Artistic Staff

Kevin Irving, Artistic Director

Photo by Michael Slobodian

Kevin Irving | Artistic Director

A rare dancer whose career spanned multiple disciplines, Kevin Irving began dancing with jazz classes in his hometown dance school (Long Island, New York), before joining the school and training ensemble of Alvin Ailey – an experience that impacted him deeply. From 1982-1985, he danced with The Elisa Monte Dance Company of New York, a company often referred to as ‘post-modern’ but, at 24, he took a sharp turn toward classical dance, and joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montréal.

Promoted to Soloist and then Principal, Irving became a well-known figure wherever LGBC performed, excelling in classical, neoclassical, and contemporary roles – including roles and ballets created by LGBC’s Resident Choreographer James Kudelka. In 1993, Irving joined Twyla Tharp Dance, touring the U.S. and Europe with the acclaimed choreographer, including performances at L’Opéra de Paris, and the PBS filming of Tharp’s lauded ballet In the Upper Room.

From 1994-2002, Irving was Ballet Master and Associate Director with Nacho Duato’s Compañía Nacional de Danza in Madrid. From 2002-2007, he was Artistic Director of The Göteborg Ballet in Sweden. The company, during Irving’s tenure, was named the most important dance company in Sweden in Ballet International’s critic poll. From 2007-2013, Irving was a frequent guest ballet master with The Royal Danish Ballet, where he staged and rehearsed works by Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, and Jerome Robbins. He has also been a guest teacher with numerous companies and schools in the U.S. and abroad for over 20 years. Additionally, he staged ballets by Nacho Duato and Nicolo Fonte for companies such as The Royal Ballet Covent Garden, Nederlands Dans Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Lyon Opera Ballet, and The Australian Ballet.

In the U.S., Irving became the Associate Director at Morphoses (formerly The Wheeldon Company) from 2011-2012, coordinating special initiatives aimed at defining the company’s unique profile in the dance world. In 2010, he founded I-DANCE (Inspiring Dance: American Nations’ Choreographic Exchange), a nonprofit that sends teachers and choreographers to dance communities in Central and South America. Irving was named Artistic Director of Oregon Ballet Theatre in July 2013.

Thomas Bruner

Thomas Bruner | Executive Director

From CEO of a scrappy start up in Texas, to Vice President with the nation’s largest humanitarian organization in Washington, D.C., to volunteer at a Buddhist temple in Portland, Oregon, Thomas Bruner has been helping businesses and organizations do great work for decades. Across the country, Bruner has successfully built and repaired complex organizations and foundations, mobilized communities to effectively respond to urgent issues and needs, and marshaled the resources of the public, private and social sectors. A nationally-recognized leader, Bruner brings a wealth of experience to his work, including 25 years of executive-level organizational leadership, numerous awards and recognition, an impressive portfolio of civic volunteer engagement, a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, and a diversity management certificate from Cornell University.

Lisa Kipp. Photo by Tatiana Wills.

Photo by Tatiana Wills

Lisa Kipp | Rehearsal Director

Lisa Kipp began studying ballet in Olympia, Washington and finished her training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School.

She danced with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pacific Ballet Theatre, Ballet Oregon, Ballet of Los Angeles, Ballet Chicago, and James Sewell Dance, and also performed in the touring company of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. Kipp danced principal roles in George Balanchine’s Rubies, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Square Dance, Concerto Barocco, and Apollo, and appeared as the Cowgirl in Agnes De Mille’s Rodeo. Prior to joining OBT in 2004, she was the Ballet Department Head for the school of Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle, as well as the company’s Rehearsal Director.

Kipp has been the ballet master for OBT for 9 years, and the company’s rehearsal director for 2 years. As a ballet master, she has assisted James Kudelka, Lar Lubovitch, Lola DeAvila, Nicolo Fonte, Francia Russell, Bart Cook, Christine Redpath, Christopher Stowell, Yuri Possokhov, and Helgi Tomasson. She has staged George Balanchine’s Rubies, Square Dance, and Who Cares? for OBT, and is responsible for the corps de ballet in OBT’s classical repertoire.

Jeffrey Stanton. Photo by Tatiana Wills.

Photo by Tatiana Wills

Jeffrey Stanton | Ballet Master

Jeffrey Stanton trained at San Francisco Ballet School and the School of American Ballet. In addition to classical ballet, he also studied ballroom, jazz, and tap dancing. He joined San Francisco Ballet in 1989, and left to join Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1994. He was promoted to soloist in 1995, made a principal in 1996, and retired from PNB in 2011. He originated leading roles in Susan Stroman’s TAKE FIVE… More or Less; Stephen Baynes’ El Tango; Donald Byrd’s Seven Deadly Sins; Val Caniparoli’s The Bridge; Nicolo Fonte’s Almost Tango and Within/Without; Kevin O’Day’s Aract and [soundaroun(d)ance]; Kent Stowell’s Carmen, Palacios Dances, and Silver Lining; and Christopher Stowell’s Zaïs. Stanton has performed as a guest artist for Le Gala des Étoiles in Montréal, Prague Gala of Stars, and the TITAS Command Performance of International Ballet in Dallas, Texas. In 2000, he participated in the George Balanchine Foundation’s Interpreters Archive series, dancing excerpts from Balanchine’s Episodes, coached by Melissa Hayden.


Nicolo Fonte | Resident Choreographer

Choreographer Nicolo Fonte is known for his unique movement language as well as the highly developed fusion of ideas, dance and design that is a hallmark of his work. A first generation American, Fonte- whose parents emigrated to the US from Argentina, started dancing at the age of 14. He studied at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York, San Francisco Ballet, School of American Ballet and also completed a Bachelor Degree of Fine Arts at SUNY Purchase. His dance career took him from Peridance in NYC, to Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and, ultimately to Nacho Duato’s Compañia Nacional de Danza in Madrid.

Mr. Fonte received a Choo San Goh award for Almost Tango, his 2002 choreography for Pacific Northwest Ballet. Almost Tango was also voted as one of Dance Europe’s “Best Premiere’s” when it was re-staged for The Australian Ballet in 2004. His very first full-length work Re: Tchaikovsky, created for The Gothenburg Ballet in 2005, appeared on the “Best of 2005” lists of both Ballett-Tanz and Dance Europe. Since that time, Fonte has created an additional two full-evening works, both for BalletX (Philadelphia): Beautiful Decay (2013), and Beasts (2015).

Fonte’s choreography has been performed by companies large and small all over the globe – from Het National Ballet in Amsterdam to the National Dance Company of El Salvador. In addition to his three original full-length ballets, re-invigorated versions of classic scores, and extraordinary collaborations with artists across many disciplines are all well represented in Mr. Fonte’s work over the past twenty years. From 2002 to 2006 Nicolo enjoyed an ongoing creative partnership with The Gothenburg Ballet in Sweden, and has been an important contributor to the repertories of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and BalletX in Philadelphia. He is currently the Resident Choreographer for both Ballet West, in Salt Lake City, and Oregon Ballet Theatre, in Portland and has contributed numerous successful works to the repertory of both of these acclaimed ensembles.

Niel DePonte - Photo by Lloyd Lemmermann

Photo by Lloyd Lemmermann

Niel DePonte | Music Director and Conductor

Niel DePonte has been the Music Director for OBT and its predecessor, Pacific Ballet Theatre, since 1985. He has guest conducted for Boston Ballet, the Ballet of the Mussorgsky (Maly) Theatre in Russia, and the Nureyev Ballet Festival. He has also conducted symphonic, pops, and youth concerts with the symphonies of Oregon, Syracuse, and Charlotte, among others. He is Artistic Director and conductor of the Young Artists Debut! concerto concert. He was a 2003 Grammy Award nominee for “Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra” for his performance of Tomáš Svoboda’s Concerto for Marimba with the Oregon Symphony. His compositions and arrangements written for the ballet stage include: Christopher Stowell’s Adin, Carmen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Ekho; Houston Ballet’s 2002 production of Peter Pan; and OBT’s 1993 version of The Nutcracker. DePonte holds a Master’s degree and Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and a degree in Education from the State University of New York.


Michael Mazzola | Lighting Director

Michael Mazzola’s critically acclaimed lighting and scenery has been seen in venues all over the U.S., Europe, and Asia, ranging from opera houses to amphitheaters, from circus tents to hay barns. The three-time New York Dance and Performance Award winner has designed lighting and scenery for Oregon Ballet Theatre; Pacific Northwest Ballet; San Francisco Ballet, Whim W’Him of Seattle, Queensland Ballet; National Ballet of Finland; Stuttgart Ballet; Grand Rapids Ballet; Ballet West; Ballet Nacional de Cuba; Trey McIntyre Project; The Washington Ballet; Houston Ballet; Rachel Tess Dance at the Wanas Foundation in Sweden, Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC and LMCC’s River to River Festival, Third Rail Repertory Theatre, Bebe Miller Company – with whom he has worked since the mid-80s, and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. At the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, he designed lighting and video for the 2015 Presidential Scholars Awards. Mazzola has also designed scenery for two Comedy Central Celebrity Roasts, and the 2015 Lincoln Awards at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall for Uplight, Inc, based in NYC. His performance photography has been published in Liz Lerman’s book Hiking the Horizontal, as well on the websites and marketing materials for Bebe Miller Company and Rachel Tess Dance.