Born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Roy Kaiser began tap dancing at age four and started his professional dance career by age seven. Together with his four brothers, he performed on television and across the United States, including the 1967 World’s Fair in New York. He began his ballet training at age 17 under the guidance of Karen Irvin and earned a scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School and later the School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
Mr. Kaiser joined Pennsylvania Ballet in 1979, and was subsequently promoted to Soloist and Principal Dancer. He performed nearly all the principal male roles in the Company’s classical repertoire, and originated roles in works by such noted choreographers as Peter Martins, Robert Weiss, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Paul Taylor, Choo San Goh, and Christopher d’Amboise. In 1987, while still performing, Mr. Kaiser was appointed Assistant Ballet Master and was later named Ballet Master upon his retirement from performing in 1992. In October 1993, he was appointed Associate Artistic Director of the Company under the leadership of Christopher d’Amboise and later succeeded him as Artistic Director in February 1995.
Under Mr. Kaiser’s direction, the Company launched its 1994–1995 Season with a critically acclaimed appearance at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and returned in 2000 as part of Balanchine Celebration which featured six companies highlighting 14 Balanchine works. The Company made its international debut at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2005 with its 40th anniversary commission of Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake. In November 2007, the Company enjoyed its return to New York’s City Center for its first exclusive engagement in 22 years. The Company has also performed at The Sintra Festival in Portugal and the Meadows Award ceremony honoring Paul Taylor at Southern Methodist University.
The Company was invited back to The Kennedy Center in June 2008 for Ballet Across America with nine companies from across the United States, showcasing the depth and history American ballet. In November 2009, Mr. Kaiser returned to The Kennedy Center once again with Pennsylvania Ballet’s critically acclaimed production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™, presenting Balanchine’s version of the beloved ballet for the first time ever in Washington, DC. In 2011, the Company debuted its production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ internationally, with a tour to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada. In 2014, the Company performed at the prestigious Vail International Dance Festival for the first time.
An active member of the dance community, Mr. Kaiser is often invited to be a guest instructor and has served on numerous dance panels, including those of the National Endowment of the Arts and the Princess Grace Foundation. He also served on the 2002 jury of the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Most recently, Mr. Kaiser was invited to join the New York Choreographic Institute as a member of its Artistic Committee. In April 2014, Mr. Kaiser announced he would step down from his position as Artistic Director after 19 years in the role. He now holds the title of Artistic Director Emeritus.
Photo: Alexander Iziliaev