Artistic Director and CEO, Ballet Kelowna

PHOTO by: emily cooper

PHOTO by: emily cooper

Born in Vancouver, Simone Orlando received her early dance training at the Carisbrooke School of Dance, the Vancouver Academy of Dance, and the Goh Ballet Academy.  She completed her training at the National Ballet School in Toronto and subsequently joined the National Ballet of Canada in 1989 under the direction of Reid Anderson where as a young professional she danced a wide range of repertoire from the ballets of John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan to those of George Balanchine and Glenn Tetley.

In 1995, Robert Desrosiers, one of Canada’s most innovative and imaginative choreographers, invited her to join his company. While with Desrosiers Dance Theatre, she originated roles in several new productions and toured to Brazil and Aruba. In 1996, Ms. Orlando joined Ballet British Columbia under the direction of John Alleyne where she danced for twelve years as one the company’s most celebrated principal artists. She has performed in theatres and festivals around the world including The Kennedy Centre, The Joyce Theatre, The Bayerische Staatsoper, The Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Cervantino Festival, Canada Dance Festival, and Ballet Expo Seoul.

While dancing with Ballet BC, Ms. Orlando was prominently featured in new creations by John Alleyne, garnering ovations and accolades for her performances as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, Puck in The Faerie Queen, Fate in Carmina Burana, and the Elder in The Rite of Spring. She has also created roles with James Kudelka, Crystal Pite, Dominique Dumais, Mikko Nissenen, and Jean Grand-Maitre and has been featured in the works of William Forsythe, Paul Taylor, Nicolo Fonte, Jiri Kylian, Martha Graham, and Twyla Tharp, among others.

Ms. Orlando’s choreographic explorations began in 1997.  Praised for her mature and sensitive ideas, vision, musicality, and delineation of movement and space, her work has been presented at the Vancouver International Dance Festival, Dancing on the Edge, the Chutzpah Festival, Romp!, and Dances for a Small Stage.  She has received numerous commissions including those from Ballet BC, Ballet Kelowna, Toronto Dance Theatre, Move: the company, the Turning Point Ensemble, Dancers Dancing, and a short dance film, Chimère, for BRAVO! TV.  She has also created, co-produced and performed in a short dance film, Duet, for CODE Motion Pictures for the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

Ms. Orlando was the inaugural recipient of the Performing Arts Commission at the 2004 Vancouver Arts Awards and won the prestigious 2006 Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award for which she created the work, Winter Journey, at the Banff Centre.  In 2009, she received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from the New York Choreographic Institute, an affiliate of New York City Ballet, to develop new choreography on the dancers of Ballet BC.  After winning the 2013 Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Award, she travelled to Portland, Oregon to create a new work at Northwest Dance Project.

Ms. Orlando has also enjoyed teaching and setting repertoire on the dancers of Ballet BC and the pre-professionals in the Ballet BC Mentor Program and Summer Dance Intensive. She has been invited to guest teach, choreograph, and coach at schools such as the Goh Ballet Academy and The Richmond Academy of Dance.

In 2010, Ms. Orlando travelled to Germany to mentor with Reid Anderson, Artistic Director of Stuttgart Ballet. Following this, she was invited to direct and produce the Dancer Transition Resource Centre's 25th Anniversary Gala in Vancouver, which brought together over 50 artists and guest speakers.  To further support her career objective of Artistic Director of a dance company, Ms. Orlando entered the Business Management diploma program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and graduated with distinction in June 2014.


Founding Artistic Director, 2002 - 2014

David LaHay, founding Artistic Director of Ballet Kelowna, retired on May 2, 2014 after twelve years of inspiring, educating and entertaining approximately 150,000 audience members in 62 communities throughout British Columbia and in Alberta. He created 20 new ballets for the Company, launched the careers of 40 dancers, commissioned 10 new ballets from Canadian choreographers and scores for 3 of those works from Canadian composers.

Before his tenure with Ballet Kelowna, David enjoyed a long and successful career as Principal Dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and as guest artist with The Royal Swedish Ballet, The Alberta Ballet and The Cuban International Dance Festival. As a performer, his many classical roles included Albrecht (Giselle), Prince Seigfried (Swan Lake), The Poet (Les Sylphides) and The Cavalier (The Nutcracker).  He also danced many neo-classical, contemporary and modern works by such renowned choreographers as George Balanchine and Brian Macdonald.

As a teacher, Mr. LaHay has been ballet master for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, The Ottawa Ballet, The Alberta Ballet as well as guest ballet master for Sweden's The Gotheburg Ballet. His teaching affiliations include The Hartford Ballet, Ecole Superieure de Danse du Quebec, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, The Vancouver Ballet Society, The Chautauqua Summer Dance Program, The Banff Centre Summer Dance Program and The Canadian School of Ballet. He has taught master classes across Canada and was resident choreographer for the Canadian Heritage Festival in Saskatoon, Winnipeg and St. John.

Mr. LaHay was a member of the faculty of the Summer Dance Program at The Banff Centre from 1993 through 2007 as well as Associate Director of Summer Dance. He has taught, coached, assisted choreographers and staged ballets for The Professional Dance Program's "Festival Ballet" and "Young Dancers in Performance".  For the Banff Centre he choreographed a dozen works including The Promise of Angels (I) and In Stride. Mr. LaHay is the founding Artistic Director of the Okanagan Summer Dance Intensive 2008program in Kelowna that brings the former Banff dance program to the interior of BC.

As Artistic Director of Ballet Kelowna, Mr. LaHay choreographed many original works to wide public and critical acclaim and staged works from the classical repertoire as well as contemporary ballets by Canadian choreographers. His original choreographies for Ballet Kelowna include Bolero, Divertimenti, Donizetti Dances, Exsultate Jubilate, Five for Frank, In Arden Woods, Journey Out of Darkness, Liebeslieder Waltzes, Romanza, Romeo and Juliet Appassionata, The Promise of Angels (II) and Tangazzo. His final choreographic gift to the company was called Redux Continuum and premiered in Vernon on March 1, 2014 at the beginning of the 2013-14 Spring Tour. This light-hearted piece was set to a score commissioned from Okanagan jazz composer-performer Neville Bowman who performed it live in Kelowna on April 25, 2014, at David's last show as Artistic Director.