Meet the 2017 Visions Winter Choreographers

Mariana Oliveira

2017 Visions Winter Finalist Mariana Oliveira

 Mariana Oliveira

Mariana Oliveira is the Choreographer and Artistic Director of The Union Project Dance Company. Originally from Brazil, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in London, and was a trainee dancer at the National Dance Company of Wales.

Mariana has presented works at the Jacob’s Pillow Festival, and for 2 consecutive years has been a finalist of the McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival. She created a new work for the Joffrey Ballet Studio Company, and was subsequently featured in Pointe Magazine. Mariana taught at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Brazil (the only Bolshoi
School outside Russia) for the dancers of the Youth Company. Mariana has been selected as a finalist in the Milwaukee Ballet Genesis Choreographic Competition. She recently received a Choreographic Fellowship in the Department of Dance at the University of Kansas where she will create a new work in the fall of 2018.

Manuel Vignoulle

2017 Visions Winter Finalist Manuel Vignoulle

 Michael Vignoulle

Manuel Vignoulle, formerly of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (New York) and Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève (Switzerland), has been assistant choreographer for Alvin Ailey (New York), Het Nationale Ballet (Netherland) and State Theatre (South Africa).

He has been commissioned by Ailey II, Whim W’him, Satellite Collective, 10 Hairy Legs, Chicago Repertory Ballet, Periapsis Music & Dance, Peridance Contemporary Dance Company Steps Repertoire Ensemble and others.

Manuel has performed his own work with Manuel Vignoulle – M/motions at Jacob’s Pillow, Fire Island Festival, Bryant Park (New York), Monterrey International Ballet Gala (Mexico), The Dance Gallery, Pushing Progress Showcase Series, WestFest and The Latin Choreographer and in France, Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil and USA.

To see more of his work:

Michael Fothergill

Visions Winter 2017 Finaliist Michael Fothergill

 Michael Fothergill

Michael Fothergill began dancing in Des Moines, IA, later training on full scholarship with the Milwaukee Ballet School, Boston Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet. After an early graduation from high school, Michael accepted an invitation to continue his education in dance with American Ballet Theatre. During his time in NYC, Michael instructed at both STEPS on Broadway and the Peridance Center. Following a tenure of performance, instruction, and choreographic endeavors, Michael later accepted a position with the Milwaukee Ballet, under the Direction of Simon Dow. Thereafter, Michael moved on to perform with the City Ballet of San Diego, Ballet Contemporáneo de México, Charleston Ballet Theatre, Staatsoper Hannover, The Alabama Ballet, and frequently across the U.S.A and Japan as a Guest Artist. Michael has danced the male leads in much of the classical repertoire, as well as in works by visionaries such as Ashton, Bournonville, Balanchine, De Mille, Dow, Duato, Fokine, Fosse, Kylian, Massine, Prokovsky, Robbins, Tharp, Tudor, among others. Michael is one of only three men in the world to have performed the role of “The Hero” in Agnes de Mille’s final work “The Other”, originally set on ABT in 1992 and mounted for the Alabama Ballet in 2011.

As a choreographer, Michael has been creating classical and contemporary ballet installations since early 2005. Within the last 11 years, Michael’s works have been performed in Japan, Iceland, Australia, France, Puerto Rico and across the United States. Most recently, Michael was commissioned to create a new work (Vim) for Japan Ballet Association, the governing body of classical ballet within Japan. This year marks the 11th year that Michael has been invited to Japan with multiple offers to create or stage works throughout the country. In 2015, Michael was commissioned to create two new works (Syzygy, Bolero) for the inaugural season of Les Ballets de France (Toulouse, France), where he maintains a strong collaborative relationship. Both ballets return this season for encore performances across France, with bolero touring internationally to Romania, Dubai, and Spain. Michael’s choreography was featured in the international documentary “Dance the Dream” produced by acclaimed filmmaker Richard Karz. Since 2012, the Alabama Ballet has commissioned Michael to create three main stage ballets, (Weighted Rhetoric, Laid to Wrest, Chiaroscuro) each receiving accolades from audience members and critics alike. His works have been celebrated three times within the offerings of the Alabama Dance Festival’s showcases. Michael regularly creates work for the Arova Contemporary Ballet, where he also teaches company class.

As an educator, Michael has traveled across the United States, Canada, Japan, and France to instruct both students and professionals alike. He has taught master classes for universities, regional professional ballet companies and their respective academies, and for schools of classical ballet. He is a frequent guest instructor for the Cecchetti Council of America where is is the founding director of the Enhanced Men’s Training Program. Michael recently completed his fourth year on the faculty of Samford University, where he instructed the Advanced Ballet class and choreographed for multiple university concerts and collaborations. This year marks Michael’s appointment to the distinguished panel of judges at the Hokkaido Ballet Competition, as well as to the summer program faculty at Japan Ballet Association’s prestigious Hokkaido Summer Course for a second consecutive year. He is presently the  Director of Ballet at The Pointe Dance Arts in Hoover, Alabama, and a dancer and choreographer with the Alabama Ballet.

Zalman Raffael

2017 Visions Winter Finalist Zalman Grinberg

 Zalman Raffael

Zalman Raffael is currently the Resident Choreographer of the Carolina Ballet. Known familiarly as Zali, Zalman was born and raised in New York City. He received his formal dance training at the School of American Ballet, during which he performed in productions with both the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater and worked  with choreographers such as Christopher Wheeldon and Benjamin Millipeid.

In 2005, Zalman Raffael joined the Carolina Ballet. During his tenure with the company he performed diverse roles in the repertoire, including works created by Robert Wiess, LynneTaylor-Corbett,George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Atilla Bonger and Christopher Stowell.

By the end of his third season as the Carolina Ballet’s first Resident Choreographer he will have created 21 pieces for the company. He has taken up residency at East Carolina University (2015), Manhattan Youth Ballet (2015), participated in The Young Choreographers Workshop (2011) and Columbia Ballet Collaborative (2011).

In addition to choreographing for Carolina Ballet, Zalman has re staged works choreographed by Robert Weiss and Lynne Taylor-Corbett.

Congratulations to 2016 VISIONS Choreographic Competition Winner, Jimmy Orrante!


You can see the fully produced version of his winning choreography in Ballet Arkansas’ Spring Production, April 21 – 23, 2017, at The Arkansas Repetory Theatre.

Tickets Available Now

What is VISIONS: A Choreographic Competition?

VISIONS began as the vision of Ballet Arkansas’ Artistic Director, Michael Bearden, who wanted to create a event that would give choreographers an opportunity to have their works seen and appreciated by audiences and the dance community, as well as have the opportunity to receive a contract to have their choreography fully produced.

Emerging choreographers from around the country compete for four spots in this competition. The winner will receive a commission to expand their new work for the Ballet Arkansas company to perform in our annual mixed repertory spring production.

A week before the VISIONS Competition, the choreographers draft their cast of dancers and have 5 days to set their choreography on their cast. The night of the competition, the resulting works of choreography are performed for 4 judges, 3 of those judges are professionals in the local and national dance community, with the audience counting as the 4th judge.

The big finale of the competition is the announcement of the VISIONS Winner, who receives a contract with Ballet Arkansas to expand their choreography and have it fully produced for performance in Ballet Arkansas’ spring mixed repertory show the following spring.