Dennis Nahat began his training in Detroit, Michigan at the age of eight under the direction of Enid and Jeff Ricardeau and Kay Bliss at the Ricardeau Studios. At 17 he was awarded a full scholarship in dance and minored in music at the Juilliard School of Music, while continuing his training under the guidance of Martha Hill, Martha Graham, José Limón, Anna Sokalow, Antony Tudor, and Louis Horst, Mary Hinkson, Donald McKayle and many others.
In 1965 Nahat joined the newly formed City Center Joffrey Ballet and from 1966 to 1968 performed in the original Broadway Musical SWEET CHARITY with Gwen Verdon. He joined American Ballet Theater in 1968, and performed there through 1979 as a principal dancer. While there, Nahat created five new works.
Nahat co-founded the School of Cleveland Ballet in 1972 and Cleveland Ballet in 1976 with the late Ian (Ernie) Horvath. In 1983 Nahat became sole Artistic Director and in 1985 created the co-venture between San Jose, California and Cleveland, Ohio. Known as Cleveland San Jose Ballet, it performed full seasons in both communities for 15 years, the longest co-venture in the United States. After Cleveland Ballet closed, it was reborn as Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley in October 2000, now Ballet San Jose. Nahat served as its founding Artistic Director until January 2012.
His choreographic credits extend from ballet to Broadway, television and film where he has created over 104 works. He has choreographed major pieces for American Ballet Theatre, Cleveland Ballet, Ballet San Jose, Atlanta Ballet, and the Royal Swedish Ballet, and staged many of his ballets for Hartford Ballet, The London Festival Ballet, Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas, St. Louis Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and many others.
Photo by John Gerbetz
Nahat’s ground-breaking ballet Blue Suede Shoes, set to 36 songs of Elvis Presley, has been seen nationwide on PBS and received two Emmy nominations for that broadcast series. While his works emphasis theatricality, Nahat is often referred to as "a dancer's choreographer". His choreography highlights the technical achievements of the artists and is visually exciting fare for the audience.
From 2001 to 2010 Nahat served the Artistic Directorship for the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts' new ballet program in Wheatley Heights, New York.
He was Master of Ceremonies with Ann Reinking at the US International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS and served as Competitor teacher for over 2 decades. In addition, Mr. Nahat was responsible for staging the final gala ceremonies.
He also served in Japan's Nagoya International Ballet Competition, teaching the competitors and student classes. He has returned several times to return to Copenhagen to teach the art of choreography, pas de deux, ballet and repertory classes at the prestigious Bartholin International Ballet Seminar. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, he served as Judge at the International Ballet Competition in Tokyo, Japan.
Mr. Nahat created and coordinated a China "Goodwill Tour" in 2008 with performances in 8 major cities in China, working closely with Overseas Tour Director, Sylvia Young.
In 2011 and 2012, he worked with Ann Woo, Executive Director of the Chinese Performing Arts Center, on developing and presenting the Silicon Valley International Art Competition in San Jose, California. Mr. Nahat served as and coordinator chairman of the judging committee for this competition.
Nahat received the Dance Master of America Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Mr. Nahat's mission in his newest venture is to create and produce new international theatrical productions.