choreographer.

By Ashley Woodfield (Head of Ballet Press)
Tuesday 6 July 2021, 3.20pm

The Royal Ballet continues its commitment to create opportunities for the next generation of dance professionals and today announces joiners for the 2021/22 Season.

The Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Programme provides young graduate dancers with a contract to work alongside the corps de ballet of The Royal Ballet. This year we welcome four dancers to the Company from The Royal Ballet School: Olivia Findlay, Ava May Llewellyn, Viola Pantuso and Alix Van Tiggelen.

Following the disruption of the pandemic and with thanks to the generous support of Aud Jebsen, The Royal Ballet extends the contracts of the 2020/21 Aud Jebsen Dancers for a second year. Denilson Almeida, Daichi Ikarashi, James Large, Hanna Park, Maddison Pritchard and Marianna Tsembenhoi continue on the programme for the 2021/22 Season.

Marco Masciari also continues as a Prix de Lausanne dancer for a second Season.

As previously announced, First Soloist Beatriz Stix-Brunell leaves the Company after 11 years to begin her academic career at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Nurturing choreographic talent remains at the heart of the Company and this year The Royal Ballet welcomes Joseph Toonga as The Royal Ballet’s Emerging Choreographer. This two-year programme provides an opportunity for an emerging choreographer to gain experience of working with one of the world’s leading ballet companies as well as being mentored by Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor. Toonga will have the opportunity to create work on dancers of The Royal Ballet and shadow the Company’s associated and visiting international choreographers.

Toonga’s dance productions are embedded in hip-hop and inspired by real life stories. His craftsmanship and signature choreographic style challenges conventions commonly used in Hip Hop dance and shifts audience perceptions by addressing racial stigmas and societal stereotypes. He has created work for many dance companies, DanceEast Associate Artist, National Youth Ballet/ Bundesjugendballett, Richard Alston Dance Company, Elephant in the Black Box, Junior Ballet Madrid and East Wall with Hofesh Shechter.

In 2007 Toonga set up his dance company Just Us Dance Theatre (JUDT), a collective where he has established an international artist development programme in Brazil and the UK’s first annually running Hip Hop apprenticeship company. He is also co-founder of artist-led hip-hop initiative Artists4Artists.  Toonga won the Best Choreography Award at Reverb Dance Festival (New York) in 2015.

Joseph Toonga comments, ‘I am really excited and intrigued to embark on this next stage of my artistic journey. I’m looking forward to working with The Royal Ballet, learning from this opportunity and being able to explore and experiment, taking my craftsmanship and network to another level’.

The Royal Ballet also announces new appointments to the Music Department:

Jonathan Lo is appointed as Royal Ballet Staff Conductor for the 2021/22 Season. Jonathan Lo is Music Director of Northern Ballet and is an alumnus of the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist programme. Lo made his main stage debut with The Royal Ballet in 2019 conducting Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour and Crystal Pite’s Flight Pattern. He is also a guest conductor for Birmingham Royal Ballet, Rambert Dance, Dutch National Ballet and Scottish Ballet.

Charlotte Politi takes up the Constant Lambert Conducting Fellowship. This two-year programme provides a tailor-made mentoring programme for conducting ballet, working across The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Politi was born in Paris and grew up in Italy where she studied conducting and was selected as a conducting fellow at the Accademia Chigiana in 2015. She later studied at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe, and graduated from the University of Michigan. Politi was a quarterfinalist at the Competition for Young Conductors in Besançon. In 2020 she was selected by Riccardo Muti for the Italian Opera Academy, in 2021 she took part in the Conductors’ Academy with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. She recently conducted for orchestras including Baden Baden Philharmonie, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, Württembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen and Philharmonisches Kammerorchester Dresden.

Charlotte Politi comments, ‘I am delighted to be joining The Royal Ballet Companies. I very much look forward to working across London and Birmingham and getting to know all the amazing artists who are part of these prestigious institutions.’

Edo Frenkel joins The Jette Parker Young Artist Programme as Ballet Conductor. Frenkel is currently Artist in Residence at Cité des arts de Paris as composer and pianist and has performed in numerous international festivals including Ojai, Aldeburgh, Lucerne, Verbier, and Opera Rara. He has acted as assistant conductor to Sir Simon Rattle, Brad Lubman, Matthias Pintscher and Barbara Hannigan.

Edo Frenkel said, ‘After such a turbulent year, I’m so joyful and excited to be starting with The Jette Parker Young Artists and The Royal Ballet. I can’t imagine a better place or more wonderful colleagues with whom to be making music.’

Hannah Quinn joins the Music Staff as Royal Ballet Company Pianist. Quinn graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. During her studies she was awarded the Leonard Hancock Memorial Prize and the James H Geddes repetiteur prize. Hannah is an alumnus of the National Opera Studio. She was the Ivor Guest Trainee Pianist for The Royal Ballet from 2019-20 and has worked for the company as a freelancer since 2016 as a class and rehearsal pianist. Hannah has worked as a repetiteur at English National Opera, British Youth Opera, Scottish Opera and English Touring Opera where she was Head of Music Staff for two seasons. Hannah is also a trained conductor and has performed with Southbank Sinfonia, Trinity Orchestra, Tianjin Philharmonic and Hampstead Garden Opera.

Find out more about The Royal Ballet's 2021/22 Season