National Choreographers Initiative Announces 4 Choreographers for the 2016 Project

A native of Venice Beach, CA and a former dancer with National Choreographers Initiative are among the 4 chosen choreographers.

National Choreographers Initiative

July 30, 2016 at 8pm


Irvine Barclay Theatre

4242 Campus Drive
, Irvine CA | 949.854.4646
Tickets: $60, $34 general, $20 student

For interviews, contact:

Molly Lynch, 949.637.0108|

Be there for the birth of, not one, but four new ballets created as part of the intensive 3-week process of the National Choreographers Initiative (NCI). Artistic Director, Molly Lynch has invited four choreographers – Tom Gold, Nicole Haskins, Stephanie Martinez and Ben Needham-Wood − as well as sixteen professional dancers from ballet companies across the country, to participate.

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The 13th annual National Choreographers Initiative will take place this summer from July 11 to July 30. During the three weeks of intense creative effort at the dance studios of University of California, Irvine, four choreographers and sixteen professional dancers will produce new dance works culminating in a public performance at Irvine Barclay Theatre on Saturday, July 30 at 8pm. The evening will include a question and answer session, moderated by Artistic Director, Molly Lynch, giving the audience the opportunity to discuss the production with the four choreographers.

Each choreographer is given complete freedom to choose the style and theme of the work. This is a laboratory for the choreographers to develop their movement and thematic ideas. The choreographers retain the right to promote and license the works they have created to other companies.

National Choreographers Initiative is a southern California project with national influence. Since 2004, NCI has hosted 48 choreographers, 107 dancers from 41 different companies, and has produced 48 new works − 25 of which have been produced by companies throughout the United States.

Artistic Director, Molly Lynch:
“NCI is different from all other dance initiatives of its kind. The choreographers enter the rehearsal studio and know they have the ultimate freedom to create and experiment with different genres and styles of movement. And the non-commissioned setting encourages them to grow as artists and further develop their artistic vision. The dancers also benefit greatly from this creative process. They are free to improvise and hone their technique. It’s a unique collaboration; it’s stimulating and exciting; it changes daily. At the end, there is a dance creation that’s not predetermined – it’s the heart of their artistic expression; and it is energizing.”


Tom Gold

Tom Gold is the founder and director of Tom Gold Dance based in New York City. He was a 21- year member of the New York City Ballet where he was a soloist. Tom also performed with numerous companies around the world including Twyla Tharp Dance, Donald Byrd/the Group, and New York City Opera. As a freelance choreographer, Gold has created works for Oregon Ballet Theatre, Vassar College, The School of American Ballet, the New York Choreographic Institute, Manhattan School of Music, the television show, Odd Mom Out and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, to name a few. He is the featured performer and choreographer in 2wice Arts Foundation’s Dot Dot Dot, an interactive iPad application. For his own company, Gold has created over 30 original works and has traveled to Bermuda, Israel, Italy, France and Spain. In May, he will create a new work for Saint Louis Ballet. 

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Nicole Haskins

Nicole Haskins was born and raised in Venice Beach, California. She received her ballet training at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica under the direction of Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire. Nicole’s enthusiasm for choreography emerged during her time at Westside, where she often gathered her friends together during breaks to try out ideas. Noticing her spunk and talent, the school’s directors invited her to choreograph for their annual spring showcase for three consecutive years. Nicole danced professionally with Sacramento Ballet, Washington Ballet, and currently dances with Smuin Ballet in San Francisco, where she is about to begin her fourth season. Nicole has been commissioned to choreograph for Sacramento Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Smuin Ballet, and many ballet schools across the country. Her choreography has been presented at the Los Angles Dance Invitational, the McCallum Theatre’s Dancing Under The Stars Choreographic Competition, as well as numerous Regional Dance America Festivals. In 2010, she participated in the New York Choreographic Institute affiliated with the New York City Ballet, and in 2011 received the Institute’s Fellowship Grant. Forthcoming commissions include a  new work for Amy Seiwert’s Imagery’s SKETCH 6 series; a pas de deux, La Linea Scura, will be presented by Dayton Ballet; a world premiere for Smuin Ballet’s 2017 spring repertory season.

Dancer Spotlight

Stephanie Martinez

Stephanie Martinez is an award-winning Chicago dance artist with over 30 years professional performing experience on stage, film and television. During her 17-year stint with River North Dance Chicago (RNDT), she worked with guest choreographers Ashley Roland, Kevin Iega Jeff, Daniel Ezralow, Frank Chaves, Sherry Zunker and Ron De Jesus, among others, and was merited the Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Performance. Her eclectic performance resume also includes guesting with Lyric Opera of Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Ron De Jesus Dance, and as a featured dancer for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the 2006 World Cup opening ceremonies with Diana Ross. Upon leaving RNDT, she made her 2009 choreographic debut with AviMar, for Luna Negra Dance Theater’s 10th anniversary season. Since then, she has been traveling across the country setting works on professional companies and universities. She is a recipient of the 2015 3Arts Awards in Chicago, which recognizes women in the arts; and completed a residency at the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago as one of the winners of the 2014 Winning Works: Choreographers of Color Awards. Most recently, she set a piece on the Kansas City Ballet for their New Moves program. Forthcoming commissions include Ballet Hispanico, Eugene Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Neos Dance Theatre, Dance St. Louis and Dance Kaleidoscope.


Ben Needham-Wood

Ben Needham-Wood began his dance education with the Boston-based ballet company, Dance Prism. After graduating from the renowned St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH, Ben went on to further his training at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, earning his BFA in Ballet, magna cum laude. While completing his degree, Ben joined the Louisville Ballet under the direction of Bruce Simpson. There he performed a variety of classical and contemporary repertoire. Some highlights include Romeo in Alun Jones’ Romeo & Juliet, Armand in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, and featured roles in contemporary works by Adam Hougland, Helen Pickett and Amy Seiwert, among others. Ben later relocated to San Francisco where he is currently an artist with Smuin Ballet, directed by Celia Fushille. His performance career continues to expand, recently including such choreographers as Garrett Ammon, Ma Cong, Jiří Kylián and Michael Smuin. Ben received his first choreographic commission while an artist with the Louisville Ballet. Since then, he has created premieres for such companies as Smuin Ballet and Dance Theatre of San Francisco, and has had his works presented at festivals across the United States and Canada. Ben has also choreographed for film, recently co-creating BaseBallet with Weston Krukow, produced by Comcast Sports Network. BaseBallet was aired during the San Francisco Giants pre-game broadcast and is featured in the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame as part of The Dancing Athlete exhibit. Ben participated in NCI ‘10 as a dancer and is proud to be returning for NCI ‘16 as a choreographer.

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Molly Lynch - Artistic Director of
National Choreographers Initiative
Molly Lynch is an award-winning choreographer and artistic director, with over 30 years of experience creating, producing, and presenting dance and is currently an Associate Professor of Dance in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at UC, Irvine. Ms. Lynch is the Founder and Artistic Director of the National Choreographers Initiative.

Ms. Lynch was the Artistic Director for Ballet Pacifica from 1988 to 2003. During her tenure, she established Ballet Pacifica as Orange County’s leading professional dance company and one of the area’s top arts organizations. Among her innovative trademark programs was the Pacifica Choreographic Project. Under Ms. Lynch’s direction, the com­pany worked with forty choreographers, premiered more than forty new ballets and re­staged some of America’s most beloved classics by George Balanchine, Antony Tudor and Choo San Goh. Ms. Lynch recently created new ballets for Sacramento Ballet, Festival Ballet, Nashville Ballet, BalletMet (Columbus, Ohio), Dance Collage (Hermosillo, Mexico), Academies of Ballet in Philippines (Manila) and Singapore Dance Theatre.

She began her dance training with Lila Zali, received a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet and performed as a soloist and principal dancer with the Louisville Ballet and Ballet Pacifica for over 10 years. In 1992, Ms. Lynch was given the esteemed Outstanding Alumnus Award from UCI and was named one of OC Metro Magazine’s “Ten Women Who Make a Difference.” She is also the recipient of the Red Cross Clara Barton Cultural Arts Award and the Boy Scouts of America Women of Excellence Award in 1996. She is the recipient of the 2001 Choo San Goh Award for Choreography and the 2007 Outstanding Arts Organization Award for her National Choreographers Initiative from Arts Orange County. In April 2008 she was honored with the Irvine Barclay Theatre’s prestigious Jade Award for her extraordinary leadership and creativity.

Press Contact:

Karen Drews Hanlon
Irvine Barclay Theatre