Columbia City Ballet is thrilled to announce the recent appointments and promotions within its company. Nicole Millwood and Joshua Van Dyke have been promoted to Principal Dancers, while Amanda Hwang and Gabrielle Gardner have been promoted to Demi-Soloists. These achievements are a testament to their talent, dedication, and hard work. Columbia City Ballet’s Artistic Director & Executive Director, William Starrett, expressed immense pride in these accomplishments. “Nicole Millwood, Joshua Van Dyke, Amanda Hwang, and Gabrielle Gardner have all displayed exceptional talent and commitment to their craft. They are outstanding dancers and wonderful ambassadors for Columbia City Ballet. We are thrilled to recognize their accomplishments and look forward to witnessing their continued artistic growth.” As the company continues to excel in the world of ballet, promotions showcase Columbia City Ballet’s commitment to nurturing talent and rewarding excellence. The dancers’ hard work, discipline, and unwavering passion have made them an integral part of the company’s success. Columbia City Ballet extends its heartfelt congratulations to this exceptional group of dancers. We are confident that these talented individuals will continue to inspire audiences with their remarkable performances as well as continue to advance the art of ballet. Following is a brief biography of each dancer and comments from Artistic Director, William Starrett on their promotion. Nicole Millwood, Principal Dancer A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Nicole started her dance training at the age of four at the Columbia Conservatory of Dance under the instruction of William Starrett and Mariclare Miranda. At eight years old she danced the role of Clara in Nutcracker. She later performed the role of Victoria Harker in Dracula: Ballet with a Bite. She has spent summers dancing at Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet on a Youth American Grand Prix Scholarship, Houston Ballet, and Tulsa Ballet. She continued her training at Columbia Classical Ballet briefly before attending the year-round school at Houston Ballet at the highest level. During her training at Houston Ballet, she performed in many ballets such as Le Conservatoire, Tales of Texas, Serenade, Concerto, and Graduation Ball. She spent two seasons as a member of Tulsa Ballet ll where she performed in Ben Stevenson’s Dracula, Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias, Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow, and Edward Liang’s Romeo and Juliet. Nicole returns for her eighth season with Columbia City Ballet where she has performed in Dance of the Cygnets in Swan Lake; Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty; and Snow Queen, Dew Drop Fairy, and Chinese Tea in Nutcracker. Nicole also teaches at both the Columbia Ballet School and Southern Strutt. Nicole was recently married. Artistic Director William Starrett mentions Nicole’s “clean technique and extraordinary performances in Swan Lake, Dracula: Ballet with a Bite and Nutcracker” as reasons for her promotion to Principal Dancer. Joshua Van Dyke, Principal Dancer Joshua Van Dyke began his ballet training at Diane Partington’s School of Classical Ballet when he was 12 years old. What began as a way to improve his skills for musical theater, quickly blossomed into his passion. At 14, he joined the Sarasota Ballet’s Margaret Barbieri Conservatory’s trainee program. After two years of dedicated training, he attended the Harid Conservatory for one year. At 17, he was invited to join the Joffrey Ballet Academy in Chicago as a trainee for two years. Josh has performed the role of Lead Arabian for both the Diane Partington School of Classical Ballet as well as The Harid Conservatory. Now in his third season with Columbia City Ballet, he has performed the roles of Snow King and Lead Arabian, debuted the role of Sugarplum Cavalier in Nutcracker, and Siegfried for the recent full-length production of Swan Lake. Columbia City Ballet’s Artistic Director, William Starrett states that “Joshua’s classical ballet body, coupled with the honing of his skills and dynamic performance as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, are the chief reasons for his promotion to Principal Dancer. Gabrielle Gardner, Demi-Soloist Gabrielle Gardner began dancing under the tutelage of Mariclare Miranda and William Starrett at the Columbia Conservatory of Dance in 2008 and has won many competitive dance awards in ballet, contemporary, lyrical, and tap genres. A former member of Columbia City Ballet II she performed the roles of Clara Stahlbaum in Nutcracker and Victoria Harker in Dracula: Ballet with a Bite. Gabrielle trained at a number of prestigious summer intensive programs, including American Ballet Theatre (NYC), Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Ballet West, Miami City Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet. In 2020, she graduated from the residential dance program at the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities (SCGSAH). During her time at SCGSAH, Gabrielle placed in the top twelve in both ballet and contemporary genres at Youth America Grand Prix, performed the role of Dew Drop Fairy in Brevard Ballet Academy’s Nutcracker, and was a featured performer at regional arts festivals. Gabrielle received scholarships to collegiate dance programs at schools including Southern Methodist University, SUNY Purchase, the University of Hartford, Hartt School, and Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She studied ballet at SUNY Purchase under Ted Kivitt and joined Columbia City Ballet in 2022. Artistic Director, William Starrett says that “her extreme technical abilities, her ease and fearless approach to her roles and characters, make her the perfect candidate for promotion to Demi-Soloist.” Amanda Hwang, Demi-Solist Amanda Hwang started ballet at the age of 3 at her local YMCA in New Jersey. She continued training at New Jersey Ballet and later at Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet under Gelsey Kirkland, Ludmilla Polonskaya, Vera Solovyeva, and Alexandra Lawler. During her time there, she danced featured roles in ballets including Chopiniana, Paquita, La Vivandiere, and La Bayadere. Amanda was a trainee at both American Repertory Ballet and BalletMet where she had the opportunity to perform with the professional companies in The Nutcracker and Coppelia, in addition to Don Quixote, Giselle, Balanchine’s Walpurgis Nacht, and Edwaard Liang’s Beautiful Child. She also attended prestigious summer programs with Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Open World Dance Foundation, where she was certified in Vaganova technique under Irina Trofimova and Ekaterina Shschelkanova. Ms. Hwang joined Columbia City Ballet in 2020 and has danced Big Swans in Swan Lake and Leopard Maiden in Dracula: Ballet with a Bite. Columbia City Ballet Artistic Director William Starrett has promoted Amanda to Demi-Soloist based upon her success in Swan Lake and Dracula, combined with what he defines as her “strong jumping ability, and easy-going personality” and her “no complaints, and appreciative attitude”.