Hart Artistic Director’s Chair
Mikko Nissinen was appointed Artistic Director of Boston Ballet and Boston Ballet School in 2001. Born in Helsinki, Finland, Nissinen trained at The Finnish National Ballet School and the Kirov Ballet School in St. Petersburg, Russia. He danced professionally with The Finnish National Ballet, Dutch National Ballet, Basel Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet, where he was a principal dancer for ten years. Nissinen's vast repertoire ranged from classical to contemporary works. As a guest artist, he danced with various companies and partners and for numerous international galas.
Nissinen directed Alberta Ballet in Calgary from 1998–2001, also serving as Alberta Ballet’s Executive Director from 1999–2000.
As Artistic Director of Boston Ballet, Nissinen has defined the company’s image, cultivating a compelling and dynamic collection of classical, neo-classical, and contemporary repertoire. Firmly committed to developing the art form and the future of dance, Nissinen actively promotes progressive new work and creations. The company also performs Nissinen’s production of Swan Lake and the award-winning The Nutcracker.
In 2008, Nissinen served as Executive Director of Boston Ballet for a year and a half, during which time he provided full organizational leadership, initiated a major redesign of the organization’s image, branding and website, and facilitated the company’s move to its permanent performance home, the Citizens Bank Opera House.
Under his direction, Boston Ballet resumed touring after a 16-year hiatus, traveling to Paris, London, New York City, Spain, Korea, Canada, Finland and Washington D.C. In 2005, Nissinen appointed Jorma Elo as Resident Choreographer and in 2016 Nissinen established a long-term company partnership with choreographer William Forsythe. In addition, Nissinen leads Boston Ballet School, the largest dance school in North America.
Nissinen’s broad knowledge of dance, its history, and arts organization business leadership make him a popular presenter at conferences and universities worldwide. He was a fellow at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business he is a member of the New York Choreographic Institute’s Artistic Committee. He is the recipient of the Finlandia Foundation’s 2008 Arts and Letters Award, Boston’s 2009 Ambassador for the Arts Award and the 2007 United Nations Association of Greater Boston Leadership Award. In 2019, Nissinen was appointed a Knight, First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland. Nissinen is a dual Finnish and American citizen.Read full NAC bio ›
Jerome Robbins is world-renowned, both as a choreographer of ballets and for his work as a director and choreographer in theater, movies, and television. His Broadway shows include On the Town, Billion Dollar Baby, High Button Shoes, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, Miss Liberty, Call Me Madam and Fiddler on the Roof. His last Broadway production in 1989, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, won six Tony Awards including best musical and best director.
Among the more than 60 ballets Robbins has created are Fancy Free, Afternoon of a Faun, The Concert, Dances at a Gathering, In the Night, In G Major, Other Dances, Glass Pieces and Ives, Songs, which are in the repertories of New York City Ballet and other major dance companies throughout the world. His last ballets include A Suite of Dances created for Mikhail Baryshnikov (1994), 2 & 3 Part Inventions (1994), West Side Story Suite (1995) and Brandenburg (1996).
In addition to two Academy Awards for the film West Side Story, Robbins received four Tony Awards, five Donaldson Awards, an Emmy Award, the Screen Directors’ Guild Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. He was a 1981 Kennedy Center Honors Recipient and was awarded the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur. Robbins died in 1998.
Paulo Arrais studied at the Center Cultural Gustav Ritter in Brazil, the Paris Opera Ballet School in France, the English National Ballet School, and the Royal Ballet School, both in England. Upon graduating from the Royal Ballet School, Arrais was awarded the Ninette de Valois Bursary. He was also a finalist in the 9th New York International Competition 2007 and Youth America Grand Prix 2003, where he received a scholarship from the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Foundation to The Paris Opera Ballet School. Arrais joined the Norwegian National Ballet in 2006, where he worked with choreographers such as William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Paul Lightfoot, Sol Leon, and Liam Scarlett. In 2009, Arrais moved to San Francisco to work with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. He toured throughout the U.S., France and Italy and took part in the creation of Alonzo King’s Scheherazade, which opened the “Centenary of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.” In 2010, Arrais joined Boston Ballet as a Company dancer. He was promoted to soloist in 2011 and to principal dancer in 2012. Arrais returned to Boston Ballet for the 2014–2015 season following a year with Norwegian National Ballet.
As a principal dancer, Arrais has appeared as a guest artist with Teatro Dell’Opera di Roma, National Ballet of China, StaatsBallett Berlin, and in international ballet galas in London, Korea, Norway, Italy, Japan and Brazil. He has also served as a judge for the Youth America Grand Prix in Brazil. Arrais choreographed his first ballet, Work in Progress, for the 2nd Boston International Ballet Competition Gala and Maris Liepa Gala in London with former Boston Ballet Principal Dancer Whitney Jensen. His other original compositions include Castle. He was awarded a grant from the New York Choreographic Institute while creating Castle, which premiered at a BB@home program in 2017. Arrais was also named one of El Mundo’s 2017 Boston Latino 30 under 30.
William Forsythe has been active in the field of choreography for over 45 years. His work is acknowledged for reorienting the practice of ballet from its identification with classical repertoire to a dynamic 21st-century art form. Forsythe's deep interest in the fundamental principles of organization has led him to produce a wide range of projects including installations, films, and web-based knowledge creation.
Raised in New York and initially trained in Florida with Nolan Dingman and Christa Long, Forsythe danced with the Joffrey Ballet and later the Stuttgart Ballet, where he was appointed Resident Choreographer in 1976. In 1984, he began a 20-year tenure as director of the Ballet Frankfurt. After its closure, Forsythe established a new ensemble, The Forsythe Company, which he directed from 2005 to 2015. Forsythe’s most recent works were developed and performed exclusively by The Forsythe Company, while his earlier pieces are prominently featured in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company in the world, including The Mariinsky Ballet, the New York City Ballet and The Paris Opera Ballet.
Further to his work as a choreographer, William Forsythe is a current Professor of Dance and Artistic Advisor for the Choreographic Institute at the University of Southern California Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.