Karen Russo Burke | Artistic Director, Dayton Ballet
Karen Russo Burke is entering her tenth season as Artistic Director of Dayton Ballet in the 2021-2022 season. Her emphasis on developing each dancer as an artist as well as a professional athlete, which challenges them to new heights, makes Dayton Ballet a company to recognize.
Karen has created more than 40 works for Dayton Ballet, in both the classical and contemporary genres. She has an affinity for story ballets and has created a few of her own, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Dracula: Bloodlines, both with an original score, The Butterfly Suite, and Sleeping Beauty: The Story of Briar Rose. Capitalizing on the benefits of being a part of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, Karen created Dracula: Bloodlines with an original libretto, orchestrated score, opera singers, and a film component. Her works No Strings Attached and Fate of Place have included collaborations with contemporary musical composers, such as Dr. Stella Sung.
Karen continues to enjoy the creativity and innovation that has arisen from ongoing production collaborations with Dayton Opera and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Her choreography and staging have been seen in many Dayton Opera productions, including Carmina Burana, Aida, Carmen, and The Pearl Fishers. She has also created dance pieces to accompany oratorios such as Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in full length presentations with the opera and the philharmonic.
Prior to becoming Artistic Director of Dayton Ballet, Karen served as a teacher with the Dayton Ballet school, Director of Dayton Ballet II for 12 years, and Ballet Master for the company. She was also coordinator of Dayton Ballet’s outreach program, Dance Power, in 1997, directing and teaching at-risk children the art of dance.
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, Dayton Ballet presented sensory-friendly performances of both The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty: The Story of Briar Rose, a world premiere, at the Schuster Center. These sensory-friendly performances have continued each year.
In 2005, Karen was honored by American Repertory Ballet, her prior professional company, for her commitment and excellence in the field of dance. She was also 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.
Karen has taught ballet at Wright State University, University of Dayton, Stivers School for the Arts, Rutgers University, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Princeton Ballet School, and Mason Gross School for the Arts.
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.