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, Antonia Franceschi, Christopher Marney, Martin Lawrance, Shobana Jeyasingh, Henri Oguike, Christopher Hampson 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.
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 Shobana Jeyasingh, Richard Alston, Henri Oguike and Liam Scarlett, 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. Cira also earned an honourable mention in Pointe Magazine’s “Favourite Performances of 2009” for her performance in Antonia Franceschi’s dance theatre piece, Pop8 and 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 Theatre 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, Antonia Franceschi, Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston and Bawren Tavaziva, 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. He also teaches regularly for the Ballet Black Associate Programme.
Joseph Alves – Senior Artist
Born in Brasil, José started ballet at the age of 13 at the Adalgisa Rolim Ballet School. In 2007 he joined the Bolshoi Theatre School in Brasil 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, Brasil where he remained until 2011. In 2012 he joined he the Teatr Muzyczny w Łódż in Poland. José is delighted to be a member of Ballet Black for the 2012/13 season.
Sayaka Ichikawa – Senior Artist
Sayaka was born in Chiba, Japan, where she began dancing at the age of two. She trained in New York and in 2003 moved to London to study at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Sayaka graduated in 2006 with a First Class BA (Hons) degree. Since graduating, she has performed with Vienna Festival Ballet and Ballet Theatre UK as a Principal Dancer in Coppélia, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake and in 2009 performed Le Corsaire with American Ballet Theatre at the London Coliseum. Sayaka has performed in Ross McKim’s Moving Visions Dance Theatre at St, Paul’s Cathedral in London and York Minster. She has also danced for English National Opera and Opera North in their production of Madam Butterfly. Sayaka appeared in the musical The King and I and in the film, StreetDance: the Movie. She has also been a Guest Principal Dancer and Guest Teacher for Ballet Riviera in Switzerland since 2008. Sayaka was a member of the Ballet Black Associate Programme for several years before becoming a Senior Artist with Ballet Black in 2011. Since joining the Company, Sayaka has been a featured dancer in ballets Jonathan Watkins, Henri Oguike, Martin Lawrance and Christopher Hampson.
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 has danced in works by Martin Lawrance, Jonathan Goddard and Henri Oguike and danced the role of a Fury in Will Tuckett’s Orpheus.
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.
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.
Christopher Renfurm – First Year Apprentice
Christopher began his formal dance training at local dance studio SKVR in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and later continued at The Rotterdam Dance Academy under the direction of Caroline Harder. Christopher also trained at The Alvin Ailey School as a scholarship student and was awarded a fellowship to attend a summer intensive at De Kunsthumaniora Hedendaagse Dans in Antwerp, Belgium and The Ailey School. He performed works as a student by Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, Robert Battle and Matthew Rushing. He has performed twice for the Dutch Royal Family at The Royal Theater Carré Amsterdam and The Concert Theater in the Netherlands. He was also an apprentice with Buglisi Dance Theater between 2011 and 2013, and joined Ballet Black as First Year Apprentice for their 2013/14 season.