Artistic Director/Administrative Staff

Karen Russo Burke | Artistic Director, Dayton Ballet

Karen Burke is entering her 12th season as the artistic director of the Dayton Ballet. Her emphasis on developing each dancer as an artist as well as a professional athlete, makes Dayton Ballet a company to recognize. Karen’s mission is to bring works by female choreographers into the Dayton Ballet repertory. Thus far, over a dozen female choreographers and 20 works have been performed by Dayton Ballet that were choreographed by female artists.

Karen has created more than 40 works for the company, in both the classical and contemporary genre. She has an affinity for story ballets and has created her own full length ballets such as Cinderella, The Butterfly Suite, and Sleeping Beauty, the story of Briar Rose. This season she will be adding The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to her list. Her Streetcar Named Desire, Dracula: Bloodlines as well as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, all feature an original libretto and an original orchestrated score. Dracula Bloodlines was the first integrated story ballet to include Dayton Opera singers and the Dayton Philharmonic.

Karen enjoys her continuing collaborations with Dayton Opera and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. Her choreography and staging have been seen in many operas such as Carmina Burana, Aida, Carmen, and The Pearl Fishers. She has also created dance pieces to accompanied oratorios such as Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Haydn’s Creation in full length presentations with the Opera and Philharmonic in Dayton Performing Arts Alliance presentations.

Prior to becoming artistic director at Dayton Ballet, Karen served as a teacher in the Dayton Ballet school since 1993, director of Dayton Ballet II for 12 years, and ballet master for the company. She was also coordinator of Dayton Ballet’s outreach program Dance Power in 1997, where she directed and taught inner-city children the art of dance in conjunction with the downtown Dayton YMCA.

In 2017, Karen saw the need to present ballet to many in the community who are unable to attend regular performances. In the 2018-2019 season, the Dayton Ballet presented its first sensory-friendly performances of both The Nutcracker and a world premiere, Sleeping Beauty: the story of Briar Rose, at the Schuster Center and continue to do so each year.

In 2005, Karen was honored by her former professional company, American Repertory Ballet, for her commitment and excellence in the field of dance. She was awarded the Ohio Arts Council Excellence in Individual Creativity Award in 2006, and in 2010 the Dayton Business Journal honored Karen for her professionalism in the Dayton arts community.

Throughout her career Karen has taught ballet at Wright State University, University of Dayton, Stivers School for the Arts, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and Le Jeune Dance here in Ohio. She has also taught at Rutgers University, Princeton Ballet School and The Mason Gross School for the Arts in New Jersey.

Megan Forney | Co-Director, Dayton Ballet II

Megan Forney has been a teacher at Dayton Ballet School since 2008. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to Dayton to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance from Wright State University. While at Wright State, Megan performed with the Wright State Dance Ensemble and was a member of the Dayton Ballet II Senior Company. During her summers away from WSU, she studied at Ballet Chicago and Ballet Internationale. As a member of DBII Sr., Megan performed in Dayton Ballet productions including The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, An American Cinderella, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Swan Lake, America’s Robin Hood and There Was a Time. She is thrilled to be in her third year as Director of the Dayton Ballet II Junior Company.


Gabrielle Sharp | Co-Director, Dayton Ballet II

Gabrielle Sharp has been a teacher at Dayton Ballet School since 2010 and was in Dayton Ballet II Junior and Senior Company before dancing with the Dayton Ballet professional company at age 17. While in Dayton Ballet II Senior Company, she won the Dancer Peer Award, Walter J. McCaslin Memorial Award, and the Josephine and Hermene Schwartz Award. Gabrielle has performed in Dracula, Nutcracker, Tales from the Shadows, There Was a Time, and America’s Robin Hood. Her most memorable roles include Dracula’s wife and a Spanish dancer in The Nutcracker. She is also an American Rhythm ballroom champion. She is thrilled to be working with Dayton Ballet II.