Karen Russo Burke | Artistic Director, Dayton Ballet
Under the artistic direction of Karen Russo Burke, Dayton Ballet’s vision is one of diversity. Her emphasis on developing each dancer as an artist as well as a professional athlete challenges them to new heights and makes Dayton Ballet a company to recognize.
Karen has created more than 30 works for the company, ranging from classical to contemporary. She has an affinity for story ballets such as Cinderella, The Nutcracker, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Butterfly Suite. Dracula: Bloodlines is the first full-length ballet in collaboration with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance featuring an original libretto, orchestrated score, opera singers and a film component. Her works No Strings Attached and Fate of Place have included collaborations with current musical composers, such as Dr. Stella Sung, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance Music Alive Composer-in-Residence.
As a member of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, Karen is enjoying her continuing production collaboration with Dayton Opera and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Her choreography and staging have been seen in many operas such as Carmina Burana, Aida, The Pearl Fishers and Season Opening Spectaculars including Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth.
Prior to becoming artistic director at Dayton Ballet, Karen served as a teacher in the school, director of Dayton Ballet II for 12 years, and ballet master. She was also coordinator of Dayton Ballet’s outreach program, Dance Power, in 1997, directing and teaching inner-city children the art of dance.
As a professional dancer for more than a dozen years, Karen had leading roles in ballets by dance legends such as George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, José Limón, Gerald Arpino, and Paul Taylor and current choreographers such as Septime Webre.
In 2005 Karen was honored by her prior professional company, American Repertory Ballet, for her commitment and excellence in the field of dance. She was awarded the Ohio Arts Council Excellence in Individual Creativity Award in 2006, and in 2010 the Dayton Business Journal honored her for her professionalism in the arts community.
She has taught at Wright State University, University of Dayton, Stivers School of the Arts, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Rutgers University and the Princeton Ballet School.
In 2017, Karen saw the need to present ballet to many in the community who are unable to attend regular performances. In the 2018-2019 season, the Dayton Ballet presented sensory-friendly performances of both The Nutcracker and a world premiere, Sleeping Beauty: The Story of Briar Rose, at the Schuster Center.
Sharon Neumeister | Ballet Mistress
Sharon was featured in many principal roles during her ten years as a dancer with the Dayton Ballet. Some of her most memorable performances include “Sugar Plum Fairy” in The Nutcracker, “Tiger Lily” in Peter Pan,”Mina” in Dracula, “Fairy Godmother” in An American Cinderella, “Odette” in Swan Lake, “the Mother” in The Who’s Tommy, “Mrs. Cratchit” in A Christmas Carol, “Michaela” in Carmen, “Black Coffee” in Hot Riffs and Blue Notes, “Amelia Earhart” in Into the Blue, “The Outfielder’s Dream” in Play Ball, “Sleepwalk” in Shaken But Not Stirred, and “Meant to Be” in Five Flights Up. Sharon has also restaged many Dayton Ballet favorites, including Septime Webre’s Swan Lake and Peter Pan, Gregory Robinson’s Hot Riffs and Blue Notesand Mozartiana, Dermot Burke and Stephen Mills’s There Was a Time, Mr. Burke and Mr. Robinson’s American Robin Hood, Stuart Sebastian’s Dracula, and Christopher Fleming’s The Who’s Tommy.
Megan Forney | Co-Director, Dayton Ballet II
Megan has been a teacher at Dayton Ballet School since 2008. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to Dayton to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance from Wright State University. While at Wright State, Megan performed with the Wright State Dance Ensemble and was a member of the Dayton Ballet II Senior Company. During her summers away from WSU, she studied at Ballet Chicago and Ballet Internationale. As a member of DBII Sr., Megan performed in Dayton Ballet productions including The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, An American Cinderella, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Swan Lake, America’s Robin Hood and There Was a Time. She is thrilled to be in her third year as Director of the Dayton Ballet II Junior Company.
Gabrielle Sharp | Co-Director, Dayton Ballet II
Gabrielle Sharp has been a teacher at Dayton Ballet School since 2010 and was in Dayton Ballet II Junior and Senior Company before dancing with the Dayton Ballet professional company at age 17. While in Dayton Ballet II Senior Company, she won the Dancer Peer Award, Walter J. McCaslin Memorial Award, and the Josephine and Hermene Schwartz Award. Gabrielle has performed in Dracula, Nutcracker, Tales from the Shadows, There Was a Time, and America’s Robin Hood. Her most memorable roles include Dracula’s wife and a Spanish dancer in The Nutcracker. She is also an American Rhythm ballroom champion. She is thrilled to be working with Dayton Ballet II.