Visiting Artists (Dance)

Visiting Artist: Stephen Rooks

Steve Rooks danced with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, and the Martha Graham Dance Company, where he performed for over a decade and achieved the rank of Principal Dancer.

Mr. Rooks is currently Chair of Dance and Resident Choreographer at Vassar and the 2004 winner of the National Choreographic Competition at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. He has been awarded Research Grants to travel to Latvia, Zambia, and in 2014 to Finland, where he choreographed "Plate Tectonics" on 24 international dancers. Mr. Rooks was commissioned by the Masterworks Festival to create ballets for a number of contemporary composers including Clarice Assad, Piet Swerts, and David Skidmore – all to live orchestra.

Mr. Rooks has served as an adjudicator for the American College Dance Festival, and a solo "Vista" was created for Aran Bell (ABT) for the 2014 International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. Four contemporary solos were recently submitted to the 2016 Youth American Grand Prix Ballet Competition.

Visiting Artist: Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch

Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch was a principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company for 10 years, performing leading roles such as Jocasta in Night Journey, Helen of Troy in Clytemnestra, Pioneering Woman in Appalachian Spring, and several other timeless Graham works.

She has also worked with other prominent artists and collaborators, including Aszure Barton, Larry Kegwin, Josie Mosely, and Lar Lubovitch in the Lamentation Variations, Martha Clarke in Sueno, Pascal Rioult in Philadanco, Siti Company in collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance Company in American Document, and Lou Diamond Phillips, Guy Stroman, and Susan Kikuchi in The King and I.

Visiting Artist: Christine Dakin

Christine Dakin is former principal dancer and former artistic director for the world-renowned Martha Graham Dance Company.

Dakin was selected as a Martha Graham principal dancer in 1976 and served as artistic director from 2002 to 2005. She is widely credited with leading the rebirth of the Company as artistic director and known worldwide for her performances of Graham's own roles and the principal roles Graham created for her.

Dakin was accompanied by pianist Louis Stewart who is an Associate Professor on the faculty of Berklee College of Music. Stewart's extensive theater and dance experience includes composing scores for LaMama Theater including his 1992 musical theatre work Cambodia Agonistes. He was pianist and assistant conductor with the Martha Graham Dance Company from 1971 to 1977.

Visiting Artist: John Gardner


John Gardner was born in Lafayette, Indiana, and began his ballet training at the age of 12 with Glen Ashton in Lafayette, and subsequently trained at the National Academy of Arts in Champaign, Illinois, under the direction of Michael Maule. He received a scholarship to American Ballet Theatre's School at the age of 16 and joined ABT's secondary company three months later, in 1977. In 1978 he joined ABT's main company and was promoted to the rank of soloist in 1984. Gardner's diverse repertoire included many soloist and principal roles, representing an extensive range of styles and giving him the opportunity to work with some of the great ballet choreographers of the 20th century, including Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and George Balanchine.

In 1991 Gardner joined Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, affording him the opportunity to work closely with choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, Lar Lubovitch and Martha Graham. Gardner created numerous roles during his time with the White Oak Dance Project and toured extensively in Europe, the United States, Asia and South America. He returned to ABT in 1995, where he danced a wide variety of roles with the company until 2002. In 2000, Gardner, together with his wife Amanda McKerrow, began working for the Antony Tudor Trust, staging and coaching his superlative ballet, The Leaves Are Fading, around the country.

During the course of his career, Gardner has achieved an excellent reputation as a master teacher and coach for ballet on both the professional and student levels, and has staged numerous ballets for professional companies and schools across the United States.

Visiting Artist: Pascal Rioult

Former track and field star in France, Mr. Rioult came to the United States on a fellowship from the French Ministry of Culture to study modern dance in 1981. After performing with the companies of May O'Donnell and Paul Sanasardo he was invited to join the Martha Graham Dance Company. As a principal dancer, he interpreted many of the most prestigious roles in the Graham repertory and in 1990 Ms. Graham created the central role (Death Figure) in her ballet Eye of the Goddess for Mr. Rioult. He performed opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov and Joyce Herring in El Penitente and was featured in two television specials: Martha Graham in Japan and Five Dances by Martha Graham at the Paris Opera.

Since starting his own company in 1994, Mr. Rioult has dedicated his energies to forging and perfecting a choreographic style of his own, nurturing a robust ensemble of dancers, and growing his company, RIOULT. Of his work, Black Diamond, Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times wrote, "...he has met the challenge of comparison with George Balanchine." Alain Cigolotti writes in Le Temps, France, "Pascal Rioult, before all, is one of the leaders of 'neo-modern dance.' His work is rooted in a tradition but open to the future. His style blends an acute sense of classical structure with a profound musical sensibility." Backstage referred to him as "One of the most adept and courageous choreographers in mainstream modern dance today."

Mr. Rioult's works have been commissioned by the American Dance Festival, Cal Arts (Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA) the Ballet du Nord in Roubaix, France, the Geneva Ballet, Switzerland, The Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Harriet and Gordon Greenfield Foundation, the Grand Marnier Foundation, the Théâtre de Saint Quentin en Yvelines, France, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA among others.

Mr. Rioult has been awarded grants from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Shubert Foundation, the Geoffrey C. Hughes Foundation, the Harkness Foundation, the Florence Gould Foundation, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Shana Alexander Charitable Foundation, Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation, and numerous others. He is a two-time recipient of the Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography.

Visiting Artist: Amanda McKerrow


Amanda McKerrow is one of America's most acclaimed ballerinas. She has the honor of being the first American to receive a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1981. Since then she has been a recipient of numerous other awards, including the Princess Grace Foundation Dance Fellowship.

Ms. McKerrow was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and began her ballet training at the age of seven at the Twinbrook School of Ballet in Rockville Maryland. She later studied with Mary Day at the Washington School of Ballet, where she danced with the company for two years and toured extensively throughout the Untied States and Europe.

Ms. McKerrow joined the American Ballet Theatre under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1982, was appointed to soloist in 1983, and became a principal dancer in 1987. Her repertoire includes: the leading roles in Cinderella, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Sylphide, and The Nutcracker. She has been acclaimed for performance s of shorter works by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Sir Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins, and Juri Kilian. Ms. McKerrow has created roles in ballets by choreographers such as Twyla Tharpe, Clark Tippet, James Kudelka, Agnes De Mille, Choo San Goh, and Mark Morris. She has also appeared as a guest artist throughout the world.

In 2000, together with her husband John Gardner, Ms. McKerrow began working for the Antony Tudor Trust, staging and coaching his superlative ballet The Leaves are Fading around the country. Ashe has also staged numerous other ballets for professional companies and schools across the United States. During her last ten years performing as a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre, she spent as much time as she could working with students and young dancers. Upon her retirement from ABT in 2005, she has devoted the majority of her time to teaching and coaching this great art form that she loves so much.