San Francisco Ballet (SF Ballet) announced the appointment of Antonio Castilla, currently a Repetiteur at English National Ballet in London, as its new Associate Artistic Director.

Due to personal reasons and to be closer to family, Kerry Nicholls, who came to SF Ballet in 2022, is side stepping from her current role as Associate Artistic Director and adopting the newly created position of Director of Artist Development and will split her time between London and San Francisco. This appointment is in recognition of the significant role she has played in developing a suite of professional development initiatives for company members, students, and visiting choreographers, as well as her advocacy for dancers within the company. She will continue to drive and expand these offers in her new role, which is effective beginning in May.

Castilla, a former SF Ballet Principal Dancer, will move back to San Francisco and assume his new role in June 2024. He will lead in the studio alongside the Artistic Team and be a strong link in the connection between the school and the company. This appointment comes less than six months after Grace Maduell Holmes, who also danced with SF Ballet earlier in her career, was appointed as Director of SF Ballet School, one of the nation’s oldest and most renowned ballet schools.

“Antonio is a terrific collaborator and instructor, and I’m delighted to partner with him as a colleague in helping me lead the company forward while also welcoming him back to San Francisco where audiences and dancers will remember him as an outstanding principal dancer and teacher,” said Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of SF Ballet. “In the same breath, I’m excited to create a new position for Kerry that enables her to build on the trust she has quickly engendered from the company and the thoughtful and forward-looking collaboration she has shared with me in building out a vision for the future of San Francisco Ballet, and especially in continuing to partner in developing and delivering programs that provide support and growth opportunities for our dancers.”

“I am thrilled to return to San Francisco to reunite with Tamara and a company that was formative in both my dance and teaching careers,” said Castilla. “I saw and experienced directly, the transformative impact that Tamara had on ENB, and I’m excited to join her in implementing her strong vision for San Francisco Ballet and SF Ballet School at this milestone time for a company that continues to be one of the premier ballet companies in the world.”

Nicholls said, “Over the last 20 months, I’ve been privileged to work alongside Tamara, the Artistic Team, and each and every one of the talented and dedicated dancers who make up San Francisco Ballet as we help shape an important legacy ballet company for the future. I’ve witnessed firsthand the hunger from the dancers for opportunities to learn and grow both onstage and off, and I’m proud of the work we’ve achieved to date, to not only create career-enhancing creative opportunities within the company for choreography and new work development, but also in expanding opportunities for dialogue and transparency. I’m honored that Tamara has created this new role where I can continue to focus on the development of the dancers of San Francisco Ballet, and can’t wait to see where, together, we will grow at this moment of transformation for the company.”

Antonio Castilla is returning to San Francisco Ballet, where he danced from 1988 to 1995, including three years as Principal Dancer, and where he also began his teaching career for seven years under the guidance of Lola de Avila and Aurora Bosch. He comes back to the Bay Area from English National Ballet, which he joined in 2013, and where he currently serves as one of the company’s repetiteurs. Castilla trained at Brussels Conservatoire Royal de la Monnaie under José Pares; María de Avila Estudio; Zaragoza with María de Avila, Cristina Miñana, and Lola de Avila; National Ballet of Spain with Azari Plisetsky, and in New York with David Howard and Stanley Williams. He was a principal dancer with Ballet de Zaragoza, Ballet Clásico Nacional de España, and San Francisco Ballet. At English National Ballet, he also choreographed My First Ballet: Swan Lake (2018) in collaboration with English National Ballet School and My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty (2019). Castilla joined the Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge and has worked as a guest teacher with Northern Ballet and in summer schools in Spain and Italy. As a choreographer his work has been seen with the Lawrence Pech Dance Company (San Francisco), San Francisco Ballet School, Central School of Ballet, and the Royal Ballet School. Castilla also won the Gold Medal and the Grand Prix in Couples at the 1986 Paris International Ballet Competition.

With over 30 years of international experience in the dance sector, Kerry Nicholls has established herself as a strong and influential voice within dance organizations, institutions, and companies worldwide through devising and delivering programs of training, mentoring, and professional development. Nicholls began her role at SF Ballet in 2022 after serving as Associate Director, Artistic Development at English National Ballet with Tamara Rojo. Her previous leadership experience also includes Director of Creative Learning for Studio Wayne McGregor, Artistic Advisor for English National Ballet School, and Interim Artistic Director for Scottish Dance Theatre. She received a Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship supporting research in the United States, assisting Liz Lerman and advancing her work in pedagogy, communication, and feedback approaches. Nicholls has also been a regular choreographic mentor, judge, and career consultant for English National Ballet, the Juilliard School, Rambert, the Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, and Scottish Ballet. She also founded, and was Director of, her professional development company, Kerry Nicholls Dance. As a Senior Creative Coach with a European Coaching Certificate, Nicholls has supported established artists and prominent Artistic Directors, and has achieved consultancy projects with Studio Wayne McGregor, the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, and Netherlands Dans Theater, among others. In 2019, Nicholls became the Chair of Move Beyond Words, a neurodiverse company amplifying the voices of artists with dyslexia, and an Ambassador for PiPA (Parents and Carers in Performing Arts) supporting an industry that is inclusive of all talents and circumstances.

This article was provided courtesy of San Francisco Ballet.

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