Meet the Artists

The Professional Company of the 2019-20 Season

Kate Arnson

Kate Arnson is originally from San Diego, California. She began dancing at City Ballet of San Diego and then went on to work with Kathryn Irey at Stage 7 School of Dance, where she spent the majority of her training. After two seasons as an apprentice with City Ballet of San Diego and one season with Ballet Tucson, Kate re-joined City Ballet of San Diego as a company member, performing in ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Carmen, and George Balanchine’s Serenade, Emeralds, Four Temperaments, Walpurgisnacht, and La Source. While performing with the company, Kate also taught in City Ballet’s outreach program and coached their junior professional company. This is Kate’s third season with Charlottesville Ballet.

Cassidy Burk

Cassidy Burk, a native of Leesburg, Virginia, trained for 15 years at The Dance Academy of Loudoun where she fell in love with all styles of dance. Cassidy spent summers training on scholarship with American Ballet Theatre, Charlotte Ballet, The Rock School, and Joffrey. In 2016, she graduated from Point Park University where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts for ballet and jazz. During her time there, Cassidy performed principal roles in works by Matthew Powell, Emery LeCrone, Septime Webre, Peter LeBreton Merz, Garfield Lemonius, Ron Tassone, Susan Stowe, and Kiesha Lalama, including Juliet in Nicolas Petrov’s Romeo & Juliet, Giselle in Giselle, and the Lead Russian Girl in George Balanchine’s Serenade. She joined Charlottesville Ballet in 2016 and now returns for her fourth season as a Company Artist.

Jessica Grant

Jessica Grant is a native of Staunton, Virginia. She began her dance training at the Ballet Box and studied under the tutelage of Jann Shenk. At age fifteen, Jessica began dancing with Rockingham Ballet Theatre, where she performed leading roles including Cinderella, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Swanhilda in Coppelia. She graduated in 2016 with an A.A. in Dance from Piedmont Virginia Community College and is pursuing a second degree in Cybersecurity. Jessica enjoys opportunities to continue refining her artistry and attended the Compass Coaching Project with Dominic Walsh during the summer of 2018. Jessica is also on faculty at Charlottesville Ballet Academy and enjoys sharing her love of dance with others. Jessica joined Charlottesville Ballet in 2013 as a Trainee and is excited for her seventh season with Charlottesville Ballet as a Company Artist.

Maya Hawkins

Maya Hawkins is originally from Memphis, Tennessee, where she trained at Ballet Memphis and Collage Dance Collective. After graduating from high school, Maya studied at the Pennsylvania Ballet School under the direction of Arantxa Ochoa. She then joined The Washington Ballet (TWB) for the 2015-16 season as a trainee and danced roles in Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker, Carmen, Coppelia, and George Balanchine’s Serenade. After her season with TWB, Maya joined Cincinnati Ballet as a trainee, where she performed in Kirk Peterson’s Coppelia, Victoria Morgan’s TheNutcracker, and excerpts from Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. Maya has attended summer intensives on scholarship at Dance Theatre of Harlem, Orlando Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Carolina Ballet, and Alonzo King Lines Ballet. This is Maya’s third season with Charlottesville Ballet.

Yoka Hirayama

Yoka Hirayama was born in Tokyo, Japan and trained at the Homura Tomoi Ballet School in Osaka until 2015. She attended the Jacob’s Pillow Ballet Program and the Joffrey Ballet NYC summer intensives on full scholarship. From 2015-2017, Yoka danced with the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago as a Trainee, where she performed in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker and as the Waltzgirl in George Balanchine’s Serenade. During the 2017-2018 season, Yoka continued her training with the Milwaukee Ballet II, where she performed Michel Pink’s La Boheme and The Nutcracker. Yoka joined Charlottesville ballet as an apprentice and is thrilled to return for her second season as a company artist with Charlottesville Ballet.

Special thanks to our corporate sponsor Poarch Law for helping our international artists perform across Central Virginia. For more information about their immigration services, visit

Derek Lauer

Derek Lauer first began dancing at his mother’s studio in Flagstaff, Arizona. After graduating from the Virginia School of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA, he joined Milwaukee Ballet II. Derek then danced with New York Theatre Ballet, where he performed leading roles in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. From 2010 to 2013, Derek danced with Ballet Tucson in Arizona, where he appeared in Three Virgins and a Devil, Anthony Tudor’s Continuo and Fairy Doll, and August Bournonville’s Flower Festival. For the next five seasons, Derek danced with City Ballet of San Diego, where he performed Romeo in Romeo & Juliet and Rothbart in Swan Lake, as well as roles in George Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante, Serenade, Rubies, Emeralds, Four Temperaments, and Square Dance. Since joining Charlottesville Ballet in 2017, Derek has performed leading roles such as Cavalier in The Nutcracker and Prince Charming in Cinderella. This is Derek’s third season as a Company Artist.

Nanae Matsushima

Nanae Matsushima was born in Hokkaido, Japan. She began dancing at the age of three and continued her training in Hokkaido until 2012 when she relocated to Calgary in Alberta, Canada to train at the School of Alberta Ballet. In 2014, Nanae was offered a trainee position at the American Repertory Ballet (ARB) in Princeton, NJ and moved to the United States. While at ARB, Nanae danced the role of Kitri in Don Quixote, as well as roles in The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Firebird. Nanae joined Charlottesville Ballet as a Company Artist in 2015 and has performed numerous leading roles, including the the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Kitri in Don Quixote, and Snow White in Snow White. This is Nanae’s fifth season with Charlottesville Ballet as a company artist.

Special thanks to our corporate sponsor Poarch Law for helping our international artists perform across Central Virginia. For more information about their immigration services, visit

Toma Mori

Toma Mori is originally from Kyoto, Japan. He began his dance training at Le Studios in Pasadena, California and continued at the Colburn Dance Institute in Los Angeles. Toma also attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated from the Virginia School of the Arts in Lynchburg, VA. Toma has danced as a second company member with Nashville Ballet and as a company member with the Lexington Ballet. He has performed roles such as Peter from Peter Pan, the Faun from Afternoon of a Faun, the Prince from Snow White, the Peasant Pas de Deux from Giselle, and Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Nutcracker Prince and Cavalier from The Nutcracker, and Prince Ivan from The Firebird. He is thrilled to return to Charlottesville Ballet for his third season as a Company Artist.

Izabelly Possatto

Izabelly Possatto was born in Vila Velha, Brazil where she trained and danced professionally with Espaço da Dança under the direction of Alessandra and Liliani Cunha. She graduated in 2009 from the School of the Bolshoi Theater in Brazil and then in 2012 from the Escuela Nacional de Cuba. Izabelly has also participated in several international dance competitions, including Festival de Dança de Joinville, Festival Internacional de Cabo Frio, Seminário de Dança de Brasília, Passo de Arte, Conselho Brasileiro de Dança (CBDD), and the 2011 Youth America Grand Prix finals held in New York City. Izabelly has performed principal roles in Don Quixote, La Bayadère, Diana and Acteon, LaEsmeralda, La Fille Mal Gardée, Flower Festival, Spring Waters, and Polovetzian Dances. This is her third season as a Company Artist with Charlottesville Ballet.

Special thanks to our corporate sponsor Poarch Law for helping our international artists perform across Central Virginia. For more information about their immigration services, visit

Feleacia Quezergue

Feleacia Quezergue is from San Antonio, Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where she received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance with a minor in Nonprofit Organizational Studies. While at the University of Oklahoma, she performed with the resident ballet company Oklahoma Festival Ballet under the direction of Mary Margaret Holt. Feleacia has performed soloist roles in The Nutcracker, La Bayadere, and Carmina Burana. At OU, Feleacia also served as President of the Fine Arts Diversity Council, Student Liaison for the School of Dance Directors Search Committee, and Wardrobe Crew Head for the drama production Trojan Women. Feleacia also serves on faculty at CBA and as the Chance To Dance Coordinator. This will be Feleacia’s third season as a Company Artist with Charlottesville Ballet.

Promise Smith

Promise Smith trained at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia on full scholarship. She also attended summer programs at Chautauqua, American Ballet Theatre, Orlando Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and The Rock School. In 2013, she won 1st place in the Classical division at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) and was one of 30 YAGP finalists in NYC the following year. From 2014-16, Promise was a member of Joffrey Ballet’s studio company in Chicago where she performed with the main company in Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. In 2016-17 Promise was a guest artist with the Blythe Contemporary Ballet and performed original works throughout Pennsylvania and New York. This is Promise’s third season as a Company Artist with Charlottesville Ballet.

Jonah Sunnen

Jonah Sunnen began dancing in his hometown of Lexington, VA, and continued his training under the guidance of Pedro Szalay in Roanoke, VA. He attended summer intensives on scholarship at the CPYB August Intensive, the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC, and the School of Richmond Ballet, where he was a trainee from 2014-2016. As a member of the Southwest Virginia Ballet Jonah participated in the New Prague Dance Festival of 2013, where the company won the Grishko Award. His performance repertoire includes The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Don Quixote, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, and Flower Festival. Jonah joined Charlottesville Ballet as an Apprentice for the 2018-2019 season and now looks forward to returning for the 2019-2020 season as a Company Artist.

Abigail Brent

Abigail Brent began dancing with Charlottesville Ballet Academy at its inception in 2007, at the age of three. She was invited to join the Pre-Professional program when it was created in 2015. She spent summers training on scholarship with American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey, School of American Ballet, and Chautauqua. In 2018, she joined Charlottesville Ballet as a Trainee, starting high school online. She has enjoyed performing many roles, including The Nutcracker’s Clara and Spanish, and a Step-Sister in Cinderella. She was accepted into The Kennedy Center’s Master Ballet Class Series, enhancing her training in classes with NYCB, ABT, Ballet West, Mariinsky Ballet, National Ballet of China, San Francisco Ballet, and several internationally known contemporary companies.

Jamie Hengel

Jamie Hengel is originally from Carmel, New York. She began dancing at Pinewood School of Dance where she acquired the majority of her training. She furthered her training with Maria Calegari and Bart Cook of New York City Ballet. She spent her summers training on scholarship with the American Academy of Ballet and American Ballet Theater. In 2018, she graduated from Butler University with a B.S in Dance Arts Administration. During her time there she performed in several classical ballets, including Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, and the role of Spring Fairy in Cinderella, as well as performing in many original contemporary works. Jamie joined Charlottesville Ballet in 2018 as a Trainee and is excited to begin her next season with the company.

Risa Shigeoka

Risa Shigeoka, originally from Yamaguchi, Japan, was introduced to ballet at the age of 4. She trained at the Koike Ballet Studio in Hiroshima prior to moving to the United States in 2016. Risa danced for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School’s Graduate Program, with scholarship, and performed principal roles as Marie in The Nutcracker. Additionally she performed soloist and corps de ballet roles in George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, The Nutcracker, Swanlake, Etudes, Raymonda, and original choreographies from PBT’s principal dancer, Yoshiaki Nakano. Risa is thankful to begin the 2019 season with Charlottesville Ballet.

Kathryn Tokar

Kathryn Tokar began training with Melanie Szucs at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio. She spent summers at Cincinnati Ballet, Next Generation Ballet, and ABT, and graduated from Mercyhurst University summa cum laude with a B.A. in Dance Performance and a minor in Biology. Under the direction of Tauna Hunter at MU, Kathryn performed at the YAGP Finals and the NYCDA Destiny Rising Gala. She began her career as a founding member of the new Cleveland Ballet, and then Lake Erie Ballet, with her mentor Lesley Bories-Scalise. Kathryn joined Charlottesville Ballet in 2017 as a Trainee and is thrilled to begin her next season with the company. She also performs with Deos Contemporary Ballet in Michigan over the summers. Her favorite roles include Snow Queen, Dew Drop (The Nutcracker), and an Ugly Stepsister (Cinderella).

Eri Uchiyama

Eri Uchiyama was born in Yamaguchi, Japan. She began her dance training at Megumi Ballet Arts in Yamaguchi, Japan and continued at Koike Ballet Studio in Hiroshima until 2015. From 2016-2019, Eri danced with The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School Graduate Program in Pittsburgh, she enjoyed perform many roles, including Marie, Shepherdess, and Chinese in Terrence S.Orr’s The Nutcracker, George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, Little Swans in Swan Lake, Harald Lander’s Etudes, Raymonda and Principal in The Symphony and Bizet choreographed by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Principal dancer Yoshiaki Nakano. This is Eri’s first season with Charlottesville Ballet.

Special thanks to Liz Knutsen for creating Charlottesville Ballet’s artist portraits!