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International Ballet Stars Come Together for Ballet Manila’s ‘American Stars Gala’

International Ballet Stars Come Together for Ballet Manila’s ‘American Stars Gala’

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Ballet Manila is proudly bringing together the next wave of international ballet superstars for the American Stars Gala—a rare performance featuring a specially curated line-up of pieces, performed by the fastest-rising names in the world of ballet. It will be co-directed by no less than Ballet Manila’s Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and Boston Ballet’s George Birkadze.

The incoming dancers from Ballet Manila’s international partners are some of the hottest names in the industry today. The Boston Ballet will be bringing in half-Filipina Lia Cirio, Junxiong Zhao, and Hannah Bettes, while the Houston Ballet will be represented by Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews. They’ll perform with Ballet Manila company artists and exclusive guest artists, including Joseph Phillips and Katherine Barkman.

Katherine Barkman and Joseph Phillips competing in USA IBC; photo by Richard Finkelstein

LIA CIRIO, Boston Ballet

American Stars Gala

Lia Cirio

Hailed as “one of the most accomplished actress-dancers” in the Boston Ballet, Lia Cirio has enjoyed quite the career with the company. At the age of 16, she won the National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts award for ballet, and was invited by world-renowned Mikko Nissinen to join Boston Ballet II. From then on, she rose to the ranks and became Principal Dancer in 2010. She has then danced numerous classical, neo-classical, and contemporary roles for the company. She, alongside brother and Principal Dancer at the American Ballet Theater, Jeffrey Cirio, have created their own contemporary company, the Cirio Collective.

JUNXIONG ZHAO, Boston Ballet

American Stars Gala

Junxiong Zhao

Having multiple international and national awards under his name, Junxiong Zhao is truly one of ballet’s gems. Born in Chongqing, China, he started his career with the Shanghai East Ballet School in Shanghai, China and then proceeded to train with The Washington Ballet Studio Company and Ballet Arizona before being recruited by the prestigious Boston Ballet. Some of his accolades are the Choreographic Prize at the 2015 International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize and the Senior Silver Medal at the World Ballet Competition back in 2012. He has performed principal roles in the Boston Ballet’s “Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” and “The Sleeping Beauty.”

HANNAH BETTES, Boston Ballet

American Stars Gala

Hannah Bettes

Boston Ballet Second Soloist Hannah Bettes began her training at the Central Florida Ballet School in 2007, and in 2010, she joined Next Generation Ballet. She was then named the Nadia Nernia Scholar at the Royal Ballet back in 2012, and she got the chance to perform at the Buckingham Palace and to work with world-renowned choreographers. She has several awards under her belt such as the gold medal in the junior division at the Youth American Grand Prix in 2011 and second prize and the audience favorite award at the Prix De Lausanne in 2012. Her career with the Boston Ballet began in 2014, and she has performed ballets choreographed by Marius Petipa and William Forsythe, among others. She was promoted to second soloist in 2017.

YURIKO KAJIYA, Houston Ballet

American Stars Gala

Yuriko Kajiya

Featured as one of the “100 People to Look Up To” in Japanese Newsweek, Yuriko Kajiya has established herself as one of ballet’s most prominent names. Born in Nagoya, Japan, she began her training at age eight and shortly after, she moved to China to train at the Shanghai Ballet School. During her younger years, she won numerous ballet competitions such as the Tao Li Bei National Ballet Competition and the Third International Ballet Competition. Back in 2000, she has also won the renowned Prix de Lausanne Scholarship, which lead her to study the craft at the National Ballet School of Canada. A year after, she joined the American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company and became an apprentice in the main company, and eventually appointed a soloist in 2007. She started her career in the Houston Ballet in 2014, and was promoted to Principal Dancer in November 2014.

JARED MATTHEWS, Houston Ballet

American Stars Gala

Jared Matthews

Houston native and protégé of the late and great David Howard, Jared Matthews, has been performing all over the world. He started his career under the guidance of Victoria Vittum and Gilbert Rome and took the American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensive back in 2001. He was then invited to be part of the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company. He joined the main company a year after, and rose to the ranks of soloist in 2007. Jared joined the Houston Ballet in 2014 as First Soloist and he was promoted to Principal Dancer after a well-received performance as Lucentio in “Taming of the Shrew.” His Houston Ballet repertoire includes Romeo in “Romeo & Juliet,” the Prince in “The Nutcracker,” and Solor in “La Bayadère.”


The company will be re-staging Hazel Sabas-Gower’s “Deconstructing Gershwin.” Principal Dancers Joan Sia, Abigail Oliveiro, and Elpidio Magat, together with Company Artists Heewon Cho and Godwin Merano will be performing the world premiere of George Birkadze’s “Imperial.” Sia will also be performing Agnes Locsin’s Arachnida with fellow Principal Dancer Romeo Peralta.

The ladies of the company will be performing the Swans to Lia Cirio and Ballet Manila soloist Mark Sumaylo’s pas de deux from Act 2 of Swan Lake. 

Fresh off from the USA International Ballet Competition (IBC), Nicole Barroso and Joshua Encisco will be performing their Diana and Acteon pas de deux , where Barroso won the Special Award for Jury Encouragement for the Women’s Junior Division.


Nicole Barroso and Joshua Encisco competing in USA IBC; photo by Richard Finkelstein

With Ballet Manila’s 23rd performance season approaching, come see the American Stars Gala to get a taste of spectacle the company has in store. Catch this once-in-a-lifetime show on July 7, 2018, 7:30 PM at the Aliw Theater.

You can buy tickets HERE.

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