Virginia is a professional ballet company in residence at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts under the direction of Lydia Roberts Coco. The company performs both classical and contemporary works in venues throughout Hampton Roads. These talented artists strive to bring diversity, passion and artistry to the stage with every performance.
Lydia Roberts Coco
Ms. Roberts Coco began her own professional career as a member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (the Ailey junior company) where she danced for three years. She then performed with the Jamison Project under the direction of Judith Jamison. After the passing of Alvin Ailey, Lydia was invited by Judith Jamison to become a member of the world renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Once again under the direction of Ms. Jamison, Lydia toured nationally and internationally as a principal dancer with the AAADT for seven years. Her credits include leading roles in Pas De Duke, Night Creature, Fix Me Jesus from Alvin Ailey’s signature piece Revelations, Suite Otis and many others. Lydia has worked with many choreographers including Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Tally Beatty, Elisa Monte, Jerome Robbins, George Faison, and Ulysses Dove. She has performed at renowned theatres such as Lincoln Center, City Center, Kennedy Center and The Paris Opera House.
Lydia is honored to be Ballet Virginia’s Company Artistic Director. She has choreographed numerous new works as well as set some of her best works on the professional company. New works created for Ballet Virginia include Bolero, Dark Instincts, FIVE and Last Breath. She continues to work towards her artistic vision of making Ballet Virginia’s professional company something that excites and inspires the Hampton Roads community. Lydia is passionate about making sure our community knows that we have an amazing group of ethnically as well as artistically diverse dancers.
Lydia is also on Ballet Virginia’s academy faculty where she has been teaching ballet and modern since 2008.
Jared Allan Brunson
Jared Allan Brunson, a Saint Petersburg, Florida native, received his initial training in West African song, music and dance from Jai Hinson and Baba Chuck Davis. After 10+ years traveling with DunDuDole Urban African Ballet as an apprentice, Jared began classical training with Suzzanne Pomerantzeff, garnering scholarships to Boston Ballet, The Rock School, and Houston Ballet, among others.
At age 18, after working briefly with Florida Dance Theatre, Jared joined BalletX as one of its first full-time members. While there, he was mentored and coached by Michael Sheridan. He was a guest artist at the Pennsylvania Ballet and the University of the Arts on multiple occasions, performing at the Kennedy Center, The Mann Center, and the Academy of Music.
At age 20, Jared joined Oregon Ballet Theatre under the direction of Kevin Irving, performing works by Nacho Duato, George Balanchine and Christopher Stowell. Jared was then offered a contract with Ballet Memphis where he performed as a soloist and principal for four seasons. There, he acquired acclaim in Dance Magazine, the New York Times and many national publications for his performances. He then went on to dance with Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
Jared was a guest artist with Ballet Virginia in 2022, making his debut with the Company in Lydia Roberts Coco’s premiere of “FIVE”. After his impressive performance, he was offered a contract with the company and is now the Associate Artistic Director.
Rebecca Ailstock was born and raised in Virginia Beach and started her ballet training at four years old at a local recreation center. At eight years old, she started her professional training with Ballet Virginia under the direction of Suzanne Lownsbury, Janina Michalski, as well as faculty including Lydia Roberts Coco, and Patrica Sorrell.
Ema studied with Ballet Virginia’s Academy and was a part of the second company, BV2, during her high school years. She danced roles including Spanish lead in The Nutcracker, Songbird Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, and featured roles in works by Lydia Roberts Coco. Currently, she attends Tidewater Community College full-time, teaches for Ballet Virginia’s Children’s Program, and dances with the professional company.
Felecia Baker grew up in Chesapeake, Va and began her dance training at Academie de Ballet. She continued her training throughout high school with the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, Va. She spent her summers training with American Ballet Theater and Richmond Ballet. Felecia spent three seasons with the Charlottesville Ballet and moved to Memphis in 2017, where she danced with Ballet Memphis. While at Ballet Memphis she danced principal roles such as Clara in The Nutcracker and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. She also performed George Balanchine’s Square Dance and original work choreographed by Trey McIntyre.
Felecia is currently teaching ballet and pointe at Academie de Ballet and the Governor’s School for the Arts. She is a certified GYROTONIC ® Trainer and uses this methodology to aid in students’ training. While teaching, she performed Peasant Pas from Giselle and guested with Ballet Ashani under the direction of Iyun Harrison.
Brian Bennett is from Lanham, Maryland. He began his dance training in the competition circuit with troupes C&C Dance Company and X Squad Dancers where he performed tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, and Broadway routines at talent competitions across the United States, winning multiple awards.
He began his ballet training in High School at Baltimore School for the Arts under the direction of Norma Pera. During this time, he attended summer programs on full scholarship with San Francisco Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre, and George Mason University. After high school, Mr. Bennett attended Butler University in pursuit of a Bachelors of Science degree in Arts Administration under the direction of Larry Attaway.
After his time at Butler, he was awarded a scholarship to attend Joffrey Academy of Dance as a Trainee under the Artistic Direction of Raymond Rodriguez and Ashley Wheater before becoming a company artist with Oregon Ballet Theatre, under the direction of Kevin Irving in the same year. He danced with OBT in Portland, Oregon for 2 years before returning to Chicago to dance as a company artist with
The Joffrey Ballet for two seasons.
Mr. Bennett has danced with companies all over the United States including The Rosin Box Project, American Midwest Ballet, and Salt Creek Ballet. Brian has had the privilege to dance works from renowned choreographers such as William Forsythe, August Bournonville, Gerald Arpino, Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine, Liam Scarlett, John Neumier, Christopher Wheeldon, Nacho Duato, Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, Paul Taylor along with many other teachers and choreographers from all over the world.
Darion Flores, Connecticut, native born and raised, grew up in the city of Hartford, where he began his dance training with the University of Hartford. Flores graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2014 with a concentration in ballet.
He started his professional dance career with The Washington Ballet under the direction of Septime Webre and late director Julie Kent. Darion has since worked for companies, such as Orlando Ballet, United Ballet Theatre, and Royal Caribbean International. Flores is excited to be performing with Ballet Virginia.
Jackson Kettell began his ballet studies under the direction of Andrew Guilfoil in Clearwater, Florida at the age of 11. In high school, he moved to Tampa where he continued his training at Howard W. Blake High School’s dance program and at Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory. After graduation, Jackson accepted a full-merit scholarship from Jacksonville University where he earned a BFA in Dance. While a student at JU, he performed original works by Jennifer Archibald, Stephanie Martinez, and Jennifer Muller and represented the University in Shanghai, China.
After college, Jackson began his professional career as a soloist with the Ballet Theatre of Maryland. During his three seasons with BTM, he rose to the rank of principal dancer and performed roles in Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as the male lead in Aladdin, Snow White, and The Nutcracker. During his time at Ballet Virginia, he has performed various works by Lydia Roberts Coco as well as principal roles in the Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty.
Jackson is looking forward to his third season with Ballet Virginia.
Joel Morin-Kensicki received early training at Durham School for Ballet and The Performing Arts. He attended Butler University and performed with Butler Ballet under the direction of Larry Attaway. He performed principal roles in ballets such as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Four Temperaments, La Bayadere, and many contemporary works. While at Butler he had toured Europe with Marek Cholewa and Rosanna Ruffo to study at the national ballet schools of Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic along with being coached by Cholewa and Ruffo on roles such as Solor, Albrecht, and the Prince in The Nutcracker and Cinderella. He graduated from Butler University in 2018 with his BA in Dance Pedagogy.
Leah Upchurch, a Virginia Beach native, began her training at Ballet Virginia before moving to train at The Colburn School in Los Angeles. While there, she performed leading roles in Jerome Robbins’ Antique Epigraphsand original works by Benjamin Millipied. Following The Colburn School, Ms. Upchurch became a trainee at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago. There, she performed in excerpts of Bournonville’s Napoli, company performances of Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces, and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. After joining Kansas City Ballet’s second company in 2018, Ms. Upchurch performed in Septime Webre’s world premiere of Wizard of Oz, Devon Carney’s The Nutcracker, and Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias.
This will be Leah’s fourth season with Ballet Virginia and she is excited to continue her journey as one of our founding company members!
Hayley-Ann Vasco was raised in Norfolk, Virginia and began her ballet training under Suzanne Lownsbury, Janina Michalski Bove and the other faculty of Ballet Virginia. Upon graduating high school, she joined Lexington Ballet where she was a company dancer for three years. There Hayley-Ann performed such roles as Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, Hermia in A Midsummer Nights Dream and the title roles in Giselle and Snow White. While dancing in Lexington, she also took classes at the University of Kentucky, and went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology.
After a year of dancing in Columbus as a trainee with BalletMet, Ms. Vasco joined Ballet Theatre of Maryland. In her three years there, she rose to the rank of Demi-Soloist and performed such roles as Pas de Trois and Little Swans in Swan Lake as well as Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker.
Since moving back to Ballet Virginia to join the company in 2020, Hayley-Ann has performed leading roles such as Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Clara in The Nutcracker, Juliet in Denis Nahat’s Romeo and Juliet Pas de Deux, and a featured role in Lydia Roberts Coco’s Into the Sunshine. Hayley-Ann is excited for the new opportunities this season will bring!
Lily Postle, Abigail Molina, Logan Moon
Ballet Virginia Trainees