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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018 11 months ago

Orlando Ballet, Orlando Ballet School recruit new leaders

The Orlando Ballet and Orlando Ballet School have taken on new leaders.
by: Harry Sayer Black Tie Reporter

Both the Orlando Ballet and Orlando Ballet school are looking to shake things up in a big way. On the heels of announcing Shane Jewell as the new executive director for the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando Ballet School named a number of individuals to new leadership positions, most notably Phillip Broomhead to interim director following the departure of longtime director Dierdre Miles Burger. 

Shane Jewell

After years leading an Oklahoma music festival and working as executive director for the Oklahoma City Ballet, Jewell was ready for a move.

“I knew my career would take me out of Oklahoma someday; I just didn’t know when or where,” he said. “It felt like I could come (to Orlando) and be a part of having a positive impact for change in this organization. That’s what really interested me.” 

The new Orlando Ballet executive director, who now resides in Baldwin Park, started his tenure with the company in June. He said he’s been doing a deep dive into the way the organization is run and hopes to improve ticket sales by working more closely with nonprofits and the Orlando community. 

During his time with the Oklahoma City Ballet, Jewell said he was able to grow the budget by 40% and help acquire a new dance facility. The Orlando Ballet has plans for a new 38,000 square-foot building to open in 2019. 

“The main thing is the facility should match the quality of the art,” Jewell said. “That’s the critical piece. It’s a mismatch when you see this incredible ballet on a stage and you go to the studios, and it isn’t what you expect.”

Phillip Broomhead

Broomhead has had a celebrated career before finding himself in the City Beautiful. The London-born professional first found his life of dance when his grandmother took him to a ballet school to help his hyper energetic tendencies. Broomhead eventually joined the Royal Ballet Company as a principal dancer before making his way to to the Houston Ballet, where he eventually served as ballet master. 

After taking time off, he established his own dance academy, the Vittaca Vocational School for Dance, before accepting Burger’s and Orlando Ballet Artistic Director Robert Hill’s invitation to join the school. 

He wants to bring some of his European background to the school, which he hopes will bring out the artistic side of ballet, which he fears is undervalued, as much as the athleticism.

Although his official title is interim director, Broomhead plans to be with the Orlando Ballet School for a long while. 

“I feel like I’m at the ground of something really fantastic,” Broomhead said. “For Orlando, for the community and for the company, it’s exciting how with the new building and the Dr. Phillips Center (it just) feels like something is about to erupt in the best possible way.”

Shannon Blust

Blust has had a storied career as a dancer. He spent many years with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and then performing on Broadway — but said it all pales in comparison to his work as a teacher.

“When I taught that first class, being bit by the theater bug was nothing compared to the bug that got me when I taught my first class,” he said. 

After years as a dance instructor at the Windermere Preparatory School, Blust now is the Orlando Ballet School’s South Campus manager. He is making a few changes with his new position. The school’s South Campus in the Dellagio Plaza in Dr. Phillips, which Blust estimates teaches around 400 students, soon will host a slew of dance classes covering musicals, tap dance, jazz and stage film, hip hop, Latin cardio, and more. Blust and Hill both believe teaching a wider array of styles will keep the school competitive in the job market and industry as a whole. 

Yan Chen and Chiaki Yasukawa

Yan Chen, formally the Orlando Ballet School’s Ballet Master, now will teach at the upper levels of the school and help students seeking advanced training as the Principal Academy Teacher. 

Longtime Orlando Ballet dancer Chiaki Yasukawa will be in charge of the Academy Prep Program at the South Campus. 


Harry Sayer is the Black Tie Reporter for the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida. Have a story suggestion? Shoot him an email at [email protected]....

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