Artistic Directors Jon Cristofori and Kathleen Sinclair
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 fifty original ballets. In 1996 his ballet, Romantic Pieces, was given 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 DanceMagazine. At the 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.
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 danced in professional companies all over the nation and beyond, including Amelia Gandara (Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Louisville Ballet), Kyndra Ricker (Atlanta Ballet, City Ballet of San Diego), David Arce (San Francisco Ballet), Callye Robinson, (Les Grands Ballet de Canadiens de Montreal), Annali Clevenger (Sacramento Ballet, Trey McIntyre Project), Grant Thomas Spencer (Company C), Joseph Jefferies and Crystal Brothers (Ballet Memphis), Josh Seibel (Houston Ballet), Jayme Autrey (Texas Ballet Theatre), Brooke Frandsen (Ballet Nouveau Colorado), and Keely Misenhimer (Missouri Contemporary Ballet).
Jon has served on the board for Regional Dance America/Pacific. He has also 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 Dance America Festival.
Kathleen Sinclair began her training in Michigan City, Indiana, as a child performing with the Studio Concert Company. She was a member of various regional ballet companies including Ballet Etudes, Arizona Metropolitan Ballet Company, and Theatre Ballet of San Francisco. 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.
Kathleen has taught for the past twenty years and has
specifically developed a syllabus for the first four years of a child’s ballet studies. She has now also created a pre-ballet syllabus for 3-6 year olds. Kathleen has brought ballet to inner-city school children in New Haven, CT, as well as elementary school children here in Yuma. She worked with the Crane Elementary School District in their Project Success program for at-risk 4th graders. Kathleen created the Ballet Bound Project in conjunction with Yuma School District #1. This out-reach discovery program has been generously supported by grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the City of Yuma Arts and Cultural Commission. Kathleen is on the Executive Board of Directors for Regional Dance America/Pacific. She is the Coordinator 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.
Assistant Artistic Director Emma M.K. Cong
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.