Artistic Staff

Peter Franc, Interim Artistic Director

Peter Franc | Interim Artistic Director

Peter Franc was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and began dancing at the age of 11 in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his early training with Metropolitan Ballet Theatre under Maniya Barredo, Robert Barnett, Olivier Muñoz, and Kathryn Wheeler. He also trained for a year at the Louisville Ballet School with Alun Jones, Helen Starr, and Patrick Hinson before joining the Louisville Ballet company during his senior year of high school under the artistic direction of Bruce Simpson.

Additionally, Franc grew up spending his summers training with Houston Ballet Academy and moved to Houston after high school to train with Claudio Munoz at HBII. He was given the Michael Wasmund Award upon graduation from HBII and promoted to the first company by Artistic Director Stanton Welch. During his eight years with Houston Ballet, he rose to the rank of Demi-Soloist featuring in a variety of classical and contemporary ballets. Notable performances include: Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun; “Louis Auguste” in Stanton Welch’s Marie, “Lucentio” in John Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew; “Gurn” in August Bournonville’s La Sylphide; Antony Tudor’s Leaves are Fading and “Prince” in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker. Contemporary highlights include: “White Couple” in Jiří Kylián’s Forgotten Land; Solo by Hans Van Manen; One/End/One by Jorma Elo; Christopher Bruce’s Grinning in your Face and Rooster; and Stanton Welch’s Clear, Divergence, Carmina Burana, Velocity, Tutu, Play, Tapestry, and Red Earth.

After almost a decade in Houston, Franc sought new inspiration and joined Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, a contemporary ballet company known for their innovative style and extensive touring schedule. In his three years with ASFB, he performed featured roles in Silent Ghost by Alejandro Cerrudo, Cayetano Soto’s Beautiful Mistake, “Blue Couple” in Jiří Kylián’s Return to a Strange Land, Jorma Elo’s Over Glow, Norbert De La Cruz’s Square None, Trey McIntyre’s Like a Samba, Nicolo Fonte’s Heart(s)pace & Where We Left Off, among others.

Yearning to return to some of his classical roots, Franc joined OBT as a Soloist in 2015 and was promoted to Principal dancer at the end of his first season. Performing “Romeo” in James Canfield’s Romeo & Juliet in his first season became a favorite role, along with: “Gennaro” in the American Premiere of Bournonville’s full length production of Napoli; “Siegfried” in Kevin Irving’s adaptation of Swan Lake;

“Prince” in Christopher Stowell’s Sleeping Beauty; and “Cheschire Cat” in Septime Webre’s Alice in Wonderland. Contemporary highlights include: William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated; Nacho Duato’s Jardí Tancat and El Naranjo; Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature, Helen Pickett’s Petal and Terra, Gioconda Barbuto’s BRINGINGOUTSIDEIN, and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Fluidity of Steel. Peter also featured in numerous works by OBT resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte including Rhapsody in Blue, Beautiful Decay, Left Unsaid, and Never Stop Falling in Love.

In addition to his dance career, Franc is also a passionate teacher, coach and choreographer. Most recently serving as Rehearsal Director of OBT2, he has also choreographed original works on OBT and OBT2, produced and directed a series of video projects as part of OBT’s 20/21 digital season, created a beginner boys ballet program and contemporary curriculum for the OBT school, and restaged the children’s roles alongside the Balanchine Trust for George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®. Peter currently serves on the OBT Board of Trustees while teaching for both the company and the OBT school. “I am always hungry to expose myself to new ways of seeing things and hope my diverse dance background gives me a balanced approach to bringing joy and success to the people around me.”

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.

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.