Lead Artist Lorianne Barclay was practically raised in an art bubble. Not only is her home town of Portland, Oregon a very art centered culture, but her family is a mix of fine artists and musicians. As a child, she could be found with her limbs in the most obscure positions. This caused her parents to put her in gymnastics at age three. Later she transitioned to ballet, finding it to be a beautiful arrangement of movement and artistry. She received her early training at Portland Metro Arts, and later went on to studying for 4 years under John Magnus in Portland Festival Ballet’s trainee program. Her summers were spent around the country studying with Ballet West, Summer Dance Lab, and awarded scholarships to train with Alonzo King Lines Ballet and Point Park University. In 2013, Lorianne choreographed a piece entitled “Inclus” which was selected as the winner of the Bloom project. Outside of dancing, she holds a degree in Graphic Design from the Academy of Art University. Lorianne has been with Ballet 5:8 since 2013 and was promoted to Solo Artist in 2016 and to Lead Artist in 2019. She has performed many soloist roles with Ballet 5:8 and has recently been recognized by critics across the country for her portrayal of Chicago poet Gwendolyn Brooks in Julianna Rubio Slager’s contemporary work The Mother, which is based on Brooks’ poem of the same name. Lorianne has also worked as Ballet 5:8's Costume Designer and Head of Wardrobe since 2014.
Growing up in a military home, Lead Artist Brette Benedict has moved around her whole life. She started dancing at a very young age but began to study ballet seriously under the direction of Mrs. Geiger after moving to Michigan at the age of 12. For her last two years of high school, Brette moved to Philadelphia to study at the Rock School for Dance Education. Brette was then accepted to the Jacob’s School of Music at Indiana University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Ballet. Brette received an apprenticeship with the Rochester City Ballet and was promoted to dancer in 2013. Brette joined Ballet 5:8 in 2014 as a Company Artist and was promoted to Lead Artist in 2017. Brette also holds a RYT-200 certification in Yoga. Throughout her ballet career she has had the privilege of performing in many ballets including: soloist roles in Balanchine’s Serenade, Western Symphony, Raymonda, Who Cares?, and principal roles in Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo as the Rancher’s Daughter, Anthony Tudor’s Lilac Garden as Caroline as well as Twyla Tharp’s Noir. Brette has also performed many soloist and principal roles in Ballet 5:8's repertoire, including Hester Prynne in Scarlet - reviews of her performance have noted that: "Her footwork is as precise as it is mesmerizing," and that she "shifts between the graceful melancholy of her solitude and the tour de force exuberance we hoped for her character." Brette is very thankful for all the teachers, coaches and family who have helped her achieve her goals as a dancer. Brette also serves in a variety of roles at Ballet 5:8 in addition to performing such as: Trainee Program Director and Ballet 5:8 Répétiteur.
Solo Artist Emily Ratkos began her classical training at the age of seven in her home state of Michigan. She studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Alma, MI, for four years under the direction of Kathy Francis, as well as adjunct ballet professors of Alma College Jenifer Sarver and Hazel Sabas (former principal with Ballet Philippines). At the age of sixteen Emily moved to Grand Rapids, MI, to train with the Grand Rapids Ballet School under Attila Mosolygo. At GRBS she performed with the Junior Company and was involved in company performances of The Nutcracker (choreographed by Val Caniparoli) and Swan Lake. As a student she attended summer programs with American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Met, Grand Rapids Ballet, and Ballet Magnificat. After high school Emily joined the Ballet 5:8 Trainee Program, performing company repertoire Ripple Effect, Surprised by Joy, The Stor(ies) of You and Me (choreographed by Caleb Mitchell), and Scarlet. Emily joined Ballet 5:8 as an apprentice in 2017 and was promoted to Company Artist in 2018 and to Solo Artist in 2019.
Company Artist Libby Dennen has lived in Chicago her entire life. She began dancing at the age of 3 at the local park district and continued her training at Turning Pointe School of Dance before moving to Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts. Libby spent her high school years training in Ballet 5:8's Conservatory Program primarily under Artistic Director Julianna Slager and Ballet Mistress Lauren Ader-Cumpston. She performed in numerous School of the Arts performances, including lead roles in The Carpenter's Son, Racham, Beyond the Nutcracker, and The Toymaker. With the Conservatory, Libby had the opportunity to perform at a Regional Dance America National Festival in 2016. She was also given the opportunity to perform with Ballet 5:8's professional company in Four Seasons of the Soul and Mi Familia. Throughout high school, Libby attended summer intensives at Ruth Page Center for Dance, Charlotte Ballet, and Oklahoma City Ballet, as well as several intensives at Ballet 5:8. Libby danced as a Trainee II with Ballet 5:8 for the 2016-17 season, during which she performed roles in Surprised by Joy, Stor(ies) of You & Me, and Scarlet. Libby joined Ballet 5:8 as a Company Apprentice in 2017 and was promoted to Senior Apprentice in 2018 and to Company Artist in 2019.
Company Artist Olivia Kruse was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She began her dance training at Project Ballet under Artistic Director Beth McLeish. While at Project Ballet, she had the pleasure of performing George Balanchine’s Serenade and Valse Fantaisie. She spent summers training at Pacific Northwest Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and Ballet West. Olivia also attended the University of Utah’s School of Dance. She graduated with a BFA in Ballet and a BS in Psychology. Olivia is extremely humbled and excited for her second season with Ballet 5:8. She looks forward to working with Artistic Director Julianna Slager and all the amazing dancers. She would like to thank her family for their unending support and God for his grace and guidance.
Company Artist Jessica Lohr grew up in Houston, Texas where she began her dance training at age seven. She trained under the direction of Victoria Vittum, James Payne, and Bridget Payne through her high school years as well as spending her summers training at intensives around the United States including Boston Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, Ballet Magnificat, and The Washington Ballet. Jessica was then accepted into The Washington Ballet’s Professional Training Program where she danced in productions of Don Quixote, Etudes, and The Nutcracker. In 2014, Jessica joined Ballet Magnificat as a trainee and was promoted to the Events Company the next year. She danced with the Events Company for two years performing productions including Jiri Voborsky’s Ruth, Light has Come, Most Incredible Christmas, and Tara Thibodeaux’s “The Arrival”. With the Events Company Jessica had the opportunity to tour to Honduras, Guam, and East Asia. Jessica joined Ballet 5:8 in 2017 and was promoted to Company Artist in 2018.
Company Artist Samuel Opsal started dancing at the age of 16 in Pullman, WA. In 2014 he received a BFA in Dance from Cornish College of the Arts, graduating magna cum laude. While attending Cornish he was granted multiple awards for academic and artistic achievement. After college Samuel worked with Iyun Harrison’s Ashani Dances in Seattle and then moved to Pittsburgh to train in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Graduate Program. His performances include PBT’s Le Corsaire, Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadere. As a guest artist he has performed principal roles in Giselle, Firebird, and Swan Lake. In 2015 he also had the opportunity to choreograph a duet that was performed by PBT’s ensemble group. Samuel joined Ballet 5:8 in 2016.
Company Artist Beth Patterson grew up in San Antonio, Texas where she began her training at Ballet Conservatory of South Texas under the direction of Catherine Batcheller. She later moved to North Carolina to study at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and then to New York to study at SLK Ballet with Sara Knight. During her three years in New York she performed at many hospitals and schools such as Morgan Stanley, Mount Sinai, and Sloan Kettering. In Italy, she performed at the AJD International Dance Festival and was invited to dance with the Central Ballet School in London. Over the years she has performed in Paquita, La Bayadere, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and Long Island Ballet Theatre's Nutcracker. After graduating from SLK Ballet, Beth joined Ballet 5:8 in 2016.
Company Artist Laura Peterman was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Ontario, Canada. She began ballet in Canada at age five with Catherine Kourkounakis, whom she trained with for ten years. While in Canada she also trained with Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg, co-director of Opera Atelier and the School of Atelier Ballet, and performed in the National Ballet of Canada's Nutcracker. In high school Laura moved to Pittsburgh, PA, to train at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. During high school, she attended summer intensives at Boston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the Joffrey Academy of Dance, Chicago. After graduating from high school, Laura moved to Chicago to join Ballet 5:8 as a trainee for their 2015/16 season, where she had the opportunity to dance roles in Four Seasons of the Soul, Mi Familia, Interplay, Eden, and Belteshazzar. This will be Laura's fifth season dancing with the company, she also teaches at Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts.
Senior Apprentice Kennedy Ditzhazy grew up in the small town of Granville, OH where she began her dance training at the age of seven at Garrett Dance Arts, the Ballet Academy, and later with BalletMet. She studied at Point Park University up until her sophomore year of college, where she trained under talented artists, including Nicholas Petrov, Peter Mertz, Susan Stowe, and Kwang Suk Choi, to name a few. Kennedy was then asked to train with the Charlotte Ballet, under the direction of Patricia McBride, and afterwards spent two seasons (2016-2018) with Nevada Ballet Theater, now under the direction of Roy Kaiser. Her all-time favorite ballet to perform is George Balanchine’s Serenade because of the freeing movement and its beautiful score. Kennedy loves dancing in the corps de ballet because of the camaraderie and togetherness it brings between each corps member in rehearsal and on stage. Kennedy joined Ballet 5:8 as a Company Apprentice in 2018 and was promoted to Senior Apprentice in 2019. She looks forward to having the ability to grow both spiritually and artistically alongside the rest of the company.
Company Apprentice Lezlie Gray was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware. She has been dancing since she was two, and began her formal training at the age of 11 with Delaware Dance Company (DDC) under Sunshine Webster-Latshaw and Sherry Hiott. She performed in many productions throughout the years with DDC where she had the opportunity to dance soloist and principal roles. During her high school years, she attended Ballet Magnificat’s Summer Intensive, local dance festivals, Regional Dance America, and YAGP semi-finals in Philadelphia and Boston. These events provided exposure to different styles and instructors, as well as recognition through scholarships. After graduating from high school in 2018, she moved to Jackson, Mississippi and danced with Ballet Magnificat as a Trainee. She had the opportunity to perform in full stage productions, go on a few tours, and dance in numerous outreach performances in the local community. She looks forward to dancing with Ballet 5:8 in her first year with the company and is grateful to everyone who has helped her pursue her dream.
Company Apprentice Valerie Linsner was born and raised in Champaign, IL. From age seven through high school, Valerie trained at Champaign Ballet Academy, under Deanna Doty, and performed with her pre-professional company, Champaign Urbana Ballet. There she grew to love classical ballet and had the privilege to dance Paquita, Cinderella, La Bayadere, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Valerie first became acquainted with Ballet 5:8 in 2013 when she attended their Summer Intensive, and returned for a second summer in 2014. Since then, she has enjoyed attending summer intensives at Boston Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre, New York. Upon graduating high school, Valerie felt called to join Ballet 5:8's trainee program, in which she had the honor to perform in Scarlet, Compass, Four Seasons of the Soul, and The Space in Between. She also joined the Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts staff in 2018. Miss Linsner is joining Ballet 5:8 as an Apprentice for the 2019-2020 season and is incredibly thankful to her family for their endless love and support.
Company Apprentice Ellington Nichols comes to Ballet 5:8 from Minnesota where she began her ballet training at the age of 10 at the North Ballet Academy under the direction of Stephanie Heston, Kim Norberg, and Breanna Dvorak. She performed with the North Ballet Youth Company in various lead roles including Clara, Dew Drop and divertissements in consecutive productions of The Nutcracker. She then continued her pre-professional training with Tatiana Berenova, former Russian prima ballerina, with whom she also toured performing Pas De Quatre. Ellington expanded her training by spending summers attending prestigious summer intensives including: Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC, Ellison Ballet in NYC, Harid Conservatory in Florida, Butler University, Indiana University, Forrest Academy of Ballet New York (FABNY), as well as IBstage in Barcelona, Spain and the International Vivat Youth Ballet Festival under the Artistic Director Oleg Vinogradov, former director of the Kirov Ballet, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Ellington moved to Manhattan during her last year of high school to train full time with Ms. Erin Forrest. She graduated from the Forrest Academy of Ballet New York in the spring of 2019. Ellington is extremely excited to be starting this new journey with Ballet 5:8 in the 2019/20 season.
Company Apprentice Melanie Rodrigues was born and raised in Dayton, OH and began her dance training at Pontecorvo Ballet Studios under the direction of Barbara Pontecorvo. She later joined their resident pre professional ballet company, Gem City Ballet, where she performed many new works, classical repertoire, as well as Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, Serenade, and Raymonda Variations. Over the years at PBS and GCB she has performed soloist and principal roles in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Giselle, Coppélia, La Bayadère, and PBS’s The Nutcracker. She also trained at many summer intensives including Ballet West, Miami City Ballet, and American Ballet Theater’s Collegiate Program. In 2017, Melanie joined Ballet 5:8’s Trainee Program, performing company repertoire, including Compass, Space In Between, and Four Seasons of the Soul. With the Trainee Program, she attended Regional Dance America winning a cash scholarship. Melanie is excited and grateful to join Ballet 5:8 as a Company Apprentice.