Cassa Pancho – Artistic Director & Founder
Of Trinidadian and British parents, Cassa trained at the Royal Academy of Dance, gaining a degree in classical ballet from Durham University. Upon graduating in 2001, she founded Ballet Black in order to provide role models to young, aspiring black and Asian dancers. A year later, she opened the Ballet Black Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush and in 2004, began the BB Associate Programme, which currently has over three hundred members. Cassa is also a graduate of the 2009 National Theatre cultural leadership programme, Step Change. Since starting the Company, she has commissioned work from many different choreographers, including Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston, Javier de Frutos, Christopher Marney, Martin Lawrance, Shobana Jeyasingh, Henri Oguike, Christopher Hampson, Arthur Pita and Will Tuckett. Ballet Black won both the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Company in 2009 and Best Independent Company in 2012. Cassa was awarded an MBE in the 2013 New Year Honour List for Services to Ballet and has served as a judge on the panel of the Kenneth MacMillan Choreographic competition. In 2015, Cassa became a Patron of the Central School of Ballet.
Cira Robinson – Senior Artist
Cira was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she began dancing at the age of eight. After graduating from the Performing Arts School in 2004, she moved to New York to dance full-time with the Dance Theater of Harlem. During her three years there, she performed at the White House for the President of the United States, as well as the Protégé Festival. In 2008, Cira travelled to the United Kingdom for the first time to join Ballet Black. In the summer that year, she danced with Ballet Identity in Los Angeles, before returning to Ballet Black in November. Since 2008, she has danced in Ballet Black commissions by Martin Lawrance, Richard Alston, Henri Oguike, Liam Scarlett and Robert Binet to name a few. She created the role of one of the Furies in Will Tuckett’s Orpheus (2011) and the lead role of Nola in Ballet Black’s production of Storyville, choreographed for BB by Christopher Hampson in 2012. In 2013 she was featured in War Letters (by Christopher Marney) and received her first nomination for Outstanding Classical dancer at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards in 2014. She also created the role of Titania in Arthur Pita’s Ballet Black production of A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cira teaches regularly at the Ballet Black Junior School.
Damien Johnson – Senior Artist
Damien was born in Dallas, Texas and received his training from Etgen-Atkinson School of Ballet and the Booker T. Washington School of the Arts. He then studied on a full scholarship at the School of American Ballet. In 2002, Damien joined the American Repertory Ballet and then the Dance Theater of Harlem Ensemble in 2003. He first joined Ballet Black in 2005 before moving to Los Angeles Ballet in 2008. Damien returned to Ballet Black in 2009. As the longest serving member of Ballet Black, Damien has been featured in many Company works by choreographers that include Irek Mukhamedov, Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston and Javier de Frutos, and created the title role of Orpheus in Will Tuckett’s 2011 production for Ballet Black. In 2012, he created the role of The Lover in Christopher Hampson’s Storyville, and The Soldier in Christopher Marney’s War Letters in 2013 and Oberon in Arthur Pita’s Ballet Black production of A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Damien also teaches regularly for the Ballet Black Company and Associate Programme.
Joseph Alves – Senior Artist
Born in Brazil, José started ballet at the age of 13 at the Adalgisa Rolim Ballet School. In 2007 he joined the Bolshoi Theatre School in Brazil and graduated in 2008. In 2010 he attended the Youth American Grand Prix in New York, where he was awarded a scholarship to train with the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company. When he was unable to raise the funds to travel to New Zealand, he joined the Ballet Company of the Young (Palace of Arts) in Belo, Brazil where he remained until 2011. In 2012 he joined the Teatr Muzyczny w Łódz in Poland. José joined Ballet Black for the 2012/13 season and was promoted to Senior Artist in 2014. Since joining the Company, he has danced in original choreography by Javier de Frutos, Will Tuckett, Ludovic Ondiviela and most recently created the roles of Demetrius and Bottom in the Ballet Black production of A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream by Arthur Pita.
Kanika Carr – Artist
Of British and Trinidadian parents and born in Baltimore, Kanika began dancing when she moved to England at the age of five, attending the Saxtead School of Dance, and as a participant on the Scholarship Scheme with Dance East. In 2007, Kanika went on to train at the Central School of Ballet. In her final year with Ballet Central, she worked with choreographers including Christopher Marney, Kit Holder and Christopher Bruce and upon graduating, joined Ballet Black to become one of the first Company Apprentices in 2010. Kanika was promoted to Junior Artist in 2013 and has danced in works by Robert Binet, Javier de Frutos, Christopher Hampson and Henri Oguike. In 2014 she created the role of Hermia in Arthur Pita’s Ballet Black production of A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Isabela Coracy – Junior Artist
Isabela was born in Brazil and began her vocational training at the Centre for Dance in Rio. She has taken part in many festivals and competitions, including the Joinville Festival and Youth America Grand Prix. As a professional, Isabela has danced with Deborah Colker Dance, Sao Paulo Dance Company, CIA Youth Ballet of Rio de Janeiro and has toured Russia extensively. She has danced in many classics: Don Quixote, Raymonda, Swan Lake and Serenade, as well as modern works, Gnawa (Nacho Duato) and The Double (Mauricio de Oliveira). In 2009, Isabela was featured in the documentary, Only When I Dance, directed by Beaide Finzi. Isabela joined Ballet Black as a Junior Artist in 2013 and has since danced in works by Christopher Marney, Javier de Frutos and Martin Lawrance. In 2014, Isabela created the role of Puck in a A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream by Arthur Pita.
Jacob Wye – Junior Artist
Jacob began dancing with The Royal Ballet’s Chance to Dance project at the age of eight. He continued his training at The Royal Ballet School’s Junior Associates and was then accepted into The Royal Ballet Lower School where he stayed for five years before joining the Central School of Ballet in 2009. In his final year at Central, he toured around England and travelled to Amsterdam to perform works from various choreographers including Christopher Gable, Sharon Watson and Michaela Polly. In 2012, he received the Classical Ballet Award from Central and danced at multiple venues for the London 2012 Olympics including a solo at the Wembley Arena, choreographed by Sara Matthews and Leanne King. Jacob joined Ballet Black as an Apprentice in September 2012 and was promoted to Junior Artist in 2013 and has danced in choreography created by Robert Binet, Javier de Frutos, Christopher Marney and Martin Lawrance and created the role of Lysander in Ballet Black’s production of A Dream Within a Midsummer Night’s Dream, choreographed by Arthur Pita.
Marie-Astrid Mence – Junior Artist
Marie-Astrid was born in Paris, France where she began dancing in a private dance school before continuing to the Higher National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris. She was a member of the Junior Ballet of Paris and danced in works by Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe, Larry Keigwin, Christopher Hampson and Annabelle Lopez- Ochoa. She continued her training as a scholarship student at Alvin Ailey School in 2012 and was invited to dance in Revelations for Judith Jamison’s (Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) birthday. Marie-Astrid joined Ballet Black in September 2014.