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Artistic Directors

Jon Cristofori, Artistic Director

Jon Cristofori began his dance training on Cape Cod with Jane Gay Stevens. As a high school student, he spent his summers at the renowned dance festival, Jacob’s Pillow. A recipient of a Ford Foundation scholarship, Jon traveled to Washington, D.C. to continue his studies at the National Ballet of Washington, under the direction of Frederick Franklin. From 1965-69, Jon was a member of the City Center Joffrey Ballet Company, where he performed major roles in Green Table, Viva Vivaldi, Con Amore, Cello Concerto and Olympics and many others.

When a major back injury took him out of the NY dance scene, Jon began concentrating on a teaching career. He has taught at private studios and several colleges and universities around the U.S., including Virginia-Intermont College, Birmingham-Southern College and the University of New Mexico. He has also been resident choreographer for the Flint Institute of Music and the former Arizona Metropolitan Ballet Company and over the years has choreographed more than seventy original ballets. In 1996 his ballet, Romantic Pieces, received the National Choreography Award at the Regional Dance America/Pacific Festival in Provo, Utah. His ballet, Duendes Del Fuego, was performed at the first ever RDA National Festival in Houston, Texas, in June, 1997, and received recognition in the December ’97 issue of Dance Magazine. At the RDA/Pacific Festival 2000, in Modesto, California, Jon had two ballets chosen for gala performance: Pulse, performed by Ballet Yuma and Spirals, performed by Tucson Regional Ballet. Last season, Jon choreographed a new ballet, Con Brio, for the BY Workshop dancers and recently set a new work on the senior company.

From 1982-1993, Jon and his wife, Kathleen Sinclair, directed the Yuma Ballet Theatre. Taking this small performing group to its first regional ballet festival in 1986, they built it into a Regional Dance America Honor company by 1990. In the fall of 1993, Jon and Kathleen opened their own ballet school, Yuma Ballet Academy in Yuma, Arizona and with a group of dedicated supporters organized Ballet Yuma. Ballet Yuma has been recognized as an Honor company with Regional Dance America. Their students have received numerous awards and scholarships and have or are dancing in professional companies today, including San Francisco Ballet, Les Grands Ballets de Canadiens de Montreal, Trey McIntyre Project, Houston Ballet, Texas Ballet Theatre, Louisville Ballet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Ballet Memphis, Ballet San Jose, Ballet Idaho, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, City Ballet of San Diego and Utah Regional Ballet.

Jon has twice been a grant panelist for the Arizona Commission for the Arts. In the spring of 2000, Jon served as the adjudicator for the Mid-States Regional Ballet Association’s Festival in 2000 and Regional Dance America/Northeast Festival in 2009. He was honored to be one of the five adjudicators chosen for the RDA National Festival in Montreal in 2012 and was the adjudicator for the Regional Dance America/Northeast Festival in 2014.

Kathleen Sinclair, Artistic Director

Kathleen Sinclair is Co-Artistic Director of Ballet Yuma, a long-time member of Regional Dance America/Pacific. Kathleen has taught for the past Thirty years and has specifically developed a syllabus for the first four years of a child’s ballet studies. She also created a pre-ballet syllabus for 3-6 year olds.

During the 1980’s, she and her husband, Jon Cristofori, directed Yuma Ballet Theatre. Taking this small performing group to its first regional ballet festival in 1986, they built it into a Regional Dance America Honor company by 1990. In the fall of 1993, Jon and Kathleen opened their own ballet school, Yuma Ballet Academy in Yuma, Arizona and with a group of dedicated supporters organized Ballet Yuma.

Ballet Yuma has been recognized as an Honor company with Regional Dance America. Their students have received numerous awards and scholarships and have or are dancing in professional companies today, including San Francisco Ballet, Les Grands Ballets de Canadiens de Montreal, Trey McIntyre Project, Houston Ballet, Texas Ballet Theatre, Louisville Ballet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Ballet Memphis, Ballet San Jose, Ballet Idaho, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, City Ballet of San Diego and Utah Regional Ballet.

Kathleen is on the Executive Board of Directors for Regional Dance America/Pacific. She is the Chairman for the Pacific Region and sits on the National Board of Regional Dance America. She has also served twice as a grant panelist for the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Emma M.K. Cong, Assistant Artistic Director

Emma M.K. Cong trained under the direction of Jon Cristofori and Kathleen Sinclair for eight years prior to majoring in dance at the University of Idaho.  She danced with Ballet San Joaquin in northern California, and upon moving back to Yuma in 1999, started Yuma Ballet Academy’s Contemporary program.  This is her 12th year teaching at YBA and she is currently the Artistic Assistant to Cristofori and Sinclair for Ballet Yuma.

In addition to teaching at the Academy, Emma also works as a freelance choreographer, and has set many contemporary ballets for Regional Dance America companies.  She has won RDA’s coveted Monticello award for choreography three times. For Ballet Yuma, Emma has choreographed several pieces, as well as setting variations in The Nutcracker, Ballet de Seuss, Snow White, and The Fairy Doll.  For Petaluma Ballet, Emma choreographed Currents, which was performed at the RDA Nationl Festival in May 2012.

Emma credits Jon and Kathleen with igniting in her the spark of choreography, which has since become her greatest artistic joy.