Company promotes three dancers, hires two new artists
(May 5, 2022) CINCINNATI, OH — Cincinnati Ballet announces new dancer hires and promotions for the 2022-2023 Season. Two new artists will join the Company with the opening of The Kaplan New Works Series in September. Simon Plant and Lenai Alexis Wilkerson will join as new artists of the Company. Cincinnati Ballet’s artistic leaders also announce three dancer promotions for the 2022-2023 Season. Nikita Boris has been promoted to the corps de ballet. Apprentices Catherine Lasak and Jhaelin McQuay have been promoted from apprentice to new dancer positions in the Company. “It is so gratifying to watch these talented dancers develop their artistry and am pleased to share their promotions. I am excited to watch their continued growth in the Company,” said Artistic Director Victoria Morgan, who will retire at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 Season. Artistic Director Designate Jodie Gates, who will assume artistic leadership of the Company in August, added her congratulations to the new artists joining the Company. “I am thrilled to welcome Simon and Lenai to this talented group of artists,” Gates said. “Cincinnati Ballet audiences can look forward to incredible performances and opportunities to connect with these two dynamic dancers.”
Simon Plant was born in Sydney, Australia and trained at the Australian Ballet School. Upon graduation, he was a member of The Australian Ballet for two seasons, where he performed works by acclaimed choreographers Wayne McGregor, Kenneth MacMillan, Jiří Kylián, among others. He immigrated to the United States in 2017 and joined New York City’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet under Co-Artistic Directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson.
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson hails from Washington, D.C., where she attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, under the direction of Norma Pera. Lenai graduated from the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, and then became a company artist with Ballet Hispánico, where she toured internationally for three seasons. Lenai has performed works by choreographers including George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Martha Graham, Barak Marshall, Azure Barton, Anabelle Lopez Ochoa, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, d.Sabela Grimes, and Dwight Rhoden. She is one of the seven 2016-2017 dance scholars awarded a scholarship from Nigel Lythgoe’s DizzyFeet Foundation.
Nikita Boris was born in River Edge, New Jersey. She began her ballet training at the Irine Fokine School of Ballet and Petrov Ballet School. Nikita continued her studies at the Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory of New York. In 2016, she had the opportunity to attend the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. She participated in the Vaganova Prix, received the Artistry Award, and performed in the winner’s gala at the Mariinsky Theatre. Nikita joined Boston Ballet II in 2018 and spent the 2019-2020 Season with New York Dance Project, before joining Cincinnati Ballet.
Catherine Lasak spent her youth training at the Judith Svalander School of Ballet and Ballet Chicago Studio Company. Following summers at the School of American Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet, she joined PNB’s Professional Division on full scholarship. For the 2017-2018 Season, Catherine Grand Rapids Ballet as an apprentice. In 2018, Catherine joined Cincinnati Ballet’s Second Company – CB2 for two years, before being promoted to the Company for the 2021-2022 Season.
Jhaelin McQuay began dancing at age 11 at the Marina Del Rey Magnet School for the Performing Arts. He soon expanded his dance training at the Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy, where he found a love and appreciation for hip hop, modern, tap, flamenco, contemporary, ballroom, and African. In his teens, McQuay seasonally trained at The Rock School, Bolshoi Ballet, Ballet West, and San Francisco Ballet. He performed with Ballet West’s Academy for three years before joining Cincinnati Ballet II in the 2019-2020 season. He has danced for the Oscars and has appeared on stage with Mariah Carey, Chris Brown, Raven Symone, and Debbie Allen, as well as performing works by George Balanchine, Fredrick Aston, Bruce Marks, Dwight Rhoden, among others. In early 2021, McQuay’s choreography placed top five in the YAGP finals.
Cincinnati Ballet 2021-2022 Season Sponsors:
Victoria Morgan’s 25th Anniversary Season presented by PNC
Rhonda & Larry A. Sheakley, Margaret and Michael Valentine, ArtsWave, Mercy Health, Louise Dieterle Nippert Musical Arts Fund, Ohio Arts Council, The Austin E. Knowlton Foundation
About Cincinnati Ballet
Since 1963, Cincinnati Ballet has been the cornerstone professional ballet company of the region, presenting a bold and adventurous array of classical, full-length ballets and contemporary works, regularly with live orchestral accompaniment. Under the artistic direction of Victoria Morgan, Cincinnati Ballet has become a creative force within the larger dance community, commissioning world premiere works and exploring unique collaborations. With a mission to enrich, expand, and excel in the art of dance through performance, a high-caliber academy, and impactful education and community engagement in local to global communities, Cincinnati Ballet reaches beyond the stage in programs that allow every person in the region to be part of the continued evolution of dance. To that end, Cincinnati Ballet presents exhilarating performances, provides extensive education and community engagement programs, and offers top-level professional ballet training at Cincinnati Ballet Otto M. Budig Academy.