Eldar Valiev

Artistic Director

Mr. Valiev graduated from the famous Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received additional training at the Kirov Ballet Company. He has more than twenty years of experience as a professional ballet dancer and fifteen years of experience as a ballet master. Eldar has appeared as a principal dancer in numerous ballet companies, including The State Theater of Opera and Ballet of Bashkortostan in Ufa, Eifman Ballet Theater in St. Petersburg, and the Icelandic National Ballet.  He has performed leading parts in the ballets Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Coppelia, Les Silphides, The Nutcracker, and many others. Eldar had the privilege to work with famous American choreographers such as Robert La Fosse, William Soleau and Lambros Lambrow. He danced in Iceland, as Frans in Coppelia, in which he partnered with world-renowned Prima Ballerina Assoluta, Eva Evdokimova. He has performed with the stars of Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets in England, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, and Iceland and shared the stage with Alexander Bogatyrev, Nadezhda Pavlova and Lyubov Kunakova. Eldar spent thirteen years at the Cumberland County Playhouse in Tennessee. He rehearsed for five years as the ballet master, and for eight years he performed the duties as Director of Dance Program. Eldar moved to Denton, Texas in August 2011 to assume the position of Co-Artistic Director of Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, and Director of Denton Ballet Academy.

Hugh Nini

Artistic Director Emeritus

Mr. Nini founded the Denton Ballet Academy in 1979. He credits his favorite teacher, Arnold Spohr, Artistic Director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, with his foundational training and understanding of the art of classical ballet. While a scholarship student at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts, he was invited by Mr. Spohr to join the Professional Division of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

In 1979, Mr. Nini founded the Denton Ballet Academy, where he guided and taught his students for thirty-three years. In 1980, he founded the Denton Civic Ballet, and by the end of his eight-year term as its Artistic Director, had choreographed over thirty ballets. These include his original, full length, three-act version of the Hans Christian Anderson short story, The Snow Queen. Under his directorship, the Denton Civic Ballet was accepted into the National Association for Regional Ballet.

In 1988, Mr. Nini charted a new direction to pursue a more ambitious dream, which is now called the Festival Ballet of North Central Texas. As the Artistic Director for twenty-four years, Mr. Nini established the Festival Ballet as a company with a reputation for excellence and consistency.

In 1998, the Dallas Dance Council awarded his production of The Nutcracker, from among a field of fourteen ballet companies in North Texas, eleven out of sixteen “Bests,” including: Best Nutcracker, Best Costumes, Best Sets, Best Battle Scene, Best Snow Scene, Best Waltz of the Flowers, Best Drosselmeyer, Best Clara, Best Program, Best Box Office, and Best Artistic Director.

In 2010, Mr. Nini was the recipient of the C.A.R.A (Community Arts Recognition Award) from the Greater Denton Arts Council in recognition for his decades of contribution to the arts through his work as a master ballet instructor and director of one of the most successful ballet companies in the DFW area. Mr. Nini’s students have been accepted to every major summer intensive program in North America, including: School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Harid Conservatory, Kirov Ballet Academy, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, and many more, often on full or partial scholarship. His students have gone on to dance professionally with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Houston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Memphis Ballet, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and others. One of Mr. Nini’s first Denton Ballet Academy students, Mark Godden, is now an established international choreographer, winning top honors from the International Ballet Competition in Varna, the International Ballet Competition in Helsinki, and receiving the Clifford E. Lee Award for Choreography. Mr. Nini sincerely wishes to thank the many students, parents, and supporters who, over the last thirty-three years, made his job something to look forward to each day and helped to create an environment where he and his students could thrive.