Hometown: Perth Amboy, NJ
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 with the School of Pennsylvania Ballet.
Roy joined Pennsylvania Ballet in 1979. He was eventually promoted to soloist and principal dancer, performing nearly every principal male role in the company’s classical repertoire. He also 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, Roy was appointed assistant ballet master. Upon his retirement from the stage in 1992, he was promoted to the position of ballet master. 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 Roy’s direction, the company launched its 1994/1995 season with a critically acclaimed appearance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., returning in 2000 as part of the Balanchine Celebration, which featured six companies highlighting 14 Balanchine works. In August 2005, the company made its international debut under Roy with its 40th anniversary commission of Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake at the Edinburgh International Festival. The company also performed at the Sintra Festival in Portugal and the Meadows Award Ceremony honoring Paul Taylor at Southern Methodist University. And in November 2007, the company enjoyed its return to New York City Center for its first exclusive engagement in 22 years.
In June 2008, the company was invited back to Kennedy Center for Ballet Across America, performing alongside nine other companies from across the nation to showcase the depth and history American ballet. Roy returned to Kennedy Center once again in November 2009 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. The company debuted that same production internationally in 2011 with a tour to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada. And in 2014, they performed for the first time at the prestigious Vail International Dance Festival.
An active member of the dance community, Roy is often invited as a guest instructor and has served on numerous dance panels, including those of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Princess Grace Foundation. He also served on the 2002 jury of the International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Most recently, Roy was invited to join the New York Choreographic Institute as a member of its artistic committee.
In April 2014, after 19 years in the role, Roy announced he would step down from his position as artistic director and now holds the title of artistic director emeritus. In 2015, he was appointed as executive board member and artistic advisor/consultant for the “New” Cleveland Ballet.