Author: thewhatdancecandoproject


Neil Ieremia

Neil Ieremia (ONZM) is the founding artistic director of Black Grace. He is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished choreographers, and a creative entrepreneur and inspirational leader.

Born in Wellington and of Samoan heritage, Neil was raised in a tough working-class neighbourhood in a country focused more on sporting prowess and agriculture rather than creative expression. At the age of 19 and with no formal training, Neil resigned from his banking job, left home, enrolled in a full-time dance programme and broke his parents’ hearts.

In his final year of training he was invited to join the prestigious Douglas Wright Dance Company, working there until 1996. As a freelance professional dancer, Neil also worked with many other leading New Zealand choreographers as well as creating a number of commissioned works.

Motivated to provide a different perspective and a fresh voice in the dance scene, Neil founded his own company, Black Grace, in 1995, with ten male dancers of Pacific, Māori and Aotearoa New Zealand heritage. Since then,he has changed the face of contemporary dance in New Zealand and turned Black Grace into one of the most recognisable and iconic cultural brands.

Read his dance story here.


Daniel Camargo

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Currently based in New York dancing for the American Ballet Theatre, Brazil-born Daniel was trained at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart before being a soloist at the Stuttgart Ballet, then principal dancer for seven years at the Dutch National Ballet.”

He danced the leading roles in two ballets in Hong Kong, starred in Birds of Paradise, a ballet drama and appeared in the cinematographic animation-live action hybrid film adapted from the Coppelia ballet.

Camargo  was awarded the Premio Positano in Italy in 2017, and was nominated for the Benois de la Danse in 2018 and 2019.

Daniel has also performed among many others with the Tokyo Ballet, the Mariinsky Theatre, The Royal Ballet, and Teatro Colón.

He made his first appearance with American Ballet Theatre as a Guest Artist in 2022.  His repertoire with the Company includes Basilio in Don Quixote (Act III), Dionysius in Of Love and Rage, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake.


Dorothée Gilbert

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Following a performance of The Nutcracker (Nureyev) where she dances the role of Clara for the first time, on 19 November 2007, she is named “Étoile”.

She has since added to her repertoire, among others: Swanilda in Coppelia, the star and title role in La Petite danseuse de Degas (P. Bart), Les Quatre Tempéraments, the first movement of Symphony in C, Rubis/Joyaux, Apollon, Mozartiana, the Divertissement from Le Songe d’une nuit d’été, Theme et Variations, Agon (Balanchine), the title role in Giselle (after Coralli and Perrot), Tatiana in Onéguine (Cranko), Nuages, Bella Figura, Tar and Feathers (Kylián), the title role of La Sylphide (Lacotte after Taglioni), Suite en blanc (Lifar), Manon in L’Histoire de Manon (MacMillan) and Triade (Millepied).


Léonore Baulac

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Léonore Baulac, half French half Norwegian, was nominated “Étoile” of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2016 after performing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.

“I wish children from all around the world could thrive up to their potential, and I definitely think dance can help!”

PC James Bort

Ahmad Joudeh

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Ahmad Joudeh was born and raised in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus, Syria. Ever since his childhood, his dream was to be a dancer. Despite intense opposition from some family members and society in general, he attended dance lessons, often in secret. Ahmad was trained at Syria’s major dance company the Enana Dance Theatre and studied at the Damascus Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts. In his free time he also taught dancing to orphans and young people with Down’s Syndrome at the SOS villages around Damascus.

In 2014 Ahmad starred in the Arabian version of “So You Think You Can Dance”. His appearance in this programme earned him fame both at home and abroad.

The Dutch journalist, Roozbeh Kaboly, spotted Ahmad on the Facebook page of the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts and travelled to Damascus to document the life of Ahmad and his family for the Dutch news programme “Nieuwsuur”. The moving and inspirational documentary “Dance or Die” has also been broadcast by the international media, including the BBC, Channel 4 News, Arte and France 2. It has been viewed by millions of people across the globe.

After seeing the documentary, Ted Brandsen, director of the Dutch National Ballet was inspired to help Ahmad. Together with individuals and colleagues from The Netherlands, the Dutch National Ballet has succeeded in bringing him to The Netherlands to continue his studies and career there.

“Dancing has given me the strength to face many obstacles that came my way. It has shaped my personality. Because I am a dancer, I am alive.”


Ji Min Hong

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Ji Min Hong is from South Korea, and has danced with the National Ballet of Canada (2010 – 2014) and Royal Danish Ballet (2014 – present). “Dance has taught me how to live my life: to be humble because the power and beauty of art are so much bigger than who I am; to be patient because things don’t always work out the way I want them to, but eventually they will work out the way they should if I don’t give up on myself; and to be grateful for everything because I know how it feels not to be able to do what I love to do, and being able to dance is a miracle. Picasso said that ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’, and, through my art form of dance, I hope to help create moments like these for our audiences.”

PC Natascha Thiara Rydvald


Francesca Hayward

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English dancer Francesca Hayward is a Principal of The Royal Ballet. She trained at The Royal Ballet School and graduated into the Company during the 2010/11 season. She was promoted to Principal in 2016.

While a student, Francesca won the 2009 Lynn Seymour Award for Expressive Dance, the 2010 Young British Dancer of the Year and both silver medal and the Audience Choice Award at the 2010 Genée International Ballet Competition. After joining The Royal Ballet she represented the Company at the 2012 International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize and won Best Emerging Artist (2014) and Best Female Dancer (2016, 2019) at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards.

Among many others, her repertory with the Company includes Juliet, Alice, Manon, Lise (La Fille mal gardée), the female Principal role in Rhapsody, Titania (The Dream), Sugar Plum Fairy and Clara (The Nutcracker), Princess Aurora and Princess Florine (The Sleeping Beauty) or Princess Stephanie (Mayerling). She created roles in UntouchableWoolf Works and Multiverse.

“Everyone should be able to experience the freedom and the joy that dance brings. Ballet changed my life and I want to help bring that gift to every child with The What Dance Can Do Project.” 

PC Tom J. Johnson


Marie-Agnès Gillot

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Marie-Agnès Gillot is one of the most in-demand dancers in France and beyond. Whether performing in works by acclaimed choreographers or starring in fashion designers campaigns, she has inspired creators from the dance and fashion worlds and collaborated with a wide range of international artists. Nominated “ Étoile” in 2004, she was the first female in-house choreographer to receive a commission from the Paris Opera Ballet. She has staged her works across balletic, contemporary, and even hip hop styles. Marie-Agnès actively supports a number of philanthropic causes. This is therefore as a celebrated artist and as a woman of commitment and conviction that she joined the What Dance Can Do ambassadors.


Hugo Marchand

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Nominated “Étoile” of the Paris Opera Ballet in 2017 at the age of 23, Hugo Marchand was honored in the category of the “Best male dancer” by the Benois de la Danse the same year. 

Hugo considers give back to society belongs to his role as an artist.

“One of my ambitions as an Étoile dancer is to take part in public awareness as to what dancing can do for society.”