Artistic Director Dianna Cuatto, who has led the Ballet Theatre of Maryland for the past 17 years, has announced her retirement effective in June. The Board of Trustees has selected Nicole Kelsch to succeed her.

“We are deeply grateful for the contributions that Dianna has made during her tenure as Artistic Director,” said Board President Ted Atsinger. “She has raised the Ballet Theatre of Maryland to a higher level of professionalism and artistry. Through both the Company and the Conservatory, she has cultivated not only the dancers’ technical skills, but also their passion for the art of dance, and their understanding of how to pursue personal and professional development in the world of professional ballet. Among these excellent dancers is Nicole Kelsch, who we are pleased to announce we have selected to lead the Company upon Dianna’s retirement.”

Cuatto joined the Ballet Theatre of Maryland in 2003. Previously, she spent four seasons as the Ballet Mistress with the Richmond Ballet. Throughout her long ballet career, she has served in many roles including Artistic Director, Choreographer, Ballet Mistress, adjunct faculty, teacher, and Principal Dancer in companies and universities throughout the country.

Cuatto began her career as a professional dancer with Ballet West in 1963 where she went on to become a Principal Dancer. As a Principal Dancer, she performed a wide range of classical and contemporary roles with national companies including Sacramento Ballet, Oklahoma Ballet, Berkeley Ballet Theatre, the San Francisco Chamber Ballet, and the Sangre de Cristo Ballet Theatre.

In addition, she worked in Hollywood performing for the American Music Awards, Broadway musicals, and national television, where she also choreographed the Wonderful World of the Waltz for PBS.

Cuatto is a gifted, prolific choreographer who has created more than 109 works of ballet choreography for the Ballet Theatre of Maryland during her 17-year tenure including The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, An American Southwest Carmen, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, Beauty and the Beast, Tango Dramatico, Little Women, and Excalibur - most to critical acclaim.

Cuatto’s husband, Al Kessler, a member of the Board of Trustees will also be retiring from Board, company, and as a volunteer.