American Ballet Comp names new owner

American Ballet Competition names new owner/directorThe Institute for Dance Education Arts, Inc. recently announced that Raymond Van Mason, founder and artistic director of Imagine Ballet Theatre in Ogden, Utah, will be assuming the ownership and direction of the American Ballet Competition (ABC) as of July 12.


ABC was founded by Katherine Kersten and Kee-Juan Han in 2005 and has been directed by Kersten since then. Kersten will remain affiliated with ABC as a consultant. 


Since ABC’s inception, countless talented young dance students ages 9-20 from the USA and abroad have attended the competition and have participated in master classes conducted by major dance teachers, such as Gilbert Mayer (Paris Opera Ballet), Dinna Bjorn (Finnish and Norwegian National Ballets), Sharon Story (Atlanta Ballet) and Francesca Zumbo (Paris Opera). Dancers that participate open themselves up for opportunities to be awarded scholarships and/or traineeships to nationally renowned schools around the world.


Founder of American Ballet CompetitionThis opportunity brings this national competition to Ogden, Utah from the East Coast. As well as supporting a vibrant arts scene in the newly developed Nine Rails District, the streets of Ogden will be energetic with the annual Ogden Arts Festival, as well as the First Friday Art Walk that will be happening on the same weekend – June 5-8, 2019.


Upon handing over the leadership of ABC, Kersten stated, “Over the years that I’ve known Raymond I’ve been very impressed with his talented students and the high artistry shown by them. The American Ballet Competition will be in good hands as he continues to fulfill the high expectations of students and parents.”


In announcing his appointment, Raymond Van Mason said, “I am extremely honored and humbled to continue the work of Katherine Kersten and her American Ballet Competition.”


Mason, a former principal artist with Ballet West in Salt Lake City, has also danced as a guest artist with The Stars of the San Francisco Ballet in Marseille, France, The Charleston Ballet, Ballet Pacifica, Ballet Etudes, The National Society of Arts and Letters’ 50th Anniversary Celebration, DanceWest Ballet and numerous arts festivals. He has since become the founder and artistic director of Imagine Ballet Theatre, and the Rocky Mountain Choreography Festival.


American Ballet Competition competitorMason’s choreographic credits include four world premiere ballets for Ballet West – SeasonsLady GuinevereTransparencies and Desert as a Rose. In 1998, he choreographed Ballet Pacifica’s Choreographic Project and in 1999 was asked to join Ballet Pacifica as ballet master, teacher, choreographer and dancer. At Ballet Pacifica he choreographed Reverie and Moonlight, filmed by the Lloyd Rigler Foundation for Broadcast on the Classic Arts Showcase for PBS. He choreographed for Utah Opera Company’s productions of Romeo & Juliet and La Traviata. Mason has also choreographed four full-length ballets, which include Nutcracker, FairyopolisAlice: Adventures in Wonderland and Secret Garden to an original score by Kurt Bestor.


Kersten, the founder and longtime director of ABC, grew up in Switzerland and trained in Europe under legendary teachers Boris Kniasef, Lucette Darsonval and Victor Gsovsky. She was a soloist with the San Francisco Pacific Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet and had numerous engagements in musical theater and classical productions. For 15 years she served as the first school director for the Milwaukee Ballet, where she originated the nationally recognized Identify Youth for Dance program and was awarded a State Senate Citation for her development of dance in Wisconsin. For the Florentine Opera she choreographed productions including Il TrovatoreFaust and Don Giovanni.


In 1992 she was engaged to manage the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Vail, Colorado, where she went on to conceive and develop the Vail Dance Festival. In Vail she served for over 15 years as the festival’s producing artistic director, introducing dynamic educational programs and producing the many exclusive productions that brought international recognition to the festival. She produced annual International Galas featuring ballet’s most illustrious stars and numerous original productions. Kersten has guest taught in the United States and abroad, including for Ballet du Nord in France and Arizona State University.


For more information on ABC, visit


Photos: Raymond Van Mason (top); Katherine Kersten (left); and Savanna Lee, 15, of Brooksher Ballet in Gilbert, Arizona competing at the 2017 ABC (right). Photo of Lee by Jennifer Kersten.