Junior School Teachers
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 BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush. Cassa is also a graduate of the 2009 National Theatre cultural leadership programme, Step Change. Since starting the Company, she has commissioned work from a wide range of choreographers, including Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston, Javier de Frutos, Annabelle Lopez- Ochoa, Shobana Jeyasingh, Henri Oguike, 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 Honours List for Services to Classical Ballet and has served as a judge on the panels of both the Kenneth Macmillan Choreographic and BBC Young Dancer competitions. In 2015, Cassa was appointed a Patron of Central School of Ballet and in May 2016 became a vice president of The London Ballet Circle. In 2017, she joined the Ballet Now consortium in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Also that year, Cassa, along with Senior Artist Cira Robinson, collaborated with renowned British ballet shoe manufacturer, Freed of London, to create two brand new pointe shoe colours to enable dancers of black descent to buy skin-tone pointe shoes ready-made. In 2018, Cassa was awarded the Freedom of the City of London. To date, she has commissioned 32 choreographers, to create over 40 new ballets for the Company. Cassa also teaches regularly at the BB Junior School in Shepherd’s Bush, West London.
Reena trained locally in Ealing during her childhood, taking regular lessons in ballet, tap, modern and national dance. After finishing school and spending a couple of years travelling the world, she decided to attend the Royal Academy of Dance to complete her teacher training, and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Ballet Education, with Registered Teacher Status. After qualifying, she began working as a freelance performer – including dancing in the London 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony as part of Darcey Bussell’s corps de ballet. She also started teaching on a freelance basis while continuing her studies with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing, completing both the Diploma in Dance Instruction and Diploma in Dance Education. As well as teaching for Ballet Black, Reena runs her own school, and works as a teacher for the RAD headquarters in London. Since 2015, Reena has also assisted the RAD in the training of new teachers, by having students come on placement and practice teaching under her guidance.
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 and reprised the part in 2016. In 2013 she was featured in War Letters (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, Biff in the BB family production of Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and The Serpent in Second Coming (choreographed by Mark Bruce). In 2016, she was a featured dancer in Arthur Pita’s Cristaux, and in 2017, was a lead dancer in the revival of Martin Lawrance’s Captured. She also created the role of Red in Red Riding Hood by Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa. In 2017, Cira, along with Company Founder, Cassa Pancho, collaborated with renowned British ballet shoe manufacturer, Freed of London, to create two brand new pointe shoe colours to enable dancers of black descent to buy skin-tone pointe shoes ready-made. These will be available to buy in 2018. She also teaches regularly at the Ballet Black Junior School. Cira is generously supported by The Sackler Trust.
Michelle won a scholarship to study at Laine Theatre Arts for three years, where she gained her Associate in Cecchetti Ballet with distinction. During her time there, she also won a scholarship to study at The Royal Ballet Summer School.
After her studies, she immediately gained a place as a Principal Dancer with Union Dance Company and during her time there, she toured both nationally and internationally. Michelle then went on to perform in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals ‘Cats‘ (where she played the roles of Demeter, Bombalurina, Cassandra and Tantomile), and also ‘Starlight Express‘, where she played the role of Buffy. Michelle was also a Principal Dancer with The Carol Straker Dance Company, and has worked extensively in both Theatre and television productions.
In 2008, Michelle graduated from Middlesex University with a BA Hons in Dance Studies. Upon graduating she continued to demonstrate Martha Graham Technique at Middlesex and went on to work very closely with Robert Cohan and Anne Donnelly on the first drafts of the ‘Rescen‘ projects, documenting Martha Graham Technique for future resources.
Michelle has dedicated many years to teaching Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance at all levels to various Ballet Schools and Vocational Dance institutions, and currently teaches Ballet on the Degree Programmes at The Urdang Academy, Bird College and The Emil Dale Academy. Michelle also teaches on the Tring Park Associates Programme, The CAT (Centre for Advanced Training) Programme at The Place, Adult Ballet for The Classes & Courses Programme at The Place, and Danceworks.